I’ve heard several versions of the “state of local news” in recent years. One is that it community newspapers are in decline, that the loss of readers and advertisers spell doom for local journalism and that the news media is untrustworthy, even fake.
Then there’s the narrative that I know – the firsthand version. And it’s that local journalists are still working hard, harder than ever, to tell the stories of their communities. I think that despite the changes that may be coming in the way we cover, deliver and process news, people care about their community newspapers.
There have been a lot of changes already since I started working at the Mercer Island Reporter in 2014, with resources shifting and my coverage area expanding.
Now, it’s time for me to make an even bigger change. I’ve accepted a job closer to my home in Seattle, and my last day at the paper will be April 10. I want to say thank you to everyone in the community who took time to talk to me about things that are important to them, whether it was parks, local history, art, taxes, transit, kids, seniors and everything in between.
Being a community journalist was my first job out of college, and over the past four and a half years, I can honestly say I’ve been able to learn something new every day. I met wonderful people who taught me about everything from the Growth Management Act to what it was like to be on the set of “The Wizard of Oz.”
During my first week on the job, I went to a press conference about the E. coli outbreak on Mercer Island. Over the next few years, I was able to attend almost every city council meeting, Chamber of Commerce luncheon and public hearing for issues like the library remodel, MICA location, Interstate 90 reconfiguration, code rewrites, budget cuts and more. I took photos of the Blue Angels, the half marathon and Summer Celebration. I went out to the library, or New Seasons or the dog park every week to do “Island Talk.”
Some of the headlines about the future of journalism are negative. But I’ve also seen mention of local news as “an essential democratic force” and due for a resurgence fueled by “grassroots solutions.” So, please, continue to support your local papers. Send in story ideas, letters to the editor and events for the calendar. Keep important conversations going in the community, not just on NextDoor. And please, keep in touch with me. I can be found on LinkedIn or reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Katie Metzger has been reporting on the Mercer Island community since September 2014.