Newspapers are expected to be leaders in their communities. They’re expected to be watchdogs on government and nonprofit activities. And they’re expected to document life, no matter how good or bad.
But in order for readers to understand the “voice” of their community, they need to know a little something about the publisher. So, today, I thought I’d take a little time to give you some insight into who I am, where I came from and how I got to the Daily Sun News.
No doubt there are a few readers who know me from my younger days growing up in Benton City. That’s right, I’m a “boomerang,” or so I was told Thursday. I guess that refers to someone who grew up in the Yakima Valley, left the area to make their way in life and then returned.
So if you’re one of those readers who are wondering, I graduated from Kiona-Benton High School in 1986, just a few months before the interstate opened. In my youth, I competed on football fields and wrestling mats throughout the region.
I went off to college to study aerospace engineering in Florida. While living there, I started working on my college newspaper, obtained NASA credentials and began selling stories and photographs to newspapers. The rest, you can say, is history.
My new career took me from Florida to Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Washington, Oregon, Montana, Costa Rica and Japan. Along the way, I photographed space shuttle launches and landings, numerous entertainers, professional sports and life as it unfolded before me. I wrote touching stories, hard news and about government agencies that had concealed information the public should know.
Here in the Pacific Northwest, I’ve managed newsrooms in Ellensburg, Puyallup, Pendleton and Port Angeles. In Japan, I managed the news bureau of Pacific Stars and Stripes, the daily newspaper serving U.S. military installations around the Pacific rim.
And in my last two posts, I’ve managed the entire newspaper operation for Southwest Iowa Publishing Co. (two newspapers, two shoppers and a press plant based in Red Oak, Iowa) and The Omak-Okanogan County Chronicle, a sister newspaper of the Daily Sun News owned by Eagle Newspapers, Inc.
The Chronicle really gave me an opportunity to reconnect with my Eastern Washington roots, family and friends. It also opened doors to try to improve the quality of life here. In that arena, I’m on search and rescue and volunteered on numerous boards and committees from Okanogan County Tourism Council to chambers and community festivals, to civic groups. I’m also a Jet Ski racer and race promoter.
When it comes to politics, I’ve been active in parenting law debates in Olympia, efforts to keep public roads, forests and rivers open in the face of ever-increasing bureaucratic rules, advocating for the wise use of natural resources, and asserting the public’s right to know. Even as I return home to the valley, I remain passionate about those topics. I’m sure that as I settle into life in the valley, those passions will become evident in the newspaper as it changes and grows.
Coming most recently from Omak, it’s easy to see why forests, roads and rivers are important to me. The fires of the last two years have dramatically shaped my life, and strengthened my beliefs. But it may not be so easy to understand my involvement in state parenting laws and politics.
To make a long story short, I’m a divorced dad. I’m a firm believer that children need frequent and equal access to both their biological mom and dad. National statistics clearly show the importance of balanced access, but state laws stack the deck against dads. Special interests have hijacked children’s rights and needs for equal parenting in our state. In case you’re wondering, my daughter, Olivia, is 13 years old.
Hopefully, that gives you some insight into who is managing your newspaper. And I emphasize “your newspaper.” I’m going to need your guidance and input as we move forward together.
Sometimes we’ll see eye-to-eye, other times maybe not. Regardless, I welcome and value your opinions. Civil discussion of all viewpoints, no matter how different, makes us stronger as a community.
I look forward to working with you to produce the newspaper you want to read.
- Roger Harnack is the publisher of the Daily Sun News. Email him at RHarnack@DailySunNews.com.