It doesn’t take long reading the latest issue of the Cannon Beach Gazette to see the many examples of how the community has rallied together during challenging times: COVID-19, local economy, health and wellness, just to name a few.
For some of The Gazette reporters from a generation ago, it remains a source of pride to see the importance of community journalism as strong as ever. Equally, reading the stories of the resolve and creativity of the Cannon Beach and supporting communities today reaffirms the power and importance of community journalism.
Some 20 years ago, The Gazette was on the second floor of the U.S. Bank building on North Hemlock Street. Chris Baker and I were part of a small staff that would go on to help The Gazette win three consecutive National Newspaper Association General Excellence awards (category: non-daily – 3,000 average circulation) from 2000-2002. A three-peat (though I hear that term is still trademarked, so no t-shirts for a while).
Ask Chris Baker, myself, or many others part of the Gazette era – those team accomplishments weren’t about any individual: The community won those three “national championships”. It was through very stories of Cannon Beach that The Gazette became, “America’s Best Small Newspaper”.
That period was also a time of fast technological evolution on the north coast. One could drive up the road to Seaside and purchase a flip phone for $80 and send basic text messages, trying to stay underneath, what was at the time, expensive and very strict “minutes per month” cell phone packages.
And smart phones? That meant whoever was talking was an expert in her or his particular field.
The Gazette, like many North Coast newspapers, began to build a base web presence. It wasn’t always intuitive though, knowing how much to publish with readership. Newspapers at the time still generated much of its revenue through paid print subscriptions, individual print sales of papers and print-media advertising. There was no solid playbook for community newspapers to use to confidently build on-line readership. But The Gazette, like most other publications in the area, took its shot at digital media.
While the base paradigm of journalism was beginning the shift in the early 2000s: The concept of static print journalism which remained the source of truth until the next issue, versus stories that could be updated and corrected in real-time – the power and responsibility of community journalism remained. And it remains very much alive this very day.
Community journalism fundamentally is about three principles: First, giving a fair and locally-focused voice to the important issues and stories of the community. Second, empowering key unlocks to local stories that would otherwise not be covered at the state or national level. Third, the personal accountability that in community journalism, you could very-well see the person you are covering at the local market the day after publication. So, one always needs to be accountable, and report the news with honor, compassion and integrity.
It’s great to see The Cannon Beach Gazette still in print, still relevant, still giving a voice to many courageous stories on the community. Online media and print media can and do have a happy medium for the community. In the greater context: Looking at photos from 20 years or even 100 years before of Cannon Beach, we all can learn a value lesson from Haystack Rock. We may only have a finite amount of beach walks in our respective journeys, but together, we all are writing the latest chapter in Cannon Beach’s important history.
Justin Lacche and Chris Baker were former staff reporters for the Cannon Beach Gazette during parts of its three-consecutive National Newspaper Association General Excellence award years 2000-2002.