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Letter from the Editor: Sad but fond farewell

by R. HANS MILLER
Managing Editor | June 8, 2023 1:30 AM

The Columbia Basin will be losing a valued friend this month. After more than 116 years, the Grant County Journal will print its last issue at the end of June. The closure was announced in the Journal’s June 1 edition.

The staff at the Columbia Basin Herald is saddened by the loss of another local newspaper, especially one so close to home. We’ve been happy to have a good relationship with the staff at the Journal and deeply respect and appreciate the service they’ve provided to the region for so long.

Staff have moved between the Journal and the Columbia Basin Herald over the years, including CBH’s current general manager, Bob Richardson.

" Having spent 9 years working as the advertising manager with the team at the Journal, I was able to learn so much about the business and how to be a good newspaper guy. Jeff Fletcher is one of the best publishers I have had the pleasure to work with. The lessons I learned from Jeff, Kerry, Randy, Paul, Scott, Jennifer, Steven, Joe, Shelley, Pam, Kim and Cheryl have molded me into the publisher/GM I am today. The family atmosphere that was a staple in that office is why I run this newspaper the way I do. I wish my Journal family the best in their future successes, and thank you for taking in a young, eager kid and teaching him how to be a good newspaper guy,” Richardson said.

According to Northwestern University, the U.S. is losing about two newspapers every week. A service enshrined in the First Amendment is fading away. That service is intended to ensure the government remains uncorrupted, taxes are spent wisely and the residents of the communities, counties, states and nation all know what’s going on.

We’re as disheartened as our local readers when we turn on the TV and see bombastic reporting or open up one of the national newspapers and see biased nonsense that stains our profession. The thing we hope our readers and the readers of the Journal and all of the other papers that serve the region understand is that those values remain strong at local newspapers.

As a result, the loss of a local newspaper like the Journal further erodes the foundations set by the First Amendment by taking a brick out of the underlayment that is highly necessary.

I was able to speak with Randy Bracht, the editor at the Grant County Journal – and a damned good journalist to boot – briefly on Monday. He said he was sad about the closure, but not just the closure of the Journal. He was also concerned about the loss of so many other publications that work in small communities like Ephrata.

To put it in perspective:

Since the pandemic first began in 2020, almost 400 local newspapers such as the Grant County Journal have, quite literally, stopped the presses.

That’s about 400 communities whose city halls don’t have reporters in them regularly, keeping an eye on local governments.

That’s about 400 communities whose student-athletes and musicians aren’t getting the coverage they need to be seen by a recruiter that may be able to open a college’s doors.

That’s about 400 communities with few outlets to find out where community events are taking place – or what happened at those events they were unable to attend.

That’s about 400 communities that don’t have anyone to keep an eye on important issues like crime, homelessness, the opioid epidemic’s local impact or why the local hospital might be in poor repair.

That’s about 400 communities who won’t know when those who impacted their lives pass on through reading their obituary in the paper.

That’s tens of thousands of people without the information they need to cast their ballots.

That’s hundreds of counties and cities that have no local avenue to communicate with the public.

That’s pockets of history across our nation that won’t be recorded for our children and grandchildren to learn from.

The Journal has served Grant County longer than there’s been a Grant County. They’ve recorded the county’s challenges and successes; its ups and downs of all sorts; its weddings and its funerals. It’s done its duty by the people of Grant County and we are sorry to see them go.

From the Columbia Basin Herald family to the Grant County Journal’s amazing staff – we wish you all the best of luck in whatever comes next. We thank you for your professionalism, dedication and commitment to the communities you’ve served and continue to be a part of. We know you’re leaving a legacy you can be very proud of.

Going forward, each edition of the Columbia Basin Herald will print the text of the First Amendment in honor of the Grant County Journal’s service to the Columbia Basin community and all of the other newspapers that have served our nation well.

First Amendment to the United States Constitution

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.