What is with the Herald?

Update Sat, Aug 12.

I have the date of Honesto’s death wrong. He reportedly died on Sunday, Aug 6. At time of writing I could not find a date and obviously miscalculated. We at Northwest Citizen simply do not have the resources to send a reporter. For a further update, the Lynden Tribune has an article online today. Lo, the government agencies are finally deciding to investigate his death. This tragic death by a young family man absolutely demands and needs a full investigation. Notice our Whatcom County prosecutor is totally missing from this process.

Below posted Aug 9.

Honesto Silva Ibarra, a farm worker, died at Harborview hospital in Seattle on Monday, July 31, after collapsing at work in a blueberry field at Sarbanand Farms near Sumas. It seems his complaints of illness were rejected by farm supervisors and he was sent back to work. He was here legally, having a H-2A visa to do the farm work our economy depends on. (this paragraph revised as it originally said he died in the field)

The Bellingham Herald has ignored the story and published nothing.

The Cascadia Weekly has a full article in today’s edition, Wednesday, August 9. Normally they do not report this type of news, but they filled the gap left by the Herald. We at Northwest Citizen wish we had the ability to cover news like this but here is a link to the Weekly article online, “Land and Liberty. Death sparks labor dispute at Sumas Berry Farm.” Sheriff Elfo, armed with false orders, was at the farm to help the owners chase off protesting workers. One does not need a parade permit to protest, sheriff. Please refer to the full story and sad details; it’s all in the Weekly.

In yet another reduction of what the Herald will offer its readers, they have laid off Margaret Bikman, who has covered local leisure time options for 26 years. Her last Take-5 reporting will be in next week’s issue on Thursday, August 17. Bikman is an institution unto herself. She knew of and provided us with her perspective on upcoming events. She knew all the venues, all the bands, all the annual events and all those who produced the events. Her special local knowledge does not transfer to another community. We wish her well going forward and thank her for her past reporting and giving us valuable perspectives of local entertainment events for many years.

This website, Northwest Citizen, was started in 1995 to inform readers about local issues the Herald ignored or distorted to make the local government agencies look better. Until a few years ago, I occasionally wrote critically about the Herald but eventually quit as it was obvious they were struggling and I had no desire to kick them when they were down. The local editors and part time reporters are doing their best, but their corporate owners, the McClatchy Corporation of California, has laid down restrictions on when they can work and what they can write. Believe it or not, the Herald is not even laid out - put together - in Bellingham. Instead, editors and layout editors in Sacramento - who know nothing about Bellingham - lay out our local newspaper each day. I am going to begin writing about the Herald again.

The bigger issue is how do we inform ourselves in Bellingham and Whatcom County about news, issues, candidates, planning, schools, leisure events, and all else we need to know if we value our community and want to be informed participants. Well, we support those who are providing news: we pick up the Cascadia Weekly and provide their advertisers with an audience; we support community radio like KMRE, now that Saga has killed local progressive talk radio; and, yes, consider supporting this website and the Whatcom Watch. Even an online subscription to the Herald, at $99/year, is worth it. I still subscribe to the print edition delivered to my home. I’ll be writing about that also. The point is this: if we want to be informed, we need to support those who provide news on radio, in print, and online.

Mr. Ibarra died because of incompetence or apathy or irresponsibility by the farm supervisor. Now his family and co-workers are being threatened with losing their jobs, losing their ability to work the rest of this summer, losing the opportunity of returning next year to earn a living in our fields. We in Whatcom County need to know this is happening in our name so we can elect leaders who will represent our values and protect the vulnerable among us. Right now, these people need help and support. The “Community to Community Development ” page on facebook has information on how to help. Their website is www.foodjustice.org but that site has no information on how to help this situation, right now. For immediate, practical information go to the facebook page.

Related Links

About John Servais

Citizen Journalist and Editor • Fairhaven, Washington USA • Member since Feb 26, 2008

John started Northwest Citizen in 1995 to inform fellow citizens of serious local political issues that the Bellingham Herald was ignoring. With the help of donors from the beginning, he has [...]

Comments by Readers

John Servais

Aug 13, 2017

David, thanks for link. The more dialog and perpsectives we have, the better chance that the truth will out. KGMI is a respected conservative and right wing voice in our community. Their defense of the farm operators does not fit with many other reports we are finding. Here is another view from a national liberal and progressive publication.


This is a continuing and developing issue.  What happens next to those Mexican workers who dared to stand up for their friend in his death and for their own rights? How dare they. Where do they think they are? America? I hope that can be reporting on what happens with them.