Posts Tagged ‘Whidbey News-Times’

Whidbey News-Times Sports Editor Jim Waller (right) shares a chat with CHS girls basketball coach David King. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

The adults are back.

After three months-plus with no sports coverage, the Whidbey News-Times and South Whidbey Record have returned the dean of local sportswriting to his desk.

Longtime Sports Editor Jim Waller was one of several employees who accepted a furlough back in March as the COVID-19 pandemic threw the newspaper industry into turmoil.

His last stories, a profile of Coupeville three-sport star Scout Smith and a piece on South Whidbey soccer announcer Crispin Roberts, posted to the internet March 24.

After that, my former high school journalism teacher lived the home life of “honey to-do lists”, leaving Whidbey sports fans with only my hyperventilating to get by on.

That changed as of Monday.

Waller has been at the core of Whidbey Island sports since his birth, as a player, teacher, coach, and writer.

He was born into the life, one of the sons of revered local coach Mert Waller, who led all four Coupeville High School programs (football, basketball, baseball, and track), before moving into similar positions in Oak Harbor.

Jim Waller was a standout athlete who went on to teach and coach multiple sports at OHHS.

Of the two people writing about sports on Whidbey, he is the only one to be a member of a real Hall of Fame, honored in 2001 by the Washington State Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

Waller led the OHHS baseball program for 30 years, taking the Wildcats to the Class 3A state title game.

A graduate of the University of Washington, he is in his second go-round with Whidbey’s newspapers.

Waller first wrote for the News-Times as a youngster, then returned to the post after retiring from the Oak Harbor School District.

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After a ten-year absence, the Whidbey News-Times is moving back to its old stomping grounds in Oak Harbor. (Photo property Garage of Blessings)

You can go home again.

A decade after taking up residence in Coupeville, the Whidbey News-Times is moving its base of operations back to Oak Harbor.

And when the newspaper returns to the Island’s biggest city, it’s landing back in the building from where it came.

The News-Times will occupy the top floor at 800 SE Barrington Drive, right next to the Oak Harbor police station, but this time around reporters and ad salespeople will share the residence.

Back in olden days, like when I was Sports Editor for a hot moment from 1992-1994, the WNT used the entire building, with printing presses camped out in the back half of the ground floor.

The downstairs is now occupied by Garage of Blessings, a non-profit thrift store which relocated there in 2018.

Sound Publishing, the parent company which owns the News-Times, also owns the Barrington building, and has chosen to move the newspaper staff back to Oak Harbor.

The WNT moved its base of operations to Coupeville in early 2010, and has been the anchor of the Coupe’s Village development on S. Main Street ever since.

At first, the News-Times shared office space with its sister paper, the South Whidbey Record, though later the Record returned to its own roots, opening an office on the South end of the Island.

After Sound Publishing purchased the previously-independent Coupeville Examiner, that newspaper also operated out of the S. Main Street location until the paper was discontinued.

Later, after a change in staffing, the Record returned to the building as well.

With the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down most Washington state businesses, and throwing the brakes on print advertising, Sound Publishing combined the News-Times and Record into one paper, which still publishes twice a week.

It’s expected the papers will return to operating as separate publications at some point down the road.

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Eileen Kennedy, seen here during cross country, was one of Coupeville’s top track and field athletes in May 1993. (David Svien photo)

Big hits, fast times, big arguments.

There was a lot going on in the world of Coupeville sports 27 years ago, as we ambled through the month of May, 1993.

I was in the middle part of my run as possibly the youngest Sports Editor in Whidbey News-Times history, a bumpy ride which began in ’92, when I was a 21-year-old who refused to go to college, and wrapped up in ’94.

My departure from the ranks of the ink-stained wretches was followed by an epically stupid decision to go toil on the mussel rafts in Penn Cove, then sweet respite with a 12-year run behind the counter at Videoville.

Oh, and that exit from the WNT?

It came mere seconds before Zenovia Barron and Willie Smith arrived at CHS, ready to revolutionize girls basketball on the prairie.

