Press Talk: Where do we go from here?

By Lou Brancaccio, Columbian Editor



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The signs — if you look close enough — are everywhere.

There is an epic struggle taking place — right here in River City — and the stakes really couldn’t be much higher. If this were a religion, some would describe it as the light vs. the dark, good vs. evil. And like religion, sometimes it’s difficult to figure out the devil from the chosen one.

The epic struggle I speak of deals with answering this question:

“Where do we go from here?”

A few weeks ago, I wrote a column about the controversial Columbia River Crossing project.

“Could it be the difference between Vancouver living in the past, as a quiet suburb of Portland? Or living in the future as a vibrant, growing city with more opportunities for our children to stay, live and work here?”

Lines have been drawn in the sand, and very few are willing to bend or even discuss compromise.

But, truth is, the Columbia River Crossing really is just a piece of this much larger, emerging struggle. The struggle is trying to figure out where we go from here.

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A week from this Sunday, The Columbian tries to answer this question in an ambitious three-part series. The heavy lifting is being done by Columbian reporters Aaron Corvin and Eric Florip. Both have been working on the project for more than four months.

We’re calling it “The Big Divide.”

It’s an examination of how today’s battle over politics and growth will shape our future.

The first day of the series will look at how to rebuild our battered economy, knowing full well the Columbia River Crossing project is a key player — a wedge, frankly — in the shaping of our economy.

Day two of the series — I suspect — will be one of the most anticipated Columbian stories in years. We will release results of a scientific poll.

For a decade now, some residents have been clamoring for a vote so we could accurately figure out where Clark County stands on the bridge, tolls and light rail. So The Columbian has decided to undertake a scientific poll to help answer those questions. We hadn’t done a scientific poll in the past — frankly — because polls cost thousands of dollars.

We decided it is worth the money.

Now some might ask: The Columbian’s institutional voice — our opinion — is in support of the CRC, so why are we risking paying for results that might suggest a lack of support for the CRC?

As Publisher Scott Campbell said when he gave the OK to spend the money, “That’s what we do.”

In other words, let the chips fall where they may.

That’s an important reminder for readers. The newsroom has no dog in this fight. Frankly, good newsrooms never have a dog in any community fight.

Our institutional voice might have a dog in the fight. But our newsroom does not.

News does its thing regardless of the newspaper’s opinion.

On day three of the series, we try to look ahead, asking leaders and residents where we should go from here.

In the end, regardless of the CRC outcome, regardless of the poll results, our community needs to begin a conversation on where we go from here. What do we want our children to have in Vancouver and Clark County?

I hope you’ll take the time to read “The Big Divide.”

It should be absorbing.

Lou Brancaccio is The Columbian’s editor. Reach him at 360-735-4505, or

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