The paper of record
I’ve told this story before, so by all means let’s tell it again.
It’s my favorite Beacon story, and it took place 10 years ago, back when I had a teenage daughter and a will of oatmeal.
I walked into the room to find said teenager applying blond highlights to her 12-year-old brother’s hair. This was fine with me; she could have been doing worse things, and with some justification.
But she got the idea to mess with Dad’s hair, and Mom agreed, and we were off to the races. I spent the next few weeks wearing a hat, since every time I looked in the mirror I saw Robert Redford.
It goes without saying that this was an exceptional mirror.
Standing in a convenience store, though, obviously hatless, the lady behind the counter suddenly burst into laughter. This happens to me a lot, of course, but she had something on her mind.
“You’re the blond guy!” she said, and as I smiled, nodded, and started to slink out she called after me.
“It looks good!”
This struck me then, as it does now, as not only kind, but neighborly. This is what a neighbor will say, about your hair or your garden, your choice in paint or your waistline.
I’m a fan of neighbors, which is convenient since I’ve got a lot of them. Over the past 11 years, my community has expanded while I’ve stayed in the same place.
That would be this place. This place is what I’m writing about, and about the ones who built it.
Whichever community you live in, and whichever Beacon edition you read (there are currently three: Mukilteo, Edmonds and South Everett), you might be surprised to learn that only once has the newspaper been published late.
The website might be buggy, and your carrier might miss your house occasionally, but the paper has always arrived on time except for one week in July 1992.
Nobody complained, either. It was the very first edition, the Mukilteo Beacon, and only a couple of people saw it coming.
If you’ve been in this area long enough, you might remember how we felt about Californians back in the early 1990s. Sort of the way we still feel about thunderstorms: Unexpected, unsettling and loud.
But Cate and Paul Archipley had friends in the Northwest, and wanted to leave California before their young daughter was much older, so after 20 years as a reporter Paul flew up to interview at a few papers.
They bought a home in the Mukilteo area, and while he waited for news Paul noticed something interesting: There was none.
As in a local newspaper. They were around, including one in Edmonds (which became the Edmonds Beacon in 1998), but nothing in the local area.
He somehow persuaded Cate to let him start one, at first using their Apple computer and primitive desktop publishing software, against the advice of pretty much everybody.
A software glitch caused the first edition of the Mukilteo Beacon to be late, as it turned out. Since then, though, over 20 years, Beacon Publishing has served its communities every week, rain or snow, glitches or not.
It’s easy to see a local newspaper as an institution and not a small business, but a business it is.
Paul Archipley remembers the first few years, writing the content and doing the production while Cate handled advertising and the business end.
Loans were taken out, groceries bought on credit cards, surely sleepless nights spent wondering if this really was a good idea. The stuff of small business, something I know a little about. You live paycheck to paycheck, although you don’t really get paychecks.
So 20 years is worth celebrating, as we’re doing this week in the Beacon. It’s a dicey time for newspapers of all kinds; we all understand that there’s a future, and it probably doesn’t include news printed on paper.
But as the big papers cut back on coverage, shrink their pages and their staffs, things can fall through the cracks. High school sports, community theater, city council meetings, neighborhood news that matters to your neighbors.
I met Paul Archipley a month to the day after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. We’d been conversing via email about the possibility of having me write a column, and as we finalized that over coffee, we both mentioned the somber air around us, the fragility of a nation that saw horror on a mass scale.
We talked about journalism, about the news media, about coverage and about perspective.
And we talked about what community newspapers do, which is to remind us, even in dark days, that kids still make the honor roll. Touchdowns are still scored. Zoning laws are passed, restaurants open and close, people pass on and new neighbors move in.
There is still news, in other words, about little things that matter to many of us, so it’s nice to know there’s still a place to find it.
Happy anniversary to all the Beacon family, and to all of us, too. Newspapers make good neighbors, but then you knew that.