Whidbey newspapers open grandly

Whidbey Islanders familiarized themselves with the new digs of their two traditional newspapers Wednesday afternoon.

Approximately 100 guests toured the headquarters of the Whidbey News-Times and the South Whidbey Record in the Coupe’s Village development on the south side of Highway 20 in Coupeville.

Staffs of the two newspapers moved in April 1 but it took weeks to empty the boxes, build shelves for the bound volumes dating back over 100 years and add the finishing touches, including window blinds. The last boxes were finally recycled and years of news and advertising awards hung on the open beams shortly before the guests arrived.

While sipping wine or sparkling cider and nibbling on cheese and sausage, the open house attendees crowded around the main entrance when it was ribbon cutting time at 5:30 p.m. Welcoming words were spoken by State Rep. Barbara Bailey, Island County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson and Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jill Johnson.

“Regardless of where you go we consider you our home paper,” Johnson said, eliciting a laugh from the crowd. She presented Marcia Van Dyke, publisher of the two papers, with a framed purple and gold dollar bill, depicting Oak Harbor’s colors.

With both newspapers housed in one building, some saw the change as a coming together of the island, which is famous for its north/south divide. In short form, the cliche’ is that the military is seen as dominating the north end, and environmentalists the south end.

“This is a wonderful merging of our island together,” said State Rep. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor.

Added Helen Price Johnson, county commissioner, “What a great way to help diminish the Mason/Dixon line, we have more in common that what separates us.”

Van Dyke, who expressed her appreciation for the warm welcome to Coupeville and the catering work of Bayleaf and Miriam’s, added later that the two staffs will work together at times, but still put out separate papers dedicated to their respective communities. They now share one newsroom, with Brian Kelly editing The Record and Jim Larsen the News-Times. Larsen also holds the title of supervising editor of both papers.

Tom Tack, vice president of the Coupeville Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the new business to town. “It’s pleasure to have you,” he told Van Dyke. “We’re delighted to have the Whidbey News-Times.”

Wallie Funk, former owner and publisher of both papers from 1964 to 1989 when he sold them to Sound Publishing, spoke for many present and former employees.

“This is a great day, a great moment,” Funk told the crowd. “This business is still my heart, my life, my soul.”

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