Don’t take this newspaper for granted

Letter to the Editor

During 36 of my 42 years at The Daily World, I played a key role in hiring reporters, photographers and editors. In 1984, we scooped up an uncommonly bright and witty young WSU alum with diverse experience on smaller papers. His name was Doug Barker.

Doug joined a newsroom that was already one the best in the Northwest and soon became a star. His investigative skills were matched by his compelling writing; his objectivity never wavered. When the newspaper celebrated its centennial with a record-setting 138-page edition in 1989, it kindled Doug’s interest in Harbor history. His knowledge of the timber industry added depth to the humanity with which he covered the spotted owl crisis. The chapter he wrote about the life-changing events of the 1990s for our book, “On the Harbor, From Black Friday to Nirvana,” is indelible Northwest history.

When I retired from the newspaper in 2008, nothing pleased me more than Doug’s ascension to editor. Now, after nearly 37 years, he is leaving The Daily World at month’s end. I hope you join me in thanking him for his professionalism, perseverance and integrity. His tenure as editor has been marked by the most dramatic upheaval in the history of American journalism. The rise of the Internet, wholesale theft of content by online aggregators and the seeming indifference of readers and advertisers (the same ones who yearn for more “good news” and urge us to “shop local”) have decimated newspapers of all sizes, from the community weekly to the metropolitan daily.

I wish I had the proverbial nickel for every time someone stops me in the grocery store aisle to say how great the paper used to be. I resist the temptation to say, “Aren’t you one of the people who used to tell me it was the daily disappointment?”—never mind our annual haul of awards for investigative reporting, sports writing, columns, editorials and photography.

As the decline threatens to accelerate, we are all the poorer — and more vulnerable — for the lack of reliable, fact-checked news, compelling photojournalism and stories that bring us together. Instead, we have uninformed, gullible and malevolent people spreading half-truths, outright lies and metastasizing hate at the speed of light. We have ample evidence that big lies and complacency endanger democracy.

Friends, I fear there will come a day — perhaps soon — when there will be no more Daily Worlds. One thing is for sure: It won’t be because dedicated journalists like Doug Barker didn’t do their best, against daunting odds, to keep community journalism alive.

John C. Hughes