Thursday, June 24, 2021
June 24, 2021

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From the Newsroom: Partnering to benefit our readers

By , Columbian Editor
Published:

If you like old movies, particularly old movies about newspapers, you know that we are in a competitive industry. There’s nothing a reporter or editor would like more than to get a “scoop” on a rival. Stop the presses!

Getting a big exclusive still makes us feel good. But as newspapers have dwindled, there’s been a lot more emphasis on cooperation and partnerships than beating a rival.

I am not even sure who qualifies as a rival newspaper these days. The Oregonian closed its Clark County bureau years ago. Among weekly newspapers, The Reflector in Battle Ground is still around, but The Columbian purchased the Camas-Washougal Post-Record in 2004, and the Lewis River News in Woodland ceased publication in 1999.

So it is back to the theme of cooperation. We recently joined with a new partner. It’s Crosscut, a Seattle-based online news site with a team of about 30 journalists. You can check out their site at crosscut.com.

Crosscut is one of the pioneers in the world of nonprofit, donor-supported journalism. Unlike a general interest newspaper, its staff focuses on long-form stories in specific categories including politics, culture, equity and the environment. A lot of the content is focused on Seattle and Puget Sound, of course, but there are stories of statewide interest, too, such as a piece on the security of those outdoor ballot boxes being used in several counties, including Clark County.

Although the stories aren’t all a perfect fit for us — literally, as some are just too long to print in their entirety — I think the partnership will give us an opportunity to offer more stories from the state capital, and also boost our web-only content, particularly on Monday mornings when there is no printed newspaper. You can start expecting to see these stories within the next couple of weeks.

Another of our partnerships used to be a bit of a rivalry. The Daily News in Longview won a Pulitzer Prize for its Mount St. Helens reporting, much to the chagrin of our staff at the time. Forty years later, we frequently trade stories with its newsroom. Although we aren’t in the same county, we do share a member of Congress and three state legislators from the 20th Legislative District. We also have Woodland in common. By pooling our efforts, it’s my hope that we can keep Woodland from becoming a “news desert.”

We have had some longer-standing news partnerships. Our oldest, of course, is with The Associated Press, which was started in 1846 by five New York City newspapers to share the costs of reporting news from the Mexican-American War. AP is still organized as a nonprofit news cooperative. We send our content to them, and they are free to repackage and transmit the stories and photos they think are relevant to audiences around the world. In return, we get material from other members, such as The Seattle Times and The Oregonian. AP also employs its own staff of reporters around the world, giving its members news from far-flung places like Kathmandu and Spokane.

If you watch TV news, you may also see references to “our news partners at The Columbian” on KATU-TV. This is a long-standing, informal agreement where we occasionally share content. And it’s also possible that we will do one-time swaps with other media if a Vancouver person is in the news in their community, or their resident is in the news here.

Ironically, one of the few places where you’ll rarely see our content is in our sister paper, the Post-Record. We maintain separate news staffs and don’t regularly share stories or photos. I am glad they have this independence to cover their communities as they see fit.

News partnerships are a benefit for our readers, particularly in an industry that is continually challenged to do more with less. But I still miss the thrill of getting a big scoop on a rival.

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