Editor’s column: Storied, possibly haunted newspaper building up for sale

If the concrete-block walls of The Whidbey News-Times building in Oak Harbor could talk, they would have many stories to tell. They are the kind of stories that would make a good Netflix series or perhaps some amusing Onion articles.

So many one-of-a-kind folks have worked inside these walls over the last 75 years. Many of them — like the late Wallie Funk, Dorothy Neil and Mary Kay Doody — exemplified the best of old-time newspeople. Later, former editor Jim Larsen taught a generation of reporters about community journalism while former publisher Marcia Van Dyke brought a very loud energy to the building.

So many people have come and gone. One reporter went on to win a Pulitzer; another was fired for claiming to be a vampire but later became an acclaimed screenwriter. Many were eccentric characters straight out of “The Office” or “Barney Miller.”

Allegedly, there was also at least one ghost — which may or may not still come out at night.

The stories of the Whidbey Island community were written behind these walls. Thousands upon thousands of stories of people and personalities, of tragedies and triumphs, of governmental action and inaction.

Once upon a time, the walls housed a press, a newsroom, a marketing department, an office for graphic designers, a circulation department and even a darkroom.

But things change.

Today, the newspaper office inhabits the upstairs portion of the two-story building on Southeast Barrington Drive, conveniently located next to the police station and near City Hall. Years ago, the company made a deal with the Garage of Blessings, which serves the community by providing donated items for free on the ground floor.

The 6,488-square-foot building and its large parking lot is currently up for sale. Sound Publishing, which recently went through an ownership change, is trying to get out of the landlord business at all its community newspapers across the state.

But there’s no reason for readers to worry. The decision to sell the building won’t affect the Whidbey News-Times or the South Whidbey Record beyond a possible change in office location. The offices have actually changed a few times over the last decade in an effort to be more visible and accommodate the staff, so it’s nothing out of the ordinary.

But anyone in the market for a large building with a view of the water can contact Aidan Cleghorn at acleghorn@bellcornerstone.com.