So, yeah … timed that especially well, David, you idiot.

But I was still in place at the newspaper in mid-1993, and I have the old sports sections to prove it.

Leafing through them the other day, I was taken back to a time when the biggest story was the ongoing dispute over Coupeville students being allowed to play soccer at Oak Harbor High School.

CHS didn’t have its own pitch programs back then, and wouldn’t for awhile.

So, with daughter Marnie headed to high school, Ernie and Carol Bartelson, who were, respectively, the Coupeville Superintendent and the OHHS girls soccer coach, applied for the creation of a unified program.

Something Wildcat Athletic Director Joyce Foxx fought every step of the way.

There were arguments, counter arguments, appeals, reversals, and then, finally — as May 1993 crested on the horizon — the Oak Harbor school board overruled their AD and approved the program.

A year-and-a-half later, with Marnie Bartelson leading the team in scoring, and CHS newcomer Amanda Allmer a one-season wonder at goalie, the Oak Harbor/Coupeville squad claimed 4th place at the 4A state tourney, best finish in program history.

Not that I was around to see it happen live, as I spent November 1994 celebrating my one-month anniversary in the video store biz, trying to keep the store popcorn machine from catching on fire, while also shooing the occasional pesky squirrel back out into the parking lot.

But, back in 1993, I was still trying to balance coverage of Oak Harbor and Coupeville sports in the pages of the WNT, much to the delight of Oak Harbor fans.

I kid.

Back before email, when people were ticked off at the Sports Editor, they had to go old-school and write me a letter.

Which they did. Often.

In their minds, Oak Harbor, as the bigger burg, ruled, and I drooled when I dared to treat Coupeville as an equal.

And here we are, 27 years later, and I still haven’t listened. I’m a slow learner, apparently.

In ’93, CHS fielded softball, baseball, track, and girls tennis teams in the spring (remember, no soccer at that time), with the diamond queens leading the way.

The Wolf softball sluggers, led by senior Joli Smith and freshman Courtney White, finished 12-8 for coach Tom Eller, while playing at Rhododendron Park.

Coupeville narrowly missed the playoffs, but found a superstar in White, who pounded out nine triples and seven doubles.

She was backed up by a solid senior class of Smith, Kari Iverson, Susie Mathis, Gina Dozier, and Jenni Hays, as well as fast-rising younger stars like Natalie Slater, Mika Hosek, Sara Griggs, and Mimi Iverson.

The defining May moment came against Bellevue Christian on the 12th, when Smith tallied four RBI, including a go-ahead two-run home run in the top of the seventh in an 8-4 victory.

A three-sport star who also played volleyball and basketball for the Wolves, the future Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Famer had a talent for coming up big in crucial moments, and remains, to this day, one of the best I have ever covered.

Meanwhile, out on the tennis court, the Wolves sent singles players Lupine Wutzke and Kiersten Yager and the doubles duos of Megan Gale/Cheng Kang and Jenni Biller/Iris Binnewies to districts.

Wutzke claimed third place, just missing out on a trip to state, but Chet Baker’s squad had its best May moment back on the 4th, when it bounced Blaine in a wild affair.

Storming from behind, the Wolves rode a win at third doubles from Kang and Jee Hae Lee to snatch away a 3-2 win at home.

While Coupeville’s baseball team didn’t have the same success as the softball squad, finishing just 5-15 for coach Mike Rice, the Wolf diamond men did have their moments.

Especially when they faced Bellevue Christian.

Coupeville’s final two wins of the season came against the Vikings, and both featured big-time performances from Wolf pitchers.

On April 28, Keith Currier whiffed eight batters en route to a 9-0 win, the only shutout earned by a CHS hurler in the ’93 season.

The lanky senior fireball chucker also racked up a pair of hits at the plate, with Keith Dunnagan and Jon Crimmins each adding two base-knocks to the cause.

But wait. That happened in April, and we’re talking about May in this story.

Well, the story ran in the May 1, 1993 edition of the News-Times, so I say it counts.

And it’s my blog anyway. What are you going to do? Write a letter to the editor?

