Press Talk: Piecing the story together

By Lou Brancaccio, Columbian editor

Published:

 
photoLou Brancaccio

Getting a story before it’s a story is a lot like putting a puzzle together.

The puzzle pieces are all bits of information. Alone, the pieces mean little or nothing. But together they paint a solid picture.

This is one of the many skills our reporters have. So when you see a story before you’d expect to see that story … well, a reporter was likely behind it all.

I do this “before” thing on occasion myself. And, frankly, as a columnist I have more leeway than reporters because writing opinion allows me to speculate once I’ve seen the pieces.

But make no mistake, Columbian reporters are the heavy lifters here. They just let me play once in a while.

• • •

More than three months ago, I wrote a column that — in part — said David Madore was almost certain to run for county commissioner.

A few days ago, Madore announced he would run for county commissioner.

When I wrote that column, I took a little heat for it.

Respected local conservative blogger Lew Waters — my buddy — wasn’t quite buying it back then.

He suggested Madore was just “playing” with me. That Madore was just “trying to make Lou sweat.”

A commenter on my column wondered if I was “just fishing.”

And others asked back in December if they had missed a Madore announcement.

• • •

So how were the pieces put together? Surely, if I was wrong, there would have been more than a few folks — lying in the weeds — ready to call me an idiot.

No question, if Madore hadn’t run, I would have had to wipe a little omelet off my face.

The key to this view that Madore would run came after his now-opponent — Commissioner Marc Boldt — "voted" against an entertainment tax that would have put the construction of a new baseball stadium here on the fast track.

Now, the “no” vote wasn’t the tip. The idea that virtually everyone thought he was going to vote “yes” was the tip.

So why did Boldt, at the last minute, change his mind?

Voting for a tax, any tax, wouldn’t go over well in his mostly conservative district. And, politically speaking, it would not be good for his upcoming re-election bid.

Worse, as I wrote in that December column, Boldt saw someone in his rearview mirror.

Madore. This guy has a ton of money and a strong following, especially among those who don’t like the idea of tolling on the proposed I-5 replacement bridge.

There were other pieces of inside information I had that made me comfortable as well.

• • •

After the December column appeared, I knew it was solid.

• • •

After the baseball stadium was killed, Madore said he was thankful the county didn’t have “yet another nonessential public liability.” And it was key that he didn’t give credit to Boldt — whose vote actually killed it — but rather to Commissioner Tom Mielke, who had been against it all along.

• • •

I like Madore and keep in touch with him. Shortly before he announced, I asked when it would happen. He said he needed his wife’s “blessing” and they were both praying over it.

I guess his prayers were answered. But we’ll still have to wait to see if he gets to the promised land.

• • •

On a personal note: Thanks, Libby Clark, for everything you’ve done for our website. We’ll miss ya!

Lou Brancaccio is The Columbian’s editor. Reach him at 360-735-4505 or lou.brancaccio@columbian.com Twitter: http://twitter.com/lounews