In an era marked by corporate ownership of newspapers, The Columbian has remained family owned and operated for nearly a century.
In 1921, Herbert Campbell bought the paper. Today, his great-grandsons can be spotted in The Columbian’s offices.
This year, as the paper turns 125 years old, the Campbells — Scott, Jody, Ben, Will and Ross — have started to discuss the roles the fourth generation will play.
“We had our first-ever family (business) meeting recently,” Publisher Scott Campbell said, “and I’m really inspired.”
In 1962, the clacking of typewriters filled The Columbian’s newsroom and two brothers — Herbert J. Campbell’s sons — ran Vancouver’s newspaper.
Jack R. Campbell, a man described as believing “in a quality newspaper with the human touch,” handled the news side of The Columbian. Don P. Campbell, who played an influential role shaping the city of Vancouver, oversaw the business side, and worked to turn the nearly bankrupt publication into a “good, strong newspaper” and did it “without hurting anybody,” according to The Columbian archives.
The two brothers worked side-by-side for 17 years, respecting the division of labor and each other. They were a team until Jack Campbell died of a heart attack in 1978.
“They got along famously,” said retired Metro Editor Gregg Herrington, who worked for the paper from 1975 to 2008.
It’s a relationship that looms large in The Columbian’s history.
At the recent Campbell family business retreat, Ben and Will, the two oldest sons, spoke of the relationship their grandfather and great-uncle cultivated.
“Everyone knows that setup worked then,” Ben Campbell said. “And we talked about if it could work today.”
When Scott Campbell took over as publisher of The Columbian from his father, Don, at the age of 31, a reporter called him wanting an interview.
“He said, ‘You’re probably the youngest publisher in the country for a midsized daily newspaper,’ ” Campbell said. “I said to him, ‘I appreciate that, but why don’t you call me in a few years. Let’s see how all this turns out.’ ”
Scott Campbell grew up at The Columbian; he spent his summers and school breaks working in various departments. Later, he studied journalism at the University of Oregon and interned at the Sacramento Union and The Washington Post, which included a memorable lunch with the late publisher, Katharine Graham.
In 1987, he took over as publisher.
Under his tenure, the paper became a daily publication, moved to morning delivery and launched a website and social media efforts.
The civic-minded publisher also prioritized making The Columbian a good community partner. Early on, he advocated redeveloping Vancouver’s waterfront for public enjoyment. Later, a downtown land deal he signed led to redevelopment of several dilapidated structures into the Hilton Vancouver Washington, the attached convention center, and the office building that now houses Vancouver City Hall.