Gazette turns 40: As the Sequim Gazette hits the big 4-0, former staffers put ink to memories SLIDESHOW

Over the hill? Perhaps. but the Sequim Gazette is still on newsstands and in the delivery boxes each week, four decades after its inception. Earlier this month, the Sequim Gazette — formerly the Jimmy Come Lately Gazette — marked its 40th year in circulation. Over the years, we’ve marked the highs and lows in local personalities, profiles, sports, education, government and more in the Sequim-Dungeness Valley, recording triumph and tragedy.

Here are a few former staffers with some memories of their time here at the Gazette, along with a short history of Sequim newspapers (see B-8). — MD

Hilary Steeby

My employment with the Sequim Gazette began July 13, 1989, as a typesetter for the news and legal ads department. That same year I was involved in setting up the database of addresses for The Peninsula Business Journal. It became known to the front office staff that I had bookkeeping knowledge and when an employee in that department left I moved into that area. From 1991 through the end of 2001, I handled the accounts receivable, accounts payable and payroll aspects of all of Olympic View Publishing’s products. In January of 2002 my title changed to comptoller when budget responsibilities were added. I continued in that role until my departure on July 10, 2009.

There were many great things about my time at the Gazette. It was a very rewarding experience for me. I basically grew up there. The best part however was the friends I made. Many I still communicate with even after five years of being gone. We had a great staff, very much like family.

I transitioned from my Gazette job to a fiscal specialist position with Clallam County on July 13, 2009.

Cathy Van Ruhan

I worked at the Gazette for about 18 years, retiring three years ago. Copy editors read all the news stories, including those they most likely would ignore if they were not paid to read them. The Gazette had a great many columnists and they all seemed to have a devoted group of readers. Reading guest columns was usually interesting and often informative.

We also had some letter-to-the-editor writers who were memorable. I loved knowing what would be in the paper before it came out.

The Gazette was a great paper and my co-workers were some of the best people I’ve known.

Cathy Van Ruhan (AKA Cathy Van, Cathy Shoaf)

Sue Ellen Riesau

May 24, 1989 was my first day on the job at the Jimmy Come Lately Gazette.

Recently relocated to Sequim from California, I missed my friends. I was hopeful I would meet and make one or two new ones.  Having no direct newspaper experience, I had a lot to learn about the business of putting out a good newspaper but the bigger lessons were about the community itself and the people who make it what it is … past and present.

I’m pleased to report that in the 23 years I spent in the Gazette Tower (as Pat Neal so eloquently named the place in which we lived and worked), I made more than a few friends. I made connections with people that will last a lifetime and in so doing, I made a deep and lasting connection with this place.

When invited to contribute to the Sequim Gazette’s 40th Anniversary edition, I decided to write about a handful of people who are no longer with us but are people who put an indelible mark on the Gazette and left it a better newspaper. They should be remembered:

Jim Manders, Editor from 1988 until 2002, was my first newspaper mentor. Jim had a high regard for solid, ethical editorials and news writing. He had a love of sports reporting and spent countless hours attending Sequim High games with his camera in hand hoping for that one great shot. Jim was a workaholic and the scanner was never far from his ear.  He chased stories with a dedication and fervor I’ve not seen in the newsroom since. Jim had a reputation for being difficult to work with and we had our share of disagreements but reflecting back, I never knew anyone in the business with more passion for the news. Jim was a transplant from Seattle and he worked in other newspapers but he always came back to Sequim and the Gazette. Ultimately, anyone who was able to get next to Jim respected and loved him.

Shawn Arrington, Production Manager for 13 years, was a talented artist with a huge heart and a gift for good design. Shawn led us into a redesign of the newspaper in 2003 which put the Gazette on the map among weekly newspapers in this state. While under Shawnee’s artistic thumb, we won numerous (count ‘em … hundreds) of state awards for page design, ad design and overall excellence. In all those years of deadlines and long hours, Shawn was always kind, incredibly loving and maternal in her management style. Her staff always felt more like a family than a department and Shawn engendered great loyalty among most. Each morning Shawn started her day at my door … we would ruminate over the day’s work, employee issues needing attention or just life in general. She was in my office when she got the call confirming the results of her tests and I remember we held each other in utter disbelief. Until we lost Shawnee to a very aggressive form of breast cancer, I didn’t know how much those early morning meetings anchored me to my post.