Anyways … Coupeville followed that up with a much-closer 8-7 win over BC on … sweet sassy molassy … April 30.

OK, that was my 22nd birthday, and hey, the CHS baseball season ended May 3, so we don’t have a lot of May to work with here, and the story ran in the May 5 paper.

We’re good.

In that final win Cody Lowe was the man of the moment, saving his seventh and final strikeout of the afternoon for the exclamation point.

Clinging to a one-run lead, the bases loaded with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, the Wolf hurler was behind 3-1 on the count.

Not a problem, as Lowe reared back and whipped back-to-back perfect pitches, ending the game on a called third strike.

“On the last pitch everything stood still for a moment,” Rice said afterwards. “Then the umpire went ‘strike three!’ and everybody started celebrating.

“It was nice to pull one out like that.”

While every CHS spring sport enjoyed some degree of success in ’93, it was track, with the smallest roster, which probably stood tallest.

The Wolves, coached by Julie Klapperich and Kirk Sherill, featured just six girls and 11 boys that season, with five Coupeville athletes advancing to districts, and two to state.

Kit Manzanares and Suzanne Steele made the trip to Eastern Washington for the 1A championships, with Manzanares bringing home 8th place finishes in the 100 and long jump.

Steele, who led the CHS girls by earning 137 points during the regular season (Marissa Slater and Eileen Kennedy followed with 85 and 76, respectively), competed in the high jump, but didn’t medal.

Other Wolves who shone brightly that spring included Virgil Roehl, Ryan McManigle, Maricar Salimbangon, Ray Shelly, and Elke Kegler.

And then, in the final edition of the News-Times in May 1993, a paper which hit doorsteps on Saturday the 29th, there’s a small story about the Coupeville Middle School track team.

These days, I write about 7th and 8th graders all the time here on Coupeville Sports. Back then, with two high schools to (sort of) balance, not so much.

But there it is, with future Hall o’ Famer Jerry Helm, then a brash 7th grader, claiming 2nd in the hurdles, along with 3rd in both the high jump and 200.

Right below that, it says Novi Barron (long jump, 1st).

So I did type her name at least once in my newspaper days.

I never saw her play in person, but have been told many times by those who played, coached, or cheered her, that Novi was the best athlete to ever walk the hallways at CHS.

If I knew then what I know now, would I have hung on longer at the News-Times, like a semi-responsible adult?

Just as she began to singe the net as a Wolf freshman basketball player, I sank into the world of VHS tapes in need of rewinding, gumball machines in need of stocking, and Reese’s Pieces in need of eating.

I missed the show, and, by the time I came back around to writing about sports, Novi was gone.

What could of been, in a different life.

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Geoff Newton

I first met Geoff Newton back in my Whidbey News-Times days in the early ’90s.

I was a young Sports Editor with no college to my credit, making it up as I went along.

He was the larger-than-life photographer who took me under his wing, tried to teach me the ropes, and frequently shot me in the head with rubber bands when I wasn’t listening.

After we left the WNT, Geoff went full-bore into the medical field, and these days he’s a flight paramedic.

The following is his first-hand account from the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic, which he allowed me to share with you.


I just finished up two weeks transporting patients in New Mexico and Arizona.

More than half of my flights were COVID patients.

We transported suspected, probable and confirmed cases.

Some of these people were critically ill and ventilator dependent, others on their way. Others just sick.

We treated everyone as if they were exposed or potential.

As I went through my hitch, it was hard not to start thinking about it.

All. The. Time.

So here are some thoughts as I try to decompress. Disclaimer: I have opinions too.

This virus doesn’t act like it’s supposed to act.

The average exposure to symptoms period is five days.

The sick patients are really sick. Wide-spread and diffuse pneumonia. They are profoundly hypoxic and refractory to high-flow oxygen.

We would make little steps upward on their saturations just to watch them slip back down.

BiPAP does not do anything except spray droplets. These patients need high PEEP and pressure support.

Their lab work is not what you would expect.

