By George Le Masurier, first publisher of the Mirror
I was presenting a workshop for newspaper editors on Vancouver Island in 1998 when I received a call from David Black, the owner of Black Press.
He wanted me to help start a brand new newspaper in Federal Way, Washington, as soon as I could get there. The Seattle Times Company had shuttered most of their South King County community newspapers, and Black’s U.S. operation, Sound Publishing, saw an opportunity.
The first days in the life of the Federal Way Mirror felt like a MASH unit in a combat operations area in some far-flung newspaper war.
Reporters and editors worked at computers on a floor tangled with network cables, resembling a snake-infested nightmare that would have sent Indiana Jones into cardiac arrest. They shared phones. The advertising department had it better. They had chairs, but only one desk. Phones, but no computers.
When we called news sources or advertisers, people didn’t know us. They thought their community had lost its newspaper. It took awhile to explain who we were, but eventually everyone we met in those early days expressed gratitude that we were there, and hoped that we would survive. And we did.
Over the next several weeks, a remarkable and dedicated team of newspaper veterans slowly built a relevant and valuable local newspaper for the Federal Way community. I like to think that over the ensuing months and years, the Federal Way Mirror played an important role in helping the city find its core identity.
We were active in the Federal Way Chamber of Commerce, Federal Way Rotary and other organizations. We sponsored runs and other events. We tried to do the thing that good businesses do.
One of my favorite community contributions was the Students of Distinction. This program to honor graduating high school seniors who have distinguished themselves in some way had started out as an athletic scholarship, Athlete of the Year. It was the brainchild of our original sports editor, Bob Coleman. The concept changed after its second year when we selected the Athlete of the Year who was not, in fact, the most outstanding athlete in Federal Way high schools. But that person edged out others for the award because he had a better grade point average and had done more community service work. We realized our mistake, but also that we uncovered a wonderful opportunity to recognize the talent and accomplishments of students in many other categories such as the arts, academics and community service.
I enjoyed my time in Federal Way. Starting this newspaper from scratch and blending it into the community was both exhilarating and draining, but ultimately rewarding. Congratulations to the community for continuing to support the Federal Way Mirror over two decades, and also to new publisher, Andy Hobbs, who I hope will be writing a similar look back in 2038.
George Le Masurier was the Mirror’s first publisher who had also served as CEO and president of Sound Publishing. He retired from a decades-long newspaper career in 2015 after serving as publisher of The Olympian. He now lives in Comox, B.C.