Michael Wagar Commentary: New Family Ownership for The Chronicle Is a Cause for Celebration


The Chronicle has been publishing a local newspaper since 1889.

Some readers take it for granted the paper will always be around to inform and entertain. Local newspapers, however, are in jeopardy like never before. The economic impacts of the coronavirus has led to the closure of more than 60 newspapers across the United States in the past year.

This adds to the trend of newspaper closures in the age of the internet. In the past 17 years, about 1,800 newspapers have closed, and more than 50 percent of journalists in America have dissipated, creating “news deserts” with no reporting. 

It almost happened to The Chronicle in March of 2018. That was when a former newspaper leader resigned after telling staff the paper was closing. After meeting with owner Jenifer Lafromboise Falcon, I accepted the job of president after her assurances she would continue to financially support the newspaper. 

Those were dire times. We closed our printing division, which was bleeding money. We changed from hand delivery to sending out the paper via the Postal Service to strengthen the quality of delivery. We made cuts to staff. 

Eventually the paper turned around its financial ledger. I was long gone; the grind of keeping a newspaper afloat had taken its toll (I am pursuing my dream of becoming an elementary teacher, and I’m about halfway through earning my master’s degree in education). I left behind a great staff and a supportive owner.

The news this past month that the Chad and Coralee Taylor family bought the paper made me joyous and proud that The Chronicle, in great new hands, will continue to serve the community of greater Lewis County.

Lafromboise Falcon did this community a service selling to local ownership. The Taylors are invested in this community, dedicated to continuing strong, independent, local journalism led by the impressive Editor-In-Chief Eric Schwartz on the news side and Brian Watson leading the money team. 

Led by Chad and Coralee Taylor, the paper is in good hands on the financial side, as they have successful experience in the business of advertising through their ownership of The Silver Agency based in Chehalis, as well as a deep understanding of how to harness social media.

Often when a paper sells these days (instead of outright closure), it is bought by a big newspaper corporation held by a far-away board intent on squeezing out the maximum in profits. They often cut the staff to the bone, sell away the property and then, after a few years of ever dwindling profits, close down the newspaper.

We have been spared this debacle. Again, thank you to Lafromboise Falcon for making the right choice in new ownership.

The question remains, however, how important is a local newspaper to its community?

The newspaper think tank The Poynter Institute reported on a study that detailed how much a Congressperson brings back to his or her community based on whether there was a local newspaper. The study stated those federal politicians that have a local newspaper back home brought more investments into the community than those without a local newspaper.

Another study revealed state, county and cities all had sharper financial pencils when offering local bonds in a jurisdiction that had a local newspaper. If our public servants know they are under a watchful eye, they are a bit more careful when spending our money, when putting together financial offerings.

In the book “Democracy Detectives: The Economics of Investigative Journalism,” author James Hamilton wrote that “each dollar spent on stories can generate hundreds of dollars in benefits to society”

Several recent studies state having a local newspaper equates to higher voting rates (by 13 percent), and an increase in the number of people running for political office.

It does take real dollars and profits to fund a local newspaper, and it is money well spent in advancing the health of a community.

So, what can you do? I urge you to shop the advertisers that spend money in The Chronicle. Buy an ad. Subscribe to the newspaper. Don’t take it for granted that your newspaper will always be there. You have to support it.

I do suspect with the good fortune of new ownership that The Chronicle will continue its 132-year run to be vibrant in our community. And that’s good news.


Michael Wagar is the former president and publisher of The Chronicle.