Looking back on 15 years of the BBJ


As The BBJ celebrates its 15th birthday, I have to ponder a question:

Has anything changed more in the past 15 years than the way we deliver and receive information?

When I started at The BBJ 10 years ago, they were still pretty much doing things the way newspapers had done them for the past 20 years, but the slippery slope called “desktop publishing” had already been established, and as technology became more and more advanced, newspaper editors and publishers everywhere had to continually scramble to stay within sight of — if not ahead — of the technological curve.

That is always a challenge from a bottom-line standpoint; how do you make the reinvestment of hard-earned capital into technology something that you can show to your bosses as a money-maker?

It’s not just about how you make a nicer-looking paper — you have to show how that technological ability translates into a healthier bottom line, and for this to happen, you have to get buy-in from the staff, especially the staff that is responsible for bringing that aforementioned revenue into the paper’s coffers — the salespeople.

I remember when we first went from using old-fashioned flats — large pieces of paper onto which we pasted the paper’s individual pages, which were then shot by a huge camera at the Herald and turned into negatives — to being fully digital. The move, which allowed a quantum leap in terms of design ability and page quality, was initially viewed by our salespeople as a huge risk that inspired not awe or excitement, but worry, hand-wringing, and gloom. It was the fear of the unknown — the “old way works fine, why tinker with it?” mentality — that worried them, but we made it work, and within a few months, the old ways were largely forgotten, and buy-in was complete.

These same barriers loom every day for the leaders of newspapers everywhere. Competitors come and go. Challenges are mastered just as new ones come to the fore. Beloved staff reluctantly moved on to new jobs and new careers. One thing I am confident of, as The BBJ moves into its second 15 years, is that what has given it the reputation it still enjoys to this day — a well-respected outlet for business and growth news and balanced, in-depth writing — won’t change, regardless of the technology swirling around it, the announcements of new publications in its niche, or any other factor.

The leadership remains strong and committed to the paper’s mission. The

staff is the best in the business. You are enthusiastic readers who continually want more.

How The BBJ staff actually gets you that information will continue to change as technology evolves around us; what won’t change is the quality of that information. I’m very proud to have been the publisher and editor of The BBJ for 10 of its 15 years; I’m even more proud to see how the staff is taking bold new steps with the paper now.

The BBJ is YOUR local business newspaper. Support it, read it, and watch it grow; the next 15 years are going to be amazing.


John Thompson, the former publisher and editor of The Bellingham Business Journal, is the assistant director of the Office of University Communications at Western Washington University.

Related Stories