Aside from a four-month break in 1989 into 1990, a weekly base newspaper has been printed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord since 1917. That comes to an end with Friday’s issue of the JBLM Northwest Guardian.
After more than a century, this is the last issue of a base newspaper on JBLM.
“It’s been a true labor of love for all of us associated with putting out the base newspaper,” said Joseph Piek, JBLM Garrison Public Affairs officer. “But our research shows people get their JBLM news online, mostly on mobile devices — our newspapers just weren’t being picked up in the newsstands.
“We fought it off for a long time, but we had to evolve with the times.”
Those times call for an online presence for JBLM stories and photos. They’ll be on a new website called JBLM News — https://www.army.mil/jblm. The site will be a place holder for JBLM stories shared on JBLM social media accounts.
The first official base newspaper on JBLM was Trench and Camp — a name a number of World War I Army camps called their base newspapers — published Oct. 7, 1917, by the Tacoma Tribune for Camp Lewis. Over the more than 100 years on JBLM, the official base newspaper changed names a few times, according to the Lewis Army Museum — The Bugle, The Fort Lewis Eagle, the Fort Lewis Ranger and, finally, the Northwest Guardian.
The base newspaper with the longest run was the Fort Lewis Ranger, from 1958 to 1989. According to an article in a 1990 edition of the JBLM Northwest Guardian that explained why there was no base newspaper for four months, Fort Lewis and I Corps lost the rights to call its own base newspaper the Ranger.
A civilian publication lost the contract to print the base newspaper and sued the Army and I Corps and filed for a trademark on the name of the newspaper — the Fort Lewis Ranger — the Army and I Corps had for 31 years, according to the article.
The article reported that not only did the court allow for the civilian publication to use the Ranger name, the judge ordered I Corps Public Affairs office to send the civilian publication the same articles and photos it would use in the new base newspaper — the Northwest Guardian — and forced the installation commander to allow the civilian newspaper to be delivered in the base housing area. Which, the article said, “… causing confusion” over which was the true base newspaper.
That just meant the team of public affairs professionals had to refocus and start a new legacy. And what a legacy it has been — earning the best large newspaper in the Army or the Department of Defense more than 15 times.
The JBLM Northwest Guardian came into existence Feb. 1, 1990, with Volume 1, No. 1, produced by a mostly military staff from I Corps Public Affairs along with civil service and contract civilian employees. That first issue featured Soldiers returning from Operation Just Cause and the first Viewpoint editorial written by Lt. Gen. Calvin Waller, the then I Corps commanding general — the namesake of Waller Hall on Lewis Main today.
Since that first issue, military, civilian and contract journalists have covered stories and taken photos from Operation Desert Shield to the ongoing Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq — and literally dozens upon dozens of operations since.
“I’d love to find that first team that started the Northwest Guardian and thank them for building the framework of what’s been historically one of the best, if not the best, newspaper in the Army and Department of Defense,” Piek said. “I would hope they would be proud us for trying to keep the legacy of quality military journalism alive.”
The JBLM Northwest Guardian comes to an end Friday after a 28-year run, with Volume 28, No. 24, produced by a civilian public affairs team from the JBLM Garrison and contractors from the Tacoma News Tribune.
“I think it’s only fitting that our partners, the Tacoma News Tribune, be the first and last publishers of a base newspaper on JBLM,” Piek said. “It’s a sad time for us, but like we did when we started the Northwest Guardian, we’ll refocus and begin building a new online legacy reporting JBLM news.”