A library system’s secret plans to close rural branches.
An international bottled water company privately considering a lawsuit against local residents in order to impose its will.
The intricacies of a massive poaching operation deep in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.
Decades-old allegations of abuse at the Kiwanis Vocational School in Centralia.
A former Lewis County Superior Court judge accused of years of harassment.
Dysfunction within the 911 Communications center.
A transit official with a sordid financial past.
A Lewis County government branch in violation of the Open Public Meetings Act.
What do all of these have in common?
They were all exposed in part or in full by The Chronicle’s team of intrepid reporters in just the last few years.
It’s the kind of reporting that has earned the newspaper staff three consecutive first-place C.B. Blethen Awards for investigative journalism in a contest that pits our small, feisty and tenacious newsroom against all daily newspapers with circulations of up to 50,000 in Washington, Oregon, Montana, Idaho, Utah, Alaska, Alberta and British Columbia.
Simply put, The Chronicle’s dedication to watchdog reporting that digs far below the surface of press releases, community events and high school sports coverage is remarkable and rare in today’s local newspaper landscape.
With last week’s news that reporters Alex Brown, Will Rubin and Carrina Stanton had garnered four new C.B. Blethen Awards, The Chronicle has now won 17 of the prestigious honors since 2003, putting it in the top ranks of newspapers not just in Washington, but all of the Pacific Northwest and beyond.
While it feels satisfying to hang new hardware at our Pearl Street headquarters, that’s not the purpose of our dedication to in-depth reporting, nor are our reporters and editors solely responsible for our success.
None of this would be possible without the subscribers, advertisers and readers who make it possible for our journalists to keep a watchful eye on the community, sounding the alert when malfeasance, mismanagement or corruption is spotted within the corridors of power.
We need your support in this noble pursuit now more than ever.
It’s no secret that newspapers across the nation have been having a difficult time financially as internet advertising fails to replace a reliance on print advertising. Many newspapers have folded. Others have been reduced to such a state that serious, meaningful reporting is no longer possible.
As the recent honors show, that sort of decline in important journalism hasn’t happened here. The Chronicle has remained resolute, even if we have at times stumbled along the way.
Before switching to delivery via the U.S. Postal Service this year, many subscribers were frequently not receiving their newspapers in a timely fashion. After taking the leap and making the change, we now boast a nearly 100 percent delivery rate.
When our leadership team decided to step away from a few costly regular features from national syndicates — Dear Abby, for example — there was another ripple of criticism from our readers, but we remained committed to investing in our key mission of providing important local news to our readers. We’ve also decided to bring Dear Abby and additional pages back, though in a new format, later this year.
Changes in deadlines have also caused some frustration, with our move to a regional press requiring each edition be completed much sooner than some readers are accustomed to. In the face of that adjustment, we’ve added several digital features at chronline.com, including a new Friday Night Lights prep football podcast.
Our latest change is likely to create some dismay, but it’s a move targeted at positioning The Chronicle for growth. The cost per edition of The Chronicle at stores and racks has been increased from $1 to $1.75. Subscription costs have also increased. It’s a price that’s in line with other newspapers in the region that long ago decided to adjust for the rising cost of ink, newsprint and labor.
What will subscribers get for this increased investment in local journalism?
They’ll be contributing to the success of a community institution that will never cease in its mission to hold those in power accountable while being a consistent voice for the oppressed.
When award-winning Chronicle Editor Natalie Johnson learned of unreported, decades-old allegations of abuse at the long-shuttered Kiwanis Vocational School in Centralia, she put a bright light on the claims, speaking to victims and publishing the names of those responsible for operating the facility. Her reporting helped result in settlements of more than $20 million for former residents.
They’ll get a newspaper that doesn’t stand down in the face of threats from those it covers. This fact was illustrated by our refusal to cave to a demand we not publish an inadvertently released email from a Crystal Geyser official who suggested suing the community to force the construction of a bottling facility in Randle. We consulted with our legal representative, who said that while their threat was baseless, the company had the financial power to drag us through an expensive court battle. We published the email anyway, because our job isn’t to keep secrets with those in power, it’s to inform our readers and protect their right to know.
Subscribers will also get a newsroom that has enacted important changes in our community. Just a few years ago, dysfunction in the office of the Lewis County Board of Commissioners had reached levels beyond concerning. Lawsuits were being filed, there was infighting among the commissioners and the lack of professional management was leading to all kinds of clashes with local governments. The Chronicle’s reporting and commentary helped lead to the creation of a new county manager position even as residents pursued a Home Rule Charter to make the position permanent. The changes have led to steadier times in county government. The commissioners also now publish their daily calendar of meetings after The Chronicle exposed policies that violated the state Open Public Meetings Act. Likewise, we alerted the community to dangerous staffing levels, low morale and a no-confidence vote at the 911 communications center. New leadership has since taken hold.
I could go on, but these are just a few examples of what can come from a strong and community-supported newspaper such as The Chronicle.
As we adjust to changing times and continue to work to earn and maintain your trust as the dominant news source in the Lewis County area, I’d like to both thank those who have supported us through subscriptions and advertising and also appeal for continued support in the months and years ahead.
As our newsroom’s record shows, supporting The Chronicle means supporting a better community.
Eric Schwartz is regional executive editor for Lafromboise Communications. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.