Barry Dove, a native of South Africa and an all-around great guy, was our first Circulation Manager from 1991 through 2001. He appeared one day at the front counter and announced he had a circulation background (he’d worked at the PDN in circulation years before) and heard we were looking for one.  We had just been through a very ambitious and exhausting process of converting from a free publication to a paid product in 1991 and frankly I was worried how and who was going to manage this monster called “Paid Circulation.” Barry not only handled it, he handled it with aplomb! He understood what real customer service meant and long after he left our employ, he was called back to train others in the art of newspaper circulation. His carriers loved him, his co-workers loved him and his subscribers … well, they didn’t love him but they loved getting their Gazette on time!

Tim Quinn, artist and Renaissance man, was the Gazette cartoonist for so long I don’t remember when he began his career as Sequim’s town crier but it was before my time. Tim’s cartoons were a treasure.  Small weekly newspapers almost never have their own cartoonist (although the Gazette has been lucky in that respect). Each week for more than twenty years, Tim’s editorial cartoons, delighted and infuriated readers but rarely ever disappointed.  He was able to take the temperature of this community on any given civic or political topic. His cartoons were a combination of candid, perhaps a bit jaded, occasionally endearing, colloquial and community minded.  Tim lived next door to the Gazette and every Tuesday morning, rain or shine, in sickness and in health, Tim would walk through the back door and head to the copy machine to deliver that week’s summation of what was going on … in town, at the county, in the national park, from the east end to the west end of Clallam County … Tim recorded our lives and he did it with wit and whimsy. Tim’s spirit lives on … visit the Sunshine Café and view some of his best work.

Mary Powell

Managing editor of the Sequim Gazette, 2005-2008

The first time I visited the Sequim Gazette newspaper office in April 2005, I came away knowing I wanted to work there. Simply from talking to then-publisher Sue Ellen Riesau, I recognized the coherence among the staff and their commitment to keep community journalism alive.

Yes, I had been to the Sequim area several times in my life — I did know how to pronounce the city, at least — but never gave thought to living here. I knew the area was spectacular in scenery and, having camped at the state park several times, as well as in Port Townsend, there was a plethora of outdoor activities to keep one busy, both personally and professionally.

The Gazette turned out to be good fit for me, and I was lucky when I took the editorial reins. I had a good staff with excellent reporting skills, always open to new ideas and eager to report the local news, a wonderful news assistant, Donna McMillan, who kept me on my toes, a gifted production group, especially Mary Field and Shawn Arrington who could make our front pages sing, a sales department, under the tutelage of Steve Perry, that realized the importance of the news as well as the bottom line, a publisher, Sue Ellen Riesau, who became not only an easy-to-work for boss, but a good friend, and an owner, Brown Maloney, who, while not always agreeing with my way of doing things, absolutely understood the concept of a community newspaper.

All of us worked as a team to publish the best locally oriented, professional news coverage that focused on neighborhoods, city and county councils, schools, entertainment, school sports, you name it, we wrote about it. Frankly, that’s why community newspapers are generally doing better than large metros are; folks living here want to know which students are on the honor roll, zoning issues and other details of community life. The “big stuff” can be found on the Internet, television and larger newspapers. As Leo Lerner, founder of Chicago’s Lerner Newspapers, once said, “A fistfight on Clark Street is more important to our readers than a war in Europe.”

I am proud to have served as editor of the Sequim Gazette. My favorite job was writing editorials, whether it was calling to task city councilors, political issues, whether or not a rest stop should be located along a stretch of U.S. Highway 101 near Sequim, a proposed disc golf course at Robin Hill Park or school levies and bonds. Some were personal columns, writing of our shared grief when Shawn Arrington died of breast cancer or the death of cartoonist Tim Quinn.

One of the most important aspects of a newspaper is not only to inform readers of what’s going on, but to bring the community together and to get our citizens talking about issues that affect us all. Disagreeing is OK. I loved it when readers would call me or send a letter to the editor disagreeing with an editorial. It meant he or she was thinking about the topic and perhaps ready for debate or discussion.

Now retired, I do miss the excitement of the news business, but not enough to do it every day. The deadlines can indeed, be deadly. However, I do lend a hand every now and again, writing for the Gazette’s Living on the Peninsula magazine and an occasional piece for the weekly Gazette. I think journalism, and in particular, the newspaper business, is a bit like the Mafia. Once in, you can’t get out!

Happy 40th, Sequim Gazette, and many more.


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