We're here to tell your stories
Last updated 11/19/2020 at 10:24am
Department of Fish & Wildlife trackers and their dogs had cornered the mountain lion up in a tree, and were waiting for a veterinarian to arrive with a tranquilizer gun.
The mountain lion, also known as a cougar or puma, had been feasting on residents’ pets for several months. It snatched dogs, cats, even a pair of goats, from the yards of homes lining the ridges along Big Gulch, Smuggler’s Gulch, and other densely wooded ravines from Mukilteo to Edmonds. Residents feared it was only a matter of time before a child might be attacked.
Finally, on this day in January 1993, trackers had caught up with the 120-pound female cougar. They had hoped to tranquilize it, and then relocate it to the mountains, away from human settlements.
But the cougar had other ideas. Getting nervous, it appeared ready to make a run for it, forcing the trackers to shoot it dead.
I arrived just as they were loading the animal onto the bed of a pickup. I asked them to wait a minute so I could shoot a photo, so one of them, coincidentally holding a kid in his arm, lifted the cougar’s head by the nape of its neck, and then turned to look into the camera.
How do people generally react when you point a camera at them? They smile! So that week’s issue of the Mukilteo Beacon showed a smiling human holding up the head of a dead mountain lion. It didn’t go over well with readers.
We got phone calls, letters to the editor, and other negative responses from people who thought it was insensitive and unworthy of publication.
My wife Cate and I had launched the Mukilteo Beacon less than six months earlier. Cate thought the negative publicity would ruin us. Living on a credit card, we were already uncertain about the wisdom of our efforts to publish Mukilteo’s first weekly newspaper.
I thought otherwise. “This is good!” I tried to reassure her. “Everyone’s talking about the Beacon.”
There’s a saying in the news biz: If it bleeds, it leads. It’s like a car accident – you don’t want to look, but you can’t help yourself. People might not have been happy about that photo and accompanying story, but they were talking about it all over town.
It’s just those kinds of stories about community life that give local newspapers the color and flavor that make them must reads for people who care about their hometown.
Somehow, the Beacon survived, and even prospered. In 1998 we took over the Edmonds Paper, which had been publishing since 1986, and in 2014 we launched the Mill Creek Beacon. In each case, we have emphasized the hyperlocal focus of each community’s paper. That’s our niche. Each of the communities we cover has its own stories to tell.
For example, most recently in Edmonds and Mill Creek, we reported that detectives finally were able to tie a local man to the 1972 murder of a 20-year-old woman; he committed suicide just hours before a jury found him guilty of the 48-year-old crime.
Oldtimers may remember the snowstorm in December 1996 that paralyzed Edmonds and, among other events, collapsed the covered slips in the marina and sank about 270 of the 400 boats moored inside.
Those and other stories contribute to the rich fabric of each community’s history and culture.
As readers of this column know, over the past few weeks I have been writing about our effort to keep telling those stories under a new business model. Providing a free newspaper that depends on advertising as its primary revenue source is no longer sustainable. That’s why, in the New Year, we’re switching to a subscription model.
At the same time, a growing number of readers prefer to get their news digitally, on their smartphone, tablet, or desktop. So along with a weekly newspaper, we’re updating our websites 24/7.
Older readers still prefer to consume their news in print, so of course we’re continuing to publish, too.
Either way, we’re asking readers to support their hometown newspaper. We’re keeping subscription prices as low as possible, and we hope you’ll agree the Beacon’s price is fair and worth paying.
Even though the official changeover doesn’t begin until February, if you sign up now, you’ll have immediate access to the website as our gift to you for supporting your hometown newspaper.
We value our readers, and the next time a mountain lion stumbles into town, we’ll be there to report it to you, without the smiles.