By Melinda Munson
This month, The Skagway News bids farewell to the newsroom. We’re not closing up shop, just moving our computers to my home. It makes sense to work from my abode, where I can consolidate utility bills and be steps away from snotty-nosed kids who generally stay home sick from school at least a day longer than expected.
I was surprised by the reaction when we announced the decision. Decades worth of interns wailed in unison – noooooo! I’m afraid so. Dollars speak louder than nostalgia.
We have cherished this historic building owned by the National Park Service. Outside my desk window, tourists pan for gold. Co-owner Gretchen Wehmhoff faced her desk to overlook Broadway (too much of a distraction for me) where she occasionally hangs out the casement to have discussions with passerbys.
There’s a ghost that lives downstairs – a young boy who gets cranky if bookstore clerk Denise Welch doesn’t read the right kind of poetry frequently enough. I don’t believe in spirits but I will tell you that occasionally, the air in the newsroom suddenly changes and there’s a mysterious vibration that I can’t explain.
Speaking of Denise, I’ll miss her candy bowl and folksy talks. She is full of wisdom and love. I’ll also miss the hunter green trim, the wood floors of the newsroom and the steep stairs announcing the rare and random visitor. Sometimes that visitor is former paper owner Jeff Brady, popping into his corner of the office with a generous word of praise or a rough critique. Either way, he’s a valuable resource and we’re lucky he doesn’t move to warmer climates.
There are some things I won’t reminisce about: shoveling those *&#$#@#@ stairs in the winter or jamming my noise canceling headphones on at 2 a.m. during the warm months to lessen the din pouring out of Bonanza. I won’t mind being out of earshot of false fire alarms, triggered by changing temperatures. It was an uncomfortable night when I ran through the activated outdoor emergency sprinkler system and waited for the fire department to clear the building.
Many have asked if vacating the newsroom will have a negative effect on the paper. I don’t think so. The Skagway News isn’t a building, it’s the people who persevere to meet the bi-montly deadline. Gretchen and I have carried the News through three arduous years encompassing COVID-19, too many rock slides to count, the death of a child, three moves, spouse job losses and multiple medical emergencies. This community and the paper are tattooed on our hearts.
You will still find us at the grocery store, assembly meetings, burger feeds and chair fitness. The Skagway News endures. The only difference is I’m writing this in my bed, in sweatpants, while my 6-year-old squeezes an entire tube of toothpaste on his toothbrush. I’ll wait to write the more difficult pieces when I’m alone. And when it’s time to do an in-person interview, I’ll put on pants. Until then, there’s no place like home.