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caption: Left to right: Ron Judd and David Syre.
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Left to right: Ron Judd and David Syre.
Credit: Courtesy of Cascadia Newspaper Company

Local newspapers are in peril, but Bellingham's local news coverage is set to expand

In recent years, we've been hearing about the accelerating death of local news. Just since the pandemic started, at least 85 local newspapers have folded. That's on top of the nearly 1,800 that have shut down over the last few decades.

But, there’s some good news when it comes to local news here in the Northwest: Early next year, a new daily news publication is coming to Bellingham. Cascadia Daily News will be updated online every day, with a print edition once a week. Its Executive Editor is Ron Judd, longtime journalist with The Seattle Times. He told KUOW’s Kim Malcolm his vision for the publication is a bit of a throwback.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Ron Judd: We hope to have smart, contextual coverage of local government, schools, sports, and the environment. We also have a big international border here that's rarely covered. We have a regional university here, Western Washington, which is rarely covered. There's been a lot of institutions here that have all the hallmarks of not having been watched by a watchdog news agency. We hope to do that from the get go.

Kim Malcolm: Why is watchdog reporting important from a local perspective?

It’s not often done by newspapers that are run by chains, because it's expensive. Investigative journalism and watchdog journalism —going over public records, making records requests, doing records searches, doing interviews, really working a beat the old fashioned way with human sources on the phone or in-person—takes a lot of time to just know what's going on.

You've got a partner in this, your funder David Syre. I'm sure you've had conversations about how you're going to maintain your independence from him. What's your understanding around that?

That's kind of the way it used to be in a lot of places, but it seems unusual today. David Syre has told me very simply that our arrangement is that I control what goes in the newspaper. Where our funding comes from is very clear. Our expectation of what that means is very clear. We're going to be very transparent in everything we do.

You've been with The Seattle Times for 33 years. At this stage, what made you want to take on this new project?

I'm leaving a great job. One of the great jobs in journalism. This was not an easy decision, but this opportunity came to me, sort of out of the blue. I found that impossible to say no to. I'm super excited. I really feel like my journalism bones have been awakened by this project. I think it's going to be really gratifying and an adventure one way or the other.

Listen to the interview by clicking the play button above.