Saturday, April 17, 2021
April 17, 2021

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From the Newsroom: Projects are special way to tell stories

By , Columbian Editor

As I’ve written about before, newspapers have their own colorful lingo. One of the terms that you’ll hear frequently is “spot news.” These are the meat-and-potatoes stories about something that happened the day before: a car wreck, a school board meeting. I even wrote a spot news story this week about the Parks Foundation of Clark County’s annual luncheon.

But just like meat and potatoes, a menu containing all spot news does not create a pleasing diet. That’s why we do special projects.

Though not a newspaper term, we use it to describe anything that is out of the ordinary, specifically those that involve a lot of photography, video and page design. We’ve done a lot of these special projects over the last few years. One of the most memorable was the six-part series on former Vancouver pastor John Bishop. We did so many projects, in fact, that we sat down at the start of the year and vowed not to do too many of them at once because they are too much work.

You can guess how that turned out.

By my count we’ve had three in the last three weeks, if you include this Sunday’s planned feature on Austin Justin, a determined little boy whose dream is to play hockey, but was born with a genetic defect that made it impossible for him to walk, let alone skate. Photographer Alisha Jucevic has been following Austin for more than a year, and now he’s — well, I really enjoyed the follow-up story, and I think you will, too. Look for it in the morning.

Two weeks ago, Alisha teamed up with reporter Patty Hastings for a special project about a group of monks who live in White Salmon, how they came to be there, how the community supports them and vice versa. And last Sunday, Calley Hair and Amanda Cowan presented the first in what we plan to be a year-long series about what it’s like to be 3 years old, featuring the irrepressible Tobias Adams.

If you haven’t looked at these stories online, be sure to have a peek the next time you’re on our website at We use different software that changes the look and feel of these packages and embeds video clips and photo galleries directly into the stories. The resulting presentation is much richer than you can get from looking at the story on the printed page.

Although special projects are a lot of work for the staff, I try to encourage them. They remind me of why we decided to become journalists in the first place: to tell the stories of our community that deserve to be told. I confess that I particularly enjoy the ones that follow people over time, even though they are the hardest to produce. Told with the luxury of time, the stories almost always contain elements of joy, moments of risk, and, in the case of a series we did about a Ridgefield man who died of Lou Gehrig’s disease, great dignity and deep sorrow.

Wanted: Instagram followers

Like other news media organizations, The Columbian has put a lot of effort into social media the last few years. Our Facebook page has grown to be one of our biggest channels for reaching readers, and we have a lot of people who follow our main account and our individual reporters on Twitter. We have a YouTube channel, too.

Instagram, the photo sharing platform, is a big way for our photographers to share their best work, including some photographs that don’t make it into the paper. We’ve been increasing our posts and are getting closer to our goal of 10,000 followers.

That’s a magic number for us, because once we get there, Instagram will let us post links back to the stories, so you can find out more about the photos. I am asking for your help. If you are on Instagram, will you please follow us? We would really like to be able to make our Instagram page better, and reaching this goal will help us do so.


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