This thing is a scary beast. And the more I learn about it, the scarier it becomes.

Stop blaming the media for the frenzy.

This perspective will not be a surprise for those of you who know my background.

In one respect, the media is a reflection of the craziness of our society.

I mean, no one I am around admits to hoarding supplies, but someone is.

The big 24-hour networks wouldn’t exist if someone wasn’t watching.

But the media outlets sounded the alarm long before it reached our shores. The media, I believe, in part was responding to the slow reaction from our politicians who thought they knew better than the experts.

I know who the real heroes are (no, it’s not me).

It’s not the politicians. Or the CEO’s of big corporations.

Having worked on government contracts a time or two, I know a money grab when I see it.

The My Pillow guy is not a hero for finding a market and waving his bible.

No, it’s anyone in health care and emergency services.

I walked through an ICU last night filled to capacity with every patient on a ventilator.

IV lines running under the doors so that they didn’t have to don a hazmat suit just to adjust drip rate.

It’s a sobering sight.

Doctors, nurses, CNA’s, MA’s, RT’s, medics, EMT’s, firefighters — ouch, that hurt 🙂 — and even cops.

The front line is all around us. It’s hard to fight something you cannot see.

Every time I get a COVID transport I get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.

Is my mask on tight enough?

Is this sweat-producing garbage bag I am wearing going to protect me?

What should I disinfect? Everything?

Every time you sneeze, cough, feel hot or cold, are not hungry when you should be, get a backache or headache you think, “Is this how it starts?”

I am allergic to sage, it turns out, so I have had a runny nose for more than a year. It is hard not to become paranoid.

And I can’t even imagine going home after my shift, wondering if I am bringing it home to those I love.

At least I have the luxury of washing EVERYTHING before I come home.

It is possible we are only seeing the beginning, or maybe not.

It is worth noting that it appears to be declining in the places hit first.

We just don’t know.

Health care is just trying to keep its collective head above water. Most hospitals look like war-time camps with little white tents, road blocks and plastic sheeting on the walls.

Some places are reacting more than others and some are slower to react.

The small hospitals are going to get, or are getting hit hard. Most are way out of their element.

And in the odd occurrence category: I had a guy in a pickup truck yell “thank you” to me as he passed by the other day.

I have no idea how he knew what I did since we look like janitors in our flight suits. But it was really nice.

So stay home if you can, have a drink and complain a bit.

But the next time you see a paramedic, EMT, cop, nurse, or ANYONE in scrubs, give them a hug … from a distance, of course.

You have no idea what is on their uniforms.

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I may use a different style than the reporters and editors at these publications, but I stand with them.

If you look at the ads here on Coupeville Sports, you may have a slight surprise.

Go take a look – on a computer they run down the right side of the page, while on a phone they’re camped out below the five stories on my main page.

The first three ads are for me personally – a PayPal donation button, a “buy my book” appeal, and a connection to my Twitter feed.

After that, starting today, are ads for the Whidbey News-Times and South Whidbey Record, which most people would tend to think of as my “rivals.”

Which, for those who have followed my sometimes-rocky relationship with the papers, the bigger of which I worked at as a freelance writer, mail room/press room roustabout, and, eventually, Sports Editor, may seem a bit odd.

Which is why I want to be very clear about a few things here.

First, they aren’t paid ads. I chose to put them up there, and, when you click on the ads, it’ll kick you to each paper’s web site.

I get nothing from this, financially or quid pro quo in terms of advertising.

I approached them, not the other way around.

Secondly, I’ve (mostly) mellowed over the years, and see little reason these days to view Whidbey’s papers as rivals.

Two of my biggest mentors, News-Times Sports Editor Jim Waller and Publisher Keven R. Graves, continue to fight the good fight, day after day, and I have nothing but respect for what they do and how they do it.

Crime reporter Jessie Stensland, who has been at the paper since almost before Deception Pass Bridge was built, is a righteous heir to Mary Kay Doody, the late bulldog reporter who carved out a legend relentlessly chasing the truth, slamming her phone against the wall which (barely) separated our desks when I was fresh out of high school.

