When author Bill Lindstrom began working on his newest project — one that details the history of the media on the North Olympic Peninsula — getting his fill of the back story meant constantly filling up his gas tank.
He estimates he made 52 trips between his home in Aberdeen to the Washington State Library near Olympia between July 2015 and April 2016.
“I was living at the state library,” Lindstrom says. “Then I got smart smart and moved to Olympia.”
The result is “Strait Press: A History of News Media on the North Olympic Peninsula,” a 600-plus page behind-the-scenes exploration of media organizations in Sequim, Port Angeles, Port Townsend and Forks — along with the major stories that reporters, editors, photographers and others covered in both Clallam and Jefferson County, from the late 19th century to day.
Written by Lindstrom, a veteran journalist for more than a half-century, “Strait Press” encompasses nearly 100 media sources on the North Olympic Peninsula, including 82 newspapers, dating back to 1860.
That history includes Sequim-area newspapers such as the Sequim Press, Olympic Review and The Sequim Shopper — a precursor to the The Jimmy Come Lately Gazette and Sequim Gazette — that Shirley Larmore and her husband Bob started in 1974.
The idea to put the book together started several years ago when Brown M. Maloney, who published the Sequim Gazette for 23 years and has about three decades of experience with various media groups on the peninsula, looked to preserve some essential peninsula history.
Maloney, who also owns part of KONP Newsradio 1450 AM, said he noticed a wealth of experience the radio station had in longtime broadcasters Scooter Chapman and Sandy Keys; the two now boast an average of 55-plus years of news coverage between them.
“I realized the history that was there; I just thought to myself, ‘This really should be chronicled or archived while we can’,” Maloney says.
With his experience not only with the Gazette and KONP but with working (briefly) for the Peninsula Daily News and the Port Angeles Chronicle, Maloney says he started looking to find a way to connect with those in the news field, active or retired, to capture the area’s rich media history.
“I know an awful lot of people. I could be the conduit for getting a lot of people together to make this thing happen,” Maloney says, noting that time was of the essence with several key figures getting up in age. “Five, ten years from now (we) couldn’t do this. It was important to get this (book) out.”
While “Strait Press” focuses on media organizations, it also serves as a touchstone for the North Olympic Peninsula’s history, Maloney says.
“It’s not just about media but a history book as well. It’s a look back, touching on many of the major news stories … that have helped form our two-county area,” Maloney says.
“By nature of our business, we have a front row seats as news happens.”
That includes a large section on the 30-year debate in the formation of Olympic National Park.
“It was mind-boggling what the newspapers went through (at the time), and not all of them were on the same page,” Lindstrom says. “I tried to reflect that in the writing.”
The book explores the numerous media family owners who played significant roles on the peninsula’s major newspapers as each publication wrestles with other controversial issues such as the proposed Northern Tier Pipeline, the promise of a railroad, the sinking of a portion of the Hood Canal bridge and numerous elections.
Among the nuggets uncovered, Lindstrom says, include two writers nominated for a Pulitzer prize (one received the award, one did not), a newspaper owner who was part of a quad-marriage ceremony, a building that has been home to the same paper for 102 years, and more.
Not just a newspaper-focused publication, the book also covers radio stations up to recent years with nonprofit/non-commercial stations such as KSQM in Sequim and KPTZ in Port Townsend, as well as a public access television station.
“It was far more involved than Brown or myself thought when we first started this thing in 2015,” Lindstrom says.
“Strait Press” also includes more than 150 photos.
“At 600 pages it sounds intimidating (but) it’s a book people can skip around as well,” Maloney says.
“Every area is resplendent with those stories and situations,” Lindstrom says. “This (book) is for everybody.”
Lindstrom, 76, worked at the Daily Olympian in Olympia, Peninsula Daily News in Port Angeles and Daily World in Aberdeen before retiring in 2008. In 2014 he authored his first book, “John Tornow: Villain or Victim?” a non-fiction account of a man alleged to have killed his two nephews in 1911.
Lindstrom says that for “Strait Press” he wound up with about 1,600 PDF copies of newspapers, some of the 20 pages long. “The hardest part was deciding what not to put in the book,” he says. “What sounded good to me just might not work as far as the book was concerned. I didn’t want to leave anything out.”
Says Maloney, “If anything, I really underestimated (Lindstrom’s) ability to dive so deep and overturn so many stones, and bring so much of the past into this book.”
John Brewer, former publisher with the Peninsula Daily News and Sequim Gazette, helped Lindstrom edit “Strait Press” to its finished product; Lindstrom said he and Brewer trimmed about 100 pages from the first draft.
Brewer called Lindstrom’s book “a fascinating excavation of underappreciated events and individuals … Lindstrom and his painstaking research and his yield of captivating, rescued-from-obscurity stories takes us on an educational, thoroughly enjoyable journey.”
Former Gazette employees were also involved in the book’s production, with Melanie Arrington designing the cover and Patricia Morrison Coate doing much of the copy editing.
“Strait Press” is available in hardcover and softcover. Locally, the book is available at Sequim Museum & Arts, 175 W. Cedar St., at Forage Gifts and Northwest Treasures, 121 W. Washington St. The book is available at Odyssey Book Store and Port Book and News in downtown Port Angeles. Get copies at KONP Radio, 721 E. First St., Port Angeles, or from the author at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-581-9451. “Strait Press” is also is available in e-book format through Kindle and Nook.
“It was such a wonderfully eye-opening and fascinating journey for three-and-a-half years; I couldn’t get to writing fast enough,” Lindstrom says.
“I had a great time doing it. I hope people enjoy reading it as much as I did (writing it).”