In Our Opinion: It’s the right time to reflect on our community newspapers

Since the beginning of the year, the Whidbey News-Times and South Whidbey Record have published stories that represent a lively cross section of life on Whidbey Island.

There was a story about a house filled with thousands of bats, a king tide causing a wide range of damages, a military aircraft malfunctioning over Coupeville, an elephant seal attacking and killing a smaller marine cousin, a chef from a hit TV show cooking at a local restaurant and much more.

Of course, there has also been the usual diet of news stories about local government, businesses, car crashes and crime. We covered the races in the primary election, and reporters are now writing about the many matchups in the general election.

In other words, they are community newspapers, which are part of a vital tradition that goes back to the founding of the nation.

We are in the midst of National Newspaper Week, which has been sponsored by the Newspaper Association Managers since 1940. It’s the week in which newspapers across the country expound on the continued virtues of print media. It’s an easy argument to make, particularly when it comes to community newspapers.

The News-Times and The Record are, in fact, award-winning community newspapers that have been covering the island for a combined total of more than 220 years. Both The News-Times and The Record are hyper-local, which means the stories are all about Whidbey Island. We don’t rely on wire stories about national politics or weird crime in Florida to fill in the gaps.

Like newspapers across the nation, the Whidbey newspapers are smaller than they used to be, although more people than ever are reading stories. There were well over 100,000 total pageviews of the top five stories online in both papers combined since Jan. 1, according to Google Analytics. About 1.3 million unique visitors were counted since the beginning of the year.

The papers promote local businesses and continue to be a trustworthy place for them to advertise.

Our stories help connect people to their community. You will meet a fascinating cast of characters in the issues of the newspaper, all of whom are your neighbors. There are writers, artists, hobby farmers, advocates, entrepreneurs, volunteers, politicians, government officials and countless others. Saturday’s paper featured a woman who rescued more than 300 German shepherds, a handywoman with her own business and a hormonal elk that attacked a car.

The newspapers also have an important watchdog function for local government. We have professional journalists who explain the issues and ask the questions. Across the nation, communities — especially smaller ones — without local newspapers have seen government fraud, secretive decisions and other problems proliferate.

We are proud that so many people consider The News-Times and The Record their hometown newspaper. Even more so, we are proud for playing a role in ensuring that Whidbey residents continue to be remarkably engaged in and knowledgeable about their community.