Knowing when it’s time to walk away | Guest Viewpoint

Laura Jean Schneider
ljschneider@ptleader.com
Posted 2/23/22

Every Tuesday I proofread The Leader from cover to cover and crossed my fingers that I didn’t overlook anything.

But I missed this issue, the one you’re reading right now, because …

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Knowing when it’s time to walk away | Guest Viewpoint

Posted

Every Tuesday I proofread The Leader from cover to cover and crossed my fingers that I didn’t overlook anything.

But I missed this issue, the one you’re reading right now, because I’m writing this while thousands of feet in the air, headed to Arizona. 

Below me, in the cargo compartment, are two suitcases and my Corgi, Hatch. I’m leaving Port Townsend because I can’t afford to live there, not because my job is unfulfilling, my workplace sucks, or I work at “The Misleader.” (I’m all ears when it comes to more creative lambasts, ye critics of small-town journalism.)

I wish I could convey the magic I felt when I opened the paper every Wednesday morning, a mixture of excitement and a wee bit of dread — I’ve written the lion’s share of corrections — knowing the amount of work that goes into each page. Gone are the days of 20-some employees in the first masonry building in Port Townsend, where The Leader resides on Adams Street. Yet I worked with my fellow employees surrounded by vestiges of the paper’s heyday: a type cabinet filled with dusty lead, a morgue where past publications rest among the silver fish, and bound volumes of annual collections, each holding every edition of Jefferson county’s history.

To break the current masthead down for you, there are two people (one part-time) that keep the front office, subscriptions, circulation, and payroll running smoothly. Two marketing reps who work tirelessly to sell ads, because ads pay employees, and keep the paper going. One full-time and one part-time graphic designers who build ads and design every single special publication the newspaper offers. And in the newsroom, two reporters cover every beat from sports, crime, arts and entertainment, briefs, to city and county news.

At the helm is one hard working, supportive, and undeterred publisher, who contrary to local gossip, lives in Port Townsend five days a week. And the editor, who commutes every day from Bainbridge Island, because there are no homes for sale in Port Townsend. In addition to the general duties of an editor – editing, fine-tuning, heckling reporters about the quality of their work, interfacing with readers – he also covers beats, and his byline is in every issue of the paper.

He single-handedly “builds” every single page of “The Leader” in Adobe InDesign, arguably a vast and sometimes cantankerous program. 

Since COVID, The Leader has gotten smaller. Several positions went to part-time status. A reporter position was cut; a regular freelancer and copyeditor became luxuries the paper couldn’t afford.

I’m not joking when I say that every Tuesday I read every page of editorial content in each edition of the paper, printed out tabloid-size in 8 point font. So did my fellow reporter, the publisher, and the editor. Yep, there were some mistakes. There probably will be more to follow. But knowing the vast diversity and amount of work such a tight-knit team is doing made me incredibly proud to be in their ranks.

Recently, there was fuss on social media when the cost of the paper was raised, the increase amounting to $2 more per month than the previous rate for subscribers. It was hard not to take it personally when that increase would have allowed me or my colleagues a raise. 

Name anything you can buy in Port Townsend for $2 that has more built-in value than a copy of a newspaper where every article is written by a Washington resident. And remarkably, “The Leader” is still a U.S. family-owned business, not the mouthpiece for a large out-of-the-country corporation.

It was a great pleasure for me to try to do justice to the stories that the folks of Jefferson County shared with me. South county, I love you dearly, and my favorite stories to write were the ones from the farthest reaches. I feel I am leaving a community I know much more intimately than six months ago, when I tried (once again) to make it in Port Townsend.

I don’t think the solution to “affordable housing,” which is what ultimately has ousted me from your midst, is to build more ADUs or home-shares or expect property owners to invite strangers into their homes at reduced rents without any benefits. 

A Kenny Rogers song has been reverberating in my mind for the last few weeks, much to my potential embarrassment. But that Gambler song, where an old card shark on a train tells a greenhorn player, “You gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, and know when to run.”

So here I go, walking away, knowing as I do that leaving somewhere I can’t afford to live isn’t so much a tragedy as a reality, and that in me doing so, I am accepting an uncomfortable, but necessary truth.

Laura Jean Schneider was the senior reporter at The Leader at the time of her departure and a much-valued member of the newspaper’s team. 

Comments

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  • MargeS

    Sorry to hear your leaving the Leader, your stories have been memorable. Good luck on your new adventure.

    Wednesday, February 23 Report this

  • IfItsXorI

    The Leader is not the New York Times, but it is our community's central focus of journalism.

    School funding in this region often faces challenges.

    Without informed reading and contemplation, a community -- or a nation -- cannot hold itself together. None of us have all the facts and understanding. Whether in print or on the corner, in the store, or in the cafe, we can make mistakes and open ourselves up to learn, if we make that choice.

    It took me 16 years before it dawned on me that supporting my local paper was a fundamental necessity if I was to consider myself to actually be a part of this community.

    Let's help each other to find our way.

    Friday, February 25 Report this