On New Year’s Day, I could have told you 2020 was going to be a busy year for The Columbian’s journalists.
There’s a presidential election this year, statewide elections, what I expect to be a hard-fought congressional race, and a whole host of legislative and local elections. There is fight against the continuing problem of homelessness, and the first review of Clark County’s home-rule charter (wonky but important). There could be big news on the Interstate 5 Bridge replacement project, and at the very least an inconvenient repair to the current drawbridge. There would be stories about millions of dollars of development at The Waterfront Vancouver.
Then, only three weeks later, a Snohomish County man who had been visiting relatives in Wuhan, China, was diagnosed with the first U.S. case of COVID-19. Of course, you know what happened next. We covered it! In fact, between that day in January and Thursday, the term “coronavirus” pops up in 477 of our local stories, and “COVID-19” in 77 local stories (some stories may contain both terms).
Now we are in the midst of another big story. Since May 25, when George Floyd died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes, the world has been outraged. We’ve already published 123 stories, including some letters to the editor, containing Floyd’s name, and you will undoubtedly see more stories in today’s print edition and on our website.
So much for my New Year’s notion of this year’s big stories.
For a news staff of 31 people, balancing all of these important stories has been a delicate art. Complicating the situation, we are mostly working remotely, and to save money during the business downturn, we’ve temporarily reduced the number of pages in the paper and moved up our deadlines. As a business, we need to react to the lack of advertising while many of our traditional advertisers are closed or suffering.