With this blog, which is about to hit seven years in August, I sort of run parallel to the path set by the News-Times and Record.

With a lot of jerky-jerky moves along the way.

I’m more biased (call it being pro-Coupeville), I’m more prone to hyperbole (and a lot of exclamation points, at least back in the day) and my stories often are a mix of news and personal opinion.

But I don’t hide any of that from my readers, and I try and stay fairly close to the journalistic ideals I was taught by Fred Obee, Lionel Barona, Kasia Pierzga, Geoff Newton, Ellen Slater, and others.

If you come to Coupeville Sports, there is no question who is producing this, why they are producing this, and just where you can find me if you want to praise me, bribe me with cookies, or throw a royal snit fit about something I’ve written.

And the reporters, editors, and publisher of the News-Times and Record are just as open, just as transparent.

Whidbey’s newspapers are owned by Sound Publishing, which is a subsidiary of Black Press, and it takes no time at all for anyone to know that.

Yes, Canada ultimately pays the bills, but these journalists live here, in the communities where they report.

Which is a long way of getting around to why I chose to offer those ads to the News-Times and Record, and why now.

Because I want my readers to know without a doubt I stand with the journalists at those papers.

We may come at it from slightly different directions, we may have differing opinions on things such as pay walls, but I respect what they do, and I respect that they do it without hiding their identities or agenda.

Unlike, it would seem, Whidbey Buzz.

If you spend any time on Facebook, you’ve likely seen their broadcasts over the past two months.

A honey-voiced anchor, operating in front of a digital screen, wearing an assortment of well-tailored suits, offering a slightly off-key assortment of “stories” over the course of four to five minutes.

No reporters, little actual footage shot on the Island, just the soothing tones of Steve Schorr, your play-by-play man offering up what amounts to a series of re-hashed press releases.

It looks slick. It sounds slick. It feels slick.

And, even if you wonder why the southern end of our very-large Island doesn’t seem to exist in their world, why Coupeville is mentioned less often than Camano or Skagit County, and why he keeps saying “in Whidbey” instead of “on Whidbey,” it goes down fairly easy.

Mainly because 99.2% of people won’t do any follow-up after watching the broadcasts.

Which Whidbey Buzz may appreciate, because, if you pull up the curtain even an inch, you start to have serious questions.

There’s a web site which has no info, and has covered up even who owns the domain.

Other than links to their broadcasts, there’s a small paragraph at the bottom of the site which says “learn how you can become a community sponsor and support the Whidbey Buzz.”CONTACT US TODAY!

However, they have yet to respond to my email about just how I can join the favored few. And I had $5 burning a hole in the pocket of my shorts.

Check out the Whidbey Buzz Facebook page or Facebook group and you find little beyond links to the broadcasts.

There’s an out-of-state phone number (which goes to Vegas), and a “team member” listed — Rick Manning, who owns Rigel Studios, a TV production company in Vegas.

After a little light needling, that company’s Facebook account responded to me, then declined to speak about Whidbey Buzz, citing an NDA.

I got a little more from the Buzz Facebook page, with an emphasis on little.

The unseen page admin was loathe to answer questions, though they did offer to send me a “VIP invite” to a meet-and-greet with Schorr they publicized, while nimbly sidestepping where, when, and if, said meeting would actually go down.

Leaving the spelling mistakes as they were posted by the admin, I was informed “most of the crew are long time residences of the island,” (they’re houses? – I kid, I kid…) but that they were “gathering bios will be on the web site.”

Cause that’s how news operations work, posting bios months after the web site goes live, said no news director ever.

And what crew, asks the man watching a man sitting in front of a digital projection, offering virtually nothing which proves anyone involved has come within two states of Whidbey Island.

To give them some small credit, there is this on the Facebook page, which comes complete with odd uses of capitol letters and the distinct feeling of listening to someone talk without ever really saying anything.

