Free County Publications Proliferate

by Categories: JournalismIssue:

by Jim Kjeldsen and Bill McCallum

In 2004 and 2006, Whatcom Watch published articles by news junkie Alan Rhodes about free publications available to readers in Whatcom County. Listed on the Currently Available Periodicals sidebar are 42 publications, one more than counted by Alan Rhodes in 2004.

The difference between 2004 and the present is the almost total disappearance of publications from outside the area (see the pdf, page 3, for Publications No Longer Available). There are even more free editions available if you count lightly distributed publications from Vancouver, British Columbia (The New Agora); Corvallis, Oregon (In Good Tilth); Berkeley, California (Slingshot); Lake Stevens, Washington (The Reel News); Kennewick, Washington (You Decides) and Taiwan (Macroview Weekly).

For one thing, all the talk of a paperless society has gone by the wayside. There’s more paper around than ever before, and the tablet computer boom has begun to wane, indicating that people don’t want to spend their lives tethered to an electronic instrument. Books are suddenly cool again, and paper is good.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that some of the publications available back then have bit the dust. In 2004, Alan Rhodes listed 10 of his favorite publications. By 2006, six of them had died. Since then, however, only one on his list has come to an end. Most of the rest continue to be mainstays of local news and entertainment. One of the biggies 10 years ago, The Bellingham Herald, has continued to wither on the vine thanks to the natural ossification of omnibus publications, which include newspapers. The Herald’s stepchild, its Take 5 entertainment tabloid, continues to hold its own, however.

Following the rules that Rhodes set up in 2006, Whatcom Watch has produced a new list of free publications. His rules include:
• The newspaper or magazine must be free to all. (This means that The Bellingham Herald can’t be counted, but its free publications can.)
• To be in the Top 14 the publication must be available at a wide assortment of venues: grocery stores, cafes, espresso bars, etc.
• It must be a publication that has editorial content, not just advertising. (The one exception is the Leisure Guide. The Echo has been removed because it no longer has editorial articles just comments by the editor.)
• The publisher must be located in the Whatcom County.

We fudged a bit on the last one, instead counting publications that are targeted to Whatcom County or centered around its cultural life. A great many of the publications are printed outside the area.

Bellingham and Whatcom County remain a great place to be a reader, because the new list of 42 publications is an increase of 13 local ones over 2004. Meanwhile, it isn’t just free publications that have proliferated. Free book libraries have popped up in front yards all over the county offering books to anyone who stops by, and the Bellingham Public Library’s free-books section in the basement has become the equivalent of a town library all by itself.

There are a lot more free reads around today than there were 10 years ago, likely due in part to a backlash over electronic gear. Instead of paper disappearing, just the opposite has occurred. There’s more to read now than ever before.

Rating the quality of local publications is necessarily subjective. The following, listed in alphabetical order, is an attempt to be comprehensive. Note that we found no conservative print publications in Whatcom County; they have all migrated to the Internet.

To read about the free publications and see the list of currently available publications, go to: April 2017 Free Publications-2
Jim Kjeldsen recently moved to Minnesota. Bill McCallum is responsible for the Whatcom Watch layout.