Over the past decade, disruption in media has become the norm. Curmudgeons are hauled to seminars to learn about online gadgetry. The mantra rings like a line from “The Graduate:” I want to say just one word to you. Just one word. Digital.
Herald scribes, as they always have, show up every day, try to find out what’s going on and then spread the word. Whatever the medium, whether print, mobile or brain implant, people hunger for substance and quality. Ownership is something that happens on a higher floor.
For more than a century, The Herald has provided in-depth reporting and community coverage. The first draft of regional and state history is written by Herald veterans such as Sharon Salyer, Julie Muhlstein, Scott North, Eric Stevick and Bill Sheets. Institutional memory and judgment can’t be replaced.
On Wednesday The Washington Post Company announced that it was selling The Herald and its other print and online products to Black Press Ltd, and its subsidiary, Sound Publishing.
Freeze-frame an image of the late Katharine Graham, the magisterial publisher of the Washington Post. Graham would occasionally trek to Everett and confer with publishers Chris Little and Larry Hanson. Her son, Don, would arrive unannounced and roam the newsroom, asking questions, palling with reporters. It felt like no ordinary time, preserved in amber. The Herald was the only other daily owned by The Washington Post, and employees took pride in that. We work for the same company as the Watergate-busting Woodward and Bernstein, mind you.
Legacies are complex. The Herald was originally owned by the Best family. Quality local journalism was hard wired. The Washington Post made a savvy investment in 1978, but times change and disruption happens.
A sale always generates anxiety and sadness. Day one spurs denial, a just-dumped nausea, and then let loose Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ five stages of grief. But news folks are resilient. Black is buying a hell of a great paper. There is no better source of Snohomish County news anywhere, and surfing the Internet for wire stories or blogs is no substitute.
We hope that Black builds on the strengths of a great institution. Smart journalism is a public service, and we stand on the shoulders of generations of reporters, sales persons, copy editors and press operators. As former Herald Publisher Larry Hanson said, “Let’s give the new owners a chance to show their commitment to community journalism.”
Disruption is the norm. Sometimes it stings, but we pick up, recharge and do our best in the public interest.