Friday, August 19, 2022
Aug. 19, 2022

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From the Newsroom: Finding the news in year-old headlines

By , Columbian Editor

Despite the nice weather, I was feeling a little depressed this week. COVID-19 cases are on the rise. We have to wear masks everywhere we go, which isn’t all that many places due to restrictions. The employment picture is a mess. It seems like a year has gone by and we haven’t gotten anywhere.

Could that be true? Has nothing improved in the last year? I decided to follow the classic journalism advice and check it out.

Near the side door at The Columbian, on the way to the Circulation Department, we have a tiny, locked room called the morgue. When you turn on the light and peer through the window, you can see the reason: It’s filled with dead newspapers. A whole year’s worth, floor to ceiling, arranged in cubbyholes by the date. The only other thing in the room is a big ladder to reach the papers stored up near the ceiling.

I talked my way into borrowing a passkey and let myself in. I wanted to read some papers from a year ago, and compare them to see if I was just too gloomy, or if indeed we are stuck in a rut.

I compared two Wednesday issues: April 15, 2020, and April 14, 2021. Last year’s top story was headlined “IMF: ’20 to be worst year since ’20s.” Yikes. “The world economy in 2020 will suffer its worst year since the Great Depression,” the story opened, and it got sadder from there. Looking back a year later, I was glad to see the story was too pessimistic. But consider this: Last Wednesday’s lead A1 story was “Jobless aid fraud might exceed $1B,” talking about all the money stolen from the state unemployment compensation fund by overseas scammers.

Another front-page story from that year-ago paper was headlined “‘New normal:’ Distancing, masks not going anywhere.” I think we got that one about right.

Our third-front page story from a year ago pictured a second grader visiting Washington Elementary School in Vancouver to pick up a computer tablet to be used for remote learning. The child was not wearing a mask. That would soon be a no-no. I wondered if anyone in that photo could have foreseen that remote learning would last for the rest of the school year, and most of the next?

I sighed and turned to Page A3. “States confront dilemmas on reopening economies,” read the headline on the top story. Well, that is still an issue. In fact, last Wednesday’s A1 centerpiece, by our government reporter Calley Hair, looked at Gov. Inslee’s emergency powers to reopen the economy — or not.

Back to that 2020 edition. My eye drifted down the page: “Search for a COVID-19 vaccine heats up” was the second-biggest story. It says that a Chinese company is testing a vaccine, and, in the United States, Moderna Inc. “isn’t far behind” with its vaccine, and Dr. Anthony Fauci said larger vaccine studies could wrap up by late winter. OK, good news! I already have received both my first and second shots (I got the Pfizer vaccine, which became the first to be approved in the U.S. but wasn’t mentioned in this particular story).

How about on the local news cover? The top story last year: “Clark County hits 250 COVID-19 cases.” That was the cumulative total. This year: “COVID-19 still rebounding with 76 new cases.” That was the daily total; the cumulative total was 20,072.

How about the inside news pages? Last year: “Fire crews battle blaze in brush southeast of B.G.” This year: “State warns of upcoming fire risk.”

Last year: “Ship’s wake causes $1 million in damage at Port of Kalama marina.” This year: “Cargo ship that blocked Suez Canal impounded.”

I am still not feeling great at this point. Maybe I should check my horoscope?

Last year: “You can’t help but notice everyone has a void. As much as you’d like to fill in the blanks and supply what’s needed, don’t rush to do so. More listening and understanding must happen first.”

This year: “It’s a strong day for your powers of visualization, and you’ll see very clearly where you’re headed. The image of who you want to be is as clear to you as the person staring back from the mirror.”

Hmmm, cryptic. It seems positive. The news cycle may be the same, but maybe we’ve come to understand the recurring problems surrounding COVID-19. Maybe we can see a clear path to a better, post-pandemic future.

I sure hope so. At least I feel better.


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