Press Talk: A good soul and light rail

By Lou Brancaccio, Columbian Editor



We lost a good friend and former Columbian colleague last week when Kathie Durbin died after a long battle with cancer. She was 68.

There has been quite a bit written about her since her death. She’s been described as a firecracker, a tough cookie, someone who was willing to strongly engage those she wrote about.

And those dang editors. She was more than willing to go toe to toe with those dang editors who wanted to mess with her work.

All true.

Editors would often describe Kathie’s work as great stuff but also as, ah, thorough. This would be the politically correct way of saying it was a tad long. Because of its length, it meant we were either looking for a page to “jump” her stories to or some way to wrestle the length of her story into submission. And make no mistake, Kathie often won these length battles because her stories were that good. Colorful, creative, captivating.

When it came to going after those she wrote about, she was, indeed, a bulldog. I noted in an earlier comment that when some government types saw her coming they’d quickly looked for a back door. She was that good.

But — truth is — there was always something more about Kathie than the “hard as nails” attribute so many of us journalists strive for.

Whether it was the environment, the stories she wrote, or the people she was close to, she cared.

She cared.

This is not something that is well advertised in the journalism world. We’re often looked at as dispassionate robots going about our jobs, wreaking havoc, creating mayhem, destroying reputations.

Truth is, we care about the community we live in and do what we do because we believe it will help. Good journalists believe this.

And Kathie was a good one.

Kathie’s memorial service is at 3 p.m. Sunday at Holman’s Funeral Home in Portland. Donations in her memory can be made at

The light-rail passion

What a traffic mess this week, eh?

More than a few folks characterized it as the worst they have ever seen. It began with an accident on the I-205 bridge Monday and proceeded to cascade to just about all things Vancouver, including the I-5 bridge.

So we put up our weekly unscientific Web poll on the mess. Essentially, the poll asked whether a new bridge and accompanying light rail would have helped lessen the traffic mess.

And I was just a little surprised by the results. More than 55 percent of those responding said they didn’t think the new bridge and light rail would have helped.


Now, I get that there are folks out there who believe light rail is the devil incarnate. I get that in some cultures you’d rather give up your first-born male child than acknowledge the subway within us all.

But to say that light rail would not have helped alleviate a massive traffic problem is simply nonsensical. That is what light rail does.

It might not be worth the cost. It might flood Vancouver streets with Portland zombies. There may be a better solution. But it would help traffic congestion. Come on, now!

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

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