MUKILTEO — Paul Archipley has been a journalist all his working life. He’s the definition of “newspaperman.”
He has covered the ups and downs of five American presidents. He’s met celebrities. He’s reported on the scenes of disasters.
For more than 20 years now, Archipley has been covering the news in Mukilteo as publisher of the Mukilteo Beacon. It’s a job he loves.
His passion for news and community makes him The Herald Business Journal’s Entrepreneur of the Year for 2013.
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Paul Archipley never worked on the business side of a newsroom. He started writing when a tough ninth-grade English teacher told him she saw potential behind his mischief.
“She said, ‘You’ve got something and you should work on it,’ ” he said.
He wrote for his high school paper and when he attended California State University-Fullerton as a journalism major. He interned at the Los Angeles Times and landed his first newspaper job at the Yorba Linda Star (“Richard Nixon’s hometown paper,” he said) doing page layout.
He was a reporter for the Orange Coast Daily Pilot on Aug. 31, 1986, when a Piper single-engine plane sheared the tail off an Aeromexico McDonnell Douglas DC-9 jet over Cerritos, Calif., killing all 67 people in the two airplanes and 15 more on the ground when the jet plowed into a neighborhood. The impact and fire destroyed five houses and damaged seven more.
Archipley arrived on the scene soon after the crash.
“It was chaos,” he recalled. “You didn’t see bodies, you know. You only saw … parts.”
After several hours there, he was driving back to the office to write that story when radio news reported a riot at a Huntington Beach surf competition. As the paper’s only reporter on duty that Sunday, he knew he had to cover it, too.
“It was another page one story,” he said.
On reflection, that was a tough day.
“It’s only later when you’re done that you realize you’ve seen some horrible stuff,” Archipley said.
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Archipley and his wife, Cate, had vacationed in Washington a few times, and they decided they wanted to escape the California rat race before their daughter Caitlin, then 5, was old enough to start school.
Archipley landed a few job interviews at papers in Western Washington, even at The Everett Herald, but no work offers. Despite the uncertainty, the family rolled the dice and moved to Washington in 1991.
He said they liked Edmonds but couldn’t find a house they liked in their price range, but they did in Mukilteo.
“It even has a view,” he said.
As the family settled in, Archipley noticed that Mukilteo didn’t have a newspaper. He still didn’t have a job and he still had a strong desire to report.
He said he talked to some civic leaders about the city’s lack of a newspaper, and they questioned if there was enough news in Mukilteo to justify the effort.
Archipley figured there was.
After years of working for other editors, Archipley started his dream of running his own newspaper in the summer of 1992.
He saw the coming rise of the desktop PC as a viable alternative to the costly, proprietary typesetting machinery of the day, so he bought an Apple II computer, Quark XPress page design software and Adobe Photoshop. The Archipleys converted a spare room into their newspaper office. Cate Archipley handled the business side of their new newspaper venture.
As Paul Archipley was writing the stories and assembling what would become the first issue of the Mukilteo Beacon, he got a job offer from the Skagit Valley Herald in Mount Vernon. He rejected the stability of a steady paycheck and decided to stay on his own path.
Archipley finished the debut issue of the Mukilteo Beacon and loaded the page files onto a Syquest tape drive, which he drove to the Newspaper Service Bureau in Seattle so they could convert the page files into negatives for the printer. But the Service Bureau couldn’t open the files.
“It was the only deadline I ever missed,” Archipley recalled with a laugh.
The Mukilteo Beacon made its debut on July 22, 1992.
As the Beacon grew, the Archipleys decided it would be good for Cate Archipley to go back to teaching to give them a steady source of income to buffer the seasonal ups and downs of newspaper ad revenue. She’s an English and journalism teacher at Shorecrest High School in Shoreline.
The Beacon moved out of the Archipleys’ spare room and into its own office. They hired Linda Chittim as general manager in 1994.
“Thank God for Linda!” Paul Archipley said.
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Archipley credits Chittim’s keen business sense for guiding the Beacon as it grew. He said his passion has always been in the newsroom, but as the company has grown and he took on the role of publisher, he finds himself doing less and less reporting than he used to.
As publisher, Archipley gets to see how the Beacon newspapers affect the towns they serve.
“It feels good as a small businessman to offer people work,” he said. “It feels like family. You care for them as well as you can with the resources you have.”
Beacon Publishing has seven full-time workers, six part-timers and 100 kids who deliver the Mukilteo Beacon and Edmonds Beacon weekly. The monthly South Everett Beacon is delivered by mail.
Archipley bought the bi-weekly Edmonds Paper in 1998 and relaunched it as the Edmonds Beacon. The South Everett Beacon debuted in 2011.
Beacon Publishing Co. is one of the last remaining independently owned newspaper companies in the Puget Sound region. Archipley, 64, is making plans to retire in the next couple of years, but how his retirement will start is up in the air.
“I’m not ready to sell,” he said. “I still enjoy coming to work every day. It’s fun. And it feels good to run your own business and have an impact on your community.
“I won’t retire a rich man, but I have no regrets.”
Archipley thinks retirement will give him more time to volunteer.
“I can’t see myself puttering around the house. I have to have my hand in something,” he said.
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In his nomination of Archipley for The Herald Business Journal’s Entrepreneur of the Year, Edmonds Beacon editor Pat Ratliff cited Archipley’s community service. It reads like another full-time job.
He supports many nonprofit organizations and community events through sponsorships, including the United Way of Snohomish County, Mukilteo Community Garden, Japanese Gulch Group, the Great Mukilteo Garage Sale, Edmonds Citizen of the Year, Mukilteo Food Bank, the Mukilteo Lighthouse Festival and Mukilteo’s Volunteer Recognition Breakfast, which honors community volunteers.
Archipley is also a member of the Mukilteo Chamber of Commerce and the Edmonds Chamber of Commerce.
Archipley was on the board of directors for the Mukilteo Food Bank and has served as president, and is a member of the Senior Services of Snohomish County’s newspaper board. He was a member of the YMCA board of directors before there was a “Y” in town, and was instrumental in bringing the YMCA to Mukilteo.
He volunteered as a health and safety inspector for Snohomish County Senior Services, evaluating low-income seniors’ and disabled persons’ homes for needed repairs to help the homeowners continue living independently.
Archipley also served on the executive board of the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association, a nonprofit dedicated to helping community newspapers succeed, and was its president for two terms.
And he was Mukilteo’s Citizen of the Year in 2008.
“Through this, in addition to his willingness to support a good cause, he helps to build community and business in Snohomish County,” Ratliff wrote.
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Beacon Publishing, Inc., survived the Great Recession with some belt tightening, and Archipley believes his growing newspaper company will survive the continuing shakeup of journalism.
The future of news lies in community journalism, Archipley said.
“People want to know what’s going on in their own back yard,” he said. “We’ll have to find a new delivery method. Paper will go away. After the shakeout, news will remain. This is an important defender of the First Amendment. I’m optimistic about journalism.”
Despite the challenges of running a newspaper, Archipley has reason for his optimism. Some advertisers in the Beacon’s service directory have been in it for 20 years and won’t advertise anywhere else because of the results, he said.
“We’re helping other small businesses, too,” Archipley said. “We make a difference in the business community.
“People call me directly. It feels good to get compliments. It’s even OK to get criticism. … When people say, ‘I read in the Beacon,’ that’s impact. That’s great.”
Kurt Batdorf: 425-339-3102; email@example.com.