Josh Farley, a reporter for the Kitsap Sun, is originally from Portland, Oregon, and following his graduation from Saint Mary’s College of California in 2003, he moved to the Puget Sound region with his wife, Rosemary. He worked at the North Kitsap Herald for two years starting in 2003, and has been with the Sun since 2005.
Among activities he’s promoted while at the Sun are: Kitsap Trivia Night at the Manette Saloon, started in 2011; Story Walks that began in 2014; the Bremerton Beat Blast in 2015; and Bridging Bremerton in 2018. Kitsap Culture wanted to find out what inspires Josh about his community and motivates him to launch efforts that bring community together. This is what he had to say.
“Anthropologically, you can really get a sense of a neighborhood by walking it here in Bremerton. You go down Washington Avenue you see most of the original homes, for instance, built in the early 20th century. That's one of the things that captivated me about Bremerton, the entire grid of Bremerton itself. The whole idea of this dense downtown with this cool housing stock, that's what really drew me to Bremerton. I love it, and the community and history of it. Story Walks allow me to get out into those neighborhoods on foot with our readers. They have grown to the point they’re now sponsored and can help us sustain our organization. One of the first was real estate agent, Daphne Gibler of Manette, a sponsor for the 1918 home tour. It gave her a chance to fit in and talk about the market. She saw it as an opportunity for her. And that's what other publications are going to for events. I view this form of advertising as the back page ad of the future – ‘this event is sponsored by.’ I think that's how we can survive by cultivating the community's conversation, the community's culture."
We asked him how he came up with the idea of Bridging Bremerton and this is what he had to say about the walk, and thoughts of what it could become.
“That's funny. This is like my little passion. I really want to study sidewalks and see how they impact a community. Imagine you're an urban planner and wonder if sidewalk planning increases health and, happiness. I'm super curious if they do that. I love pathways, things that take people places. We have an epidemic of obesity, and I worry people spend too much time in their cars, so Bridging Bremerton is a great way to get people active and out onto pathways. So that's the first layer.”
“Secondly, I love history, and the route is littered with amazing history of Bremerton from the very beginning up until now. On lower Wheaton way, the sidewalk actually used to be below the roadway. The Manette Bridge really kicked things off. It's more than a sidewalk, it's a promenade, and you're overlooking this gorgeous view of the Port Washington Narrows and the wider Sinclair Inlet. I walk it every day and I never get tired of it. This town still has some of this great history, and if we can create a groundswell of support, and actually make this a bona fide route and improve the walking path around it, we could have something to surface this history. We could even partner with the Navy; throw up a calisthenics trail with pull up bars and push up bars, and it's your three mile loop to get your dailyworkout! We could have something really incredible here. The walking route really connects Bremerton. It's like a spoke wheel that connects to so many different Bremerton neighborhoods, and that so many people can access and enjoy. Let’s be proud of this. I think what people like about living here is that it is smaller than Seattle and it's a city unto itself.”
Kitsap Culture wondered what other products Josh might have in the works or on his mind.
“I would really like to see us take on a podcast. A podcast is a new form of radio. It allows for more depth of storytelling.”
Kitsap Culture found that just within our Kitsap region, print media is held mostly by three main groups: The McClatchy Company holds the nearby News Tribune out of Tacoma which maintains dedicated coverage of news in the lower part of the Kitsap region - Gig Harbor and Key Peninsula; the Kitsap Sun, which belongs to USA Today, a holding of the Gannett Co. Inc., which maintains a dedicated coverage of Bainbridge Island and the Kitsap region above Gig Harbor and Key Peninsula; and Sound Publishing Inc., a subsidiary of the Canadian publisher Black Press Group Ltd., runs multiple local papers including the Bainbridge Island Review, Central Kitsap Reporter, Kingston Community News, North Kitsap Herald, and the Port Orchard Independent. Of these three entities, Sound Publishing and the Kitsap Sun maintain overlapping coverage of the Kitsap region above Gig Harbor, including Bainbridge Island. Josh said,
“The Kitsap region, including Seattle, is a really crowded media market. I think it's really important that we cover Kitsap better than anyone else. For instance, we have a great reporter for Bainbridge - Nathan Pilling. He did a story awhile back on the food forest and he finds these really good gems of stories. Bainbridge is also covered by other publications, including the Bainbridge Review. We're all still working out our strategies. In our area of coverage, when people look at the Sun we want them to say, ‘They gave me the truth yesterday, they gave me the truth today and I will count on them to give me the truth tomorrow.' In this current climate of uncertainty it's really important that people know they can trust us. Information can be found pretty easily. It is trust that is the commodity."
How easy or difficult is it remaining local when you're owned by a parent company that has international media assets?
"That's the good news, that's easy. What we've seen. In 2005, we had a lot more people, we had a press, and we are down to the core now which is the local reporters and our local advertising representatives. Frankly that is our bread and butter. That's why people read us is for those local articles. Gannett and USA Today believe in that mission. We write what we know, and what we know is our local community. They do not interfere with that at all. We are autonomous. When I cover the Navy network, I do a lot of local events and a weekly broadcast. They may have a national project that they are pursuing and need a hand."
Kitsap Culture asked Josh about his perspective on how fewer and fewer organizations own news media, and how many traditional, print newspapers have given way to online news. When asked about media as a watchdog and how he saw himself keeping us accountable he responded,
"I see us finding a way forward. I'm an optimist but I'm also a pragmatist. I think that what we're finding in areas where local media has been decimated, the latest data I found was about 200 counties in the US completely lost their daily news source; less people are running for office because they probably don't know there's an opening. When no one is holding people in power accountable, it can lead to things like higher municipal bond offering yields – leaders borrow more, say, and borrowing costs increase and that can have financial consequences on all residents. So it’s critical for us to put our best foot forward and continue to do this work. If we do that well that means we have more digital subscribers, which means we have more support and achieve sustainability."
“But we have to adapt and find ways of meeting readership that we haven't done in the past. We're fortunate to have a staff with different skill sets. We have reporters that are diggers that get into investigating things while others concentrate on presentation and video focusing. At the end of the day we are really cohesive and we're really fortunate. These are trying times. We are in an exciting age but our Democracy depends on a free press. Failure is not an option.”