Ranger newspaper celebrates 66 years

Paper continues to serve military and their families

By Jason de Paul on January 20, 2017

The Ranger newspaper may not be 100 years old like Joint Base Lewis-McChord, but it's been covering the base longer than it hasn't.

Established in January 1951, The Ranger has reported on a big portion of the base's history, starting publication just after the 2nd Division here deployed to fight in Korea.

"Our first forty years was as a civilian enterprise newspaper, a contract we had with then Fort Lewis to provide the command's information to the troops," said Ken Swarner, owner and publisher of The Ranger. "Since then, we've been independent of the base, however, continuing our tradition of supplying news and entertainment to the troops, their families and veterans."

Today, The Ranger is part of a larger media and marketing company, Swarner

Communications, which provides news, information, and military discounts and contests to the JBLM and Naval Base Kitsap communities via print, events, social media, Internet, email and text.  Swarner also produces Tacoma Restaurant Week.

Merritt Benson, a communications professor at the University of Washington in Seattle started The Ranger newspaper in 1951. The name Ranger is an acronym meaning Regular Army, National Guard, Enlisted, Reserve. In 1964, he invited his student, Tom Swarner, to go to work for him at The Ranger's Lakewood office.  Swarner worked for Benson until Benson's death in 1969, then bought the paper from Benson's wife.  In the late 1980s, Swarner's sons, Ron and Ken, went to work for the company, and then bought it when Tom retired in 2006.  In 2015, Ken bought Ron's shares, and is now the sole Swarner still in the business, however, Ken's brother-in-law, Bill White has worked in the business for 25-plus years as well.

Besides The Ranger, Swarner Communications has provided the NW Airlifter newspaper to the McChord community since 1980.  It, too, began as a civilian enterprise contract with the base, however, following joint basing, it became independent.  

In 2014, the company started inserting the weekly stateside edition of Stars and Stripes into all copies of The Ranger and NW Airlifter.  

Finally, in 2015, the company started JBLM Living newspaper in base housing only.  When the housing office started housing Army folks on McChord Field, and Air Force on the traditional Army side, it became impossible to know which homes should receive The Ranger by direct mail, and which should get the NW Airlifter.  A decision to provide both Air Force and Army news via a brand that appeals to both branches was chosen, and delivery under that name started in May of that year.

"It has been an honor and a privilege to be the number one read military newspaper in the South Sound area for sixty-six years," Swarner said.  "The company looks forward to the next sixty-six years."

Besides media platforms, Swarner also hosts 14 to 15 military support events a year - opportunities for military families to attend free events and receive activities, prizes and more in honor of their service.  Recent themes included a Military Game Show Party in September, and a Salute to Military Families in August.