From the Publisher’s Desk: A tale of three cities, and why local news coverage matters

295
0

As the publisher of digital news outlets for three neighboring communities in south Snohomish County, I have observed first-hand the strengths, weaknesses and challenges facing all three cities –Edmonds, Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace.

The cities are unique in terms of geography, population size (Edmonds and Lynnwood are very close, at around 40,000 while Terrace is about half that size) and various other demographic factors. Edmonds, for example, is 83 percent white, slightly more female than male with a median age of 46; Lynnwood is 63 percent white, with slightly more men than women, and a median age of 37. Mountlake Terrace, meanwhile, is 71 percent white, with more women then men, and a median age of 36.

Yet, leaders in all three cities are grappling with the impacts of our region’s growth, for better or worse. As Seattle’s real estate becomes increasingly unaffordable, residents and business owners alike are eyeing moves to the suburbs. Heading north is a more attractive proposition as Sound Transit expands its Link Light Rail line to Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood, and Paine Field begins operating commercial flights out of Everett.

In the face of this inevitable growth into south Snohomish County, city leaders now must figure out ways to manage it. One of the biggest challenges: How to address the concerns of those of us who already live here, and worry about the impacts of more people, from increased traffic congestion to less parking to an overall decreased quality of life.

Of course, I am telling you this for a very important reason. There are so many decisions being made each week — at city government meetings, at school board meetings, on local boards and commissions. And I’m proud to say that we are there to report on those discussions and debates and votes. We also do our own reporting on issues that matter, from heroin addiction to homelessness.

When I started My Edmonds News nearly nine years ago, my mission was to provide an online “gathering place” where readers could not only stay informed about happenings in Edmonds, but could share — via the comment section — concerns and ideas with their neighbors. A few years later, I was asked by the respective publishers of MLTnews and Lynnwood Today to acquire those publications as well. I always tell people that my first response to each of these initial inquiries was “No,” followed by “No Way.” I had enough to do.

But then the reality set in. Neither one of those cities had a newspaper. Without a digital publication, Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood would be news deserts. For those not familiar with the term, it’s becoming increasingly common in the U.S. As newspapers downsize and close — many cities have NO regular newspaper coverage.

So my “No Way,” turned into “I have to figure out a way.” I’m proud to say that I have owned MLTnews for six years and Lynnwood Today for five years.

Why should this matter to you? A new working paper shows that “when local newspapers shut their doors, communities lose out.” As a result, says this report from CityLab:

“People and their stories can’t find coverage. Politicos take liberties when it’s nobody’s job to hold them accountable. What the public doesn’t know winds up hurting them. The city feels poorer, politically and culturally.”

Local news deserts “lose out financially, too,” the report says. “Cities where newspapers closed up shop saw increases in government costs as a result of the lack of scrutiny over local deals, say researchers who tracked the decline of local news outlets between 1996 and 2015.

“Disruptions in local news coverage are soon followed by higher long-term borrowing costs for cities. Costs for bonds can rise as much as 11 basis points after the closure of a local newspaper—a finding that can’t be attributed to other underlying economic conditions, the authors say. Those civic watchdogs make a difference to the bottom line.”

Of course, I am sharing this because I hope you will support our publications, and the work we do on your behalf, to keep you informed. Approximately 80 percent of our operating revenue comes from our advertisers. Thanks to them, we can pay most of our expenses, from writing, editing and photography to web design and development — please support them. The other 20 percent comes from readers — just like you.

If you value what we do, please consider a regular or one-time subscription at this link.

I look forward to your support.

Until next time,

Teresa Wippel, Publisher

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here