We Know here at The Whidbey Buzz, that many people are asking questions about who were are. As a non-profit News Operation we Pride ourselves in providing reliable, nonpartisan , deeply rooted thoughtful journalism. At our core is the truth and facts of stories. We look only to support the community, and as a non-profit newsroom we rely on donations and sponsorships to support our work. We don’t sell advertising but rather hope the community seeks to support what we are doing. We just thought you would like to know.

As a writer who survives in just that way – community support – my first, last and only follow-up question is, so how do you not have a donate button on Facebook, or your web site, or any place?

Oh, and there’s a Whidbey Buzz Instagram account, which only follows celebrities. As you do.

Now, I’m a sportswriter, not an investigative journalist, but a few more minutes on the internet reveals Schorr is deeply involved in his community … in Vegas.

He worked for Cox Communications there for many years, has an elementary school named in his honor, and is involved in about 2,000 active businesses.

LinkedIn lists Schorr as the President/CEO of Vegas Life TV, Chief Strategy Officer of LV.net, and Founder/President of Consulting Nevada, and that’s just the start for what seems like a very hard-working man.

Oh, and he also hosts Under the Vegas Sun.

There have been hundreds of episodes of that show, in which Schorr gets out and about, conducting interviews with movers and shakers and Vegas strip entertainers in one-on-one chats held at the house Liberace once owned.

I watched a couple of episodes on YouTube and it’s clear Schorr has a deep personal connection to what he’s doing … on that show.

On Whidbey Buzz, I’m not sure I feel the same love coming through.

Professional, slick copy-reading, yes.

But how many times can he refer to it as “in Whidbey, in Oak Harbor, and surrounding communities,” and wonder if he’s forgotten Whidbey is an Island, which means you’d be ON it, not IN it.

The show uses virtually the exact same opening graphics, intro, and style as another show Schorr helped anchor, Newsline America, produced by Rigel Studios.

There’s also The Now Report and the debris of several other shows still lingering out there in the corners of the internet, a veritable web of Vegas-produced shows which seemingly came and went.

Except for Under the Vegas Sun, which again, tip of the hat. That’s the one place I feel a genuine love for what’s being crafted.

But how does a bonafide Vegas dude end up anchoring a slick, yet sort of empty, broadcast focused on a mostly-obscure Island 1,150 miles away in Washington state?

Mr. Schorr, when I spoke to him (or his Facebook admin, cause who really knows for sure on Messenger) said, “I have friends and family that live there.

“Over years I have been there many times just wanted to be able to provide an independent voice for the community. It’s as simple as that. I have great contacts there have had for some time and feel I can provide important information to residents and it doesn’t matter where I hang my hat.”

When I asked him if maybe including that on his web site would be helpful, his response was “I will talk about that when I get up there within the next two weeks. Promise.”

Though he also studiously avoided my question about the when and where of such an in-person meet-up.

But, you know, I want to believe him.

I watch Under the Vegas Sun and I see a man with talent, a man good at his job, a man who could sell you just about anything.

So, maybe this doesn’t play out the way some have suggested.

Maybe the first, and only, sponsor Whidbey Buzz gets isn’t the backers of a proposed housing development here on Whidbey which has been denied numerous times and is in need of positive publicity.

Maybe, as the show shifts to include “rants,” as Mr. Schorr promised it would to a Whidbey Facebook community group which lives and dies for such activity, those rants won’t beat the drum for that development while bad-mouthing a different one on the other side of town.

You know, small-town people with their conspiracy theories…

But maybe I need to be more open and trusting, and buy into the dream that a bunch of shy Vegas residents just want to come promote our Island in their own way.

Like I said earlier, I stand with journalists who operate in the sunshine, who put their names and faces to their work, who offer their readers (or viewers) a chance to interact with them in a legitimate manner.

Maybe Whidbey Buzz will do that. You never know.

I’ll even give the Vegas brigade some incentive.

Embrace transparency, let us into your world, pull back the curtain and let the sun shine in, give us a reason to believe.

Do that, and I’ll give you a free ad the same as I did our local newspapers.

I have a larger readership than you may think, and just imagine all the positive … buzz.

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