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WNPA History

In 1887, Washington Territory was divided, physically and culturally, by the Cascade Mountain Range. While that political divide in some ways continues to this day, in 1887 residents of the two halves of Washington were complete strangers to each other.

“The only way of reaching either section in earlier days, -- except occasionally by pack mules -- was by way of the Columbia River,” so says the origin story of the Washington Press Association in its book of annual proceedings, published in 1891 by Steam Book, News and Job Print of Hoquiam. On July 4, 1887, however, that largely impassable barrier became passable with the opening of the Northern Pacific Railroad.

“This event was the occasion of a grand celebration at Tacoma that day, continuing for three days in connection with our national independence, in which both sections of the then Territory joined and shook hands over the heretofore impregnable barriers of nature, which the genius and skill of man thus broke down.”

It was on this occasion that Charles W. Hobart, editor and publisher of the Yakima Republic, first suggested the creation of the Washington Press Association and on July 6, brought journalists in the territory together. They included representatives of the Tacoma Ledger, the Tacoma News, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Walla Walla Journal, the Ellensburg New Era, and the Dayton Inland Empire. A committee was appointed to prepare a constitution and bylaws forming the Washington Press Association, the organization that eventually became the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association.

Then, state-wide membership consisted of both daily and weekly newspapers, and the workload of operating the fledgling association was pretty much ad hoc, with chores distributed among the publishers of member newspapers.

The association was managed that way for the next three decades, but in 1914, Fred W. Kennedy, then a journalism professor at the University of Washington, assumed the duties of association manager on a part-time basis. The association office was located on the University of Washington campus. Ultimately, Kennedy’s job became full time, and he served in the position for 38 years until his death in 1952. At the end of his tenure, he was affectionally known as ‘Pa’ Kennedy.

Clarence B. (Clancy) Lafromboise took the reins of the association in 1952, and over the decades a succession of managers followed: Robert M. Shaw in 1961, Jerry Zubrod in 1964, Miles Turnbull in 1988, Diana Kramer in 1992, George Smith in 2004, Bill Will in 2005, Marcia VanDyke in 2014 and Fred Obee in 2016.

In early 1964, the office of the association was moved from the University of Washington campus to a small office in the University District. This was a voluntary move, but one that was encouraged by university officials and some publishers. In 1969, the office moved again to 3838 Stone Way North, Seattle, a location that served the association well for 30 years. The association briefly moved to a larger office for a short time, but with advertising revenues declining and reductions in staff, in 2006 WNPA moved to a smaller location at 12354 30th Ave NE in Seattle’s Lake City neighborhood.

In March 2012, facing increasing financial pressures, WNPA closed its office, and the staff began working in home offices. WNPA records were stored in member offices around Puget Sound, and ultimately many records were lost or destroyed in the shuffle. Seeing the need for a central office, in December of 2014 WNPA reopened offices at 1204 4th Ave E. Suite 4, Olympia WA. With the hiring of Obee, a Port Townsend resident and former general manager of the Port Townsend Leader, the Olympia office was closed, and a new office reopened in December 2016 at 210 Polk Street, Ste. 7, Port Townsend, Wash. With the opening of the Port Townsend office, an effort was made to sort and evaluate WNPA’s remaining historic records, and most were donated to the Washington State Library for cataloging and preservation.

As newspapers evolved, so did WNPA. Today, its staff collaborates with Allied Daily Newspapers of Washington to lobby the State Legislature on issues affecting the newspaper industry. A collaboration with the Washington Coalition for Open Government keeps the fight for citizen access to government records and meetings alive. The association also operates a statewide website for Legal Advertisements published in printed newspapers. The site was established to give citizens of the state easy access to a statewide data base of legal ads, and to persuade the state to not establish its own site and pull legals from printed newspapers.



The WNPA Foundation was established in 1986 by publishers active in Washington Newspaper Publishers Association. A separate organization from WNPA, it is nonprofit 501(c)(3) and builds its scholarship base through an auction held during the annual convention of Washington Newspaper Publishers Association and through proceeds from an investment account established by newspaper publishers over the years.

Student Internship Scholarships

Since the first internship scholarship was awarded in 1989, hundreds of students have spent part of a summer as a WNPA Foundation intern at a community newspaper in Washington. The hands-on experience prepares them to contribute effectively early in their careers as journalists.

Colleges and universities are notified each December of the process for applying. Applications generally are due in February, and the Foundation board meets each year in March to award the internships. Applicants are college students from two or four year institutions.

The Foundation funds the program through donations, various fundraisers and through income from named endowments.

These include the Bruce and Betty Helberg Internship Scholarship (est. 1988), the Verizon Northwest Internship Scholarship (1990), Richard W. Gay Internship Scholarship (1990), the Jim and Kay Flaherty Internship Scholarship (1993), and the Bruce Wilson and Henry Gay Internship Scholarship (2012).


Legislative Reporting Internship

Since the 2011 Legislative Session, the WNPA Foundation has partnered with the university journalism programs by providing scholarships for journalism students to do full-time, supervised reporting on the state Legislature in Olympia.

These students file reports on issues of interest to rural or suburban communities. The stories are available to all community newspapers in WNPA. The students are mentored both by university staff and by experienced WNPA editors and publishers.

Legislative internships are named in honor of Kris Passey, Wallie V. Funk and Jerry Zubrod. Passey was the former owner of the Marysville Globe and Arlington Times and a founder of the Washington Coalition for Open Government. Funk, an avid photographer and community activist, was publisher of the Whidbey News-Times, South Whidbey Record and the Anacortes American. Passey and Funk both passed away in 2017. Zubrod was WNPA Executive Director for more than two decades.

The Bruce and Betty Helberg Internship Scholarship was established in 1988. The Helbergs met when Betty was taking a journalism class at Mount Vernon High School and Bruce was night editor at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and a journalism professor at the University of Washington. When World War II broke out, the couple was married with two children. Bruce continued to work at the P-I until 1947, when the couple went into partnership in the Kent News Journal and the Renton Chronicle. Bruce served as editor in Renton until 1954, and then went into partnership with Clarence Lafromboise on the Bellevue American, then a weekly. The American was publishing five days a week when the partners sold it in 1982. Betty created the scholarship in memory of her late husband to help journalism students.

In 1989, when the Foundation directors first created internship scholarships in the organization’s name, Jay Becker of the Vashon Beachcomber was president. John Flaherty of the South District Journal and Beacon Hill News, Seattle, was vice president. Miles Turnbull, then WNPA’s Executive Director and a former publisher of the Leavenworth Echo, was secretary-treasurer.  

The Verizon Internship Scholarship was created in 1990, when Howard Voland was Foundation president. Publisher of the Monroe Monitor, Volland served as Foundation president from 1989 through 1999.

The Jim and Kay Flaherty Internship Scholarship was established in 1993. Jim’s mother, Rhoda Flaherty, founded the Beacon Hill News in 1924. Jim graduated from the UW journalism school in the early 1930s, and he and Kay published the Beacon Hill News and South District Journal in Seattle. 

Prior to creating this Foundation scholarship, for many years they had offered journalism scholarships to students at Franklin, Cleveland and Garfield high schools, also in Seattle. Jim Flaherty died in 1981 and Kay in 1997. 

Their son, John, was active in the newspapers from 1963 until 1990 and served in an emeritus role on the Foundation board for many years. He and his business partner, Denis Law, published several weekly and monthly newspapers in the Seattle area. In 1990 they sold them to Pacific Media Company.