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Onetime news intern returns to Whidbey as publisher
Sound Publishing has named Keven R. Graves executive editor and publisher for the Whidbey Newspaper Group, which includes The Whidbey News-Times, the Whidbey Examiner and the South Whidbey Record, as well as the Crosswind, a monthly veterans publication.
Graves is succeeding Kasia Pierzga in the role. Pierzga has accepted a public relations position with the Washington Department of Revenue in Olympia.
“I have a real passion for newspapers, and while I’m excited about my new position, it will be hard for me to leave Whidbey and the newspaper industry behind,” Pierzga said. “But Keven is a great fit for the Whidbey community, and that makes me feel really good about the transition.”
Lori Maxim, vice president of Sound Publishing, said she appreciates the contributions Pierzga made to the newspapers on Whidbey Island.
“We will miss her enthusiasm and passion for the newspaper industry,” Maxim said. “And we wish her the best as she returns to public relations.”
Graves, 48, comes to Whidbey after 13 years as editor and publisher of the Nisqually Valley News, a weekly newspaper in Yelm. He has a son, Liam, 17, who will complete high school in Yelm and relocate to Whidbey Island in June and attend college in the fall.
“We are thrilled to have Keven take over the helm for the three Whidbey Island papers,” Maxim said. “He brings a breadth of experience, plus a commitment to community service, that we’re confident will resonate well in the community.”
Though the job is new, Graves has roots in Whidbey Island dating back more than 30 years.
“I was on the newspaper staff at Anacortes High School, and we’d bring the paper to Oak Harbor to be printed,” he said. “Owner-Publisher Wallie Funk became a mentor, encouraging me to pursue a newspaper career.”
“This is kind of like returning home,” said Graves. “My journalism career started at the Whidbey News-Times. I always hoped to return there someday.”
“I’m glad that day has come,” he said. “I’m excited to rejoin Sound Publishing and work with the great staff.”
Graves earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Western Washington University in 1987. He started his career as an intern reporter at the Whidbey News-Times. He was hired as a full-time reporter and remained with the newspaper for the next seven years. During that time, Sound Publishing purchased the newspaper from Funk and co-owner John Webber and the paper went from weekly to biweekly.
In 1991, Graves wrote and produced an “Extra” edition of the Whidbey News-Times announcing that the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station had been pulled from a long list of military installations to be closed.
Among the highlights of his career, Graves said, was flying in a Blue Angels F/A-18 jet and covering the lengthy trial of Darrin Hutchinson, convicted for the murders of deputies William Heffernan and John Saxerud inside the Island County Jail. Hutchinson is serving a life sentence without possibility for parole.
While reporting for the News-Times, Graves covered a variety of beats, including Oak Harbor and Coupeville governments, Island County government, law enforcement, and NAS Whidbey, business and, on occasion, sports.
“I was privileged to work with great people at the Whidbey News-Times,” Graves said. “Wallie Funk was instrumental in my career. Fred Obee taught me how to be a good editor. I was also fortunate to work with the late Dorothy Neil and numerous other talented journalists and WNT alumnus.”
After leaving the Whidbey News-Times as the assistant editor in 1994, Graves joined with four others in starting The Coupeville Examiner. He was editor and publisher when he left that newspaper in 1999 to accept the job at the Nisqually Valley News.
Pierzga purchased the Examiner in 2006, expanding its circulation and news coverage. She sold the paper to Sound Publishing in June 2012, taking over as publisher for the Whidbey News Group shortly thereafter.
In addition to being a seasoned journalist, Graves brings a variety of other experience to his new position. Always with a focus on community, he understands the importance of promoting local business through affordable and effective marketing and advertising.
“Part of a newspaper’s responsibility is contributing to a healthy sense of community,” he said. “Sound Publishing’s Whidbey Island newspapers serve a vital role in supporting local businesses and recording local history.”
In addition to his new role as publisher, Graves is current vice president of the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association. He ascends to the presidency in October. He also serves on the WNPA Foundation Board of Directors.
“I’ve worked with Keven for some time on the board, and I’m impressed with the capabilities he brings to the job, both on the business side and the news side,” Maxim said.
Graves helped found the Yelm Lions Club Midday Branch in 2001, serving as its president for three years. He also has served on boards for the Yelm Area Chamber of Commerce, South Sound Reading Foundation and the United Way of Island County.
Graves will be relocating to Whidbey Island. He starts in his new role on Feb. 11.