Monday, August 8, 2022
Aug. 8, 2022

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From the Newsroom: Setting up my new computer

By , Columbian Editor
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I was sitting at my desk doing whatever it is I do when Ben Brown, our IT support technician, walked into my office with the news I had been dreading:

“Your new laptop is ready.”

Now, getting a brand-new computer with a bigger, nicer display sounds amazing. It is lighter to carry, and the battery will last longer. But I knew what would happen next. Gone would be my bookmarks, my passwords and my preferences. As a baby boomer, who grew up in the day when computers took up entire buildings, I don’t like this. For a moment, I thought about retiring on the spot.

My common sense prevailed, and Ben got me hooked up. He saved my bookmarks, and even figured out how to import my custom dictionary into the software we use for editing (I have added phrases like “Herrera Beutler,” and deleted words like “Columbian,” because we always seem to write about “Hererra Butler” or the “Columbian” River.)

Of course my passwords and preferences were all toast, so I spent a few hours setting them up again. While I was doing that, it made me visit some of the software and websites I commonly use. I thought you might be interested in some of them.

One of the most common things we do is check out people and places, particularly when reporting breaking news.

One of the most useful sites is our media access to the Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency call log. CRESA’s media log, which is delayed by about 15 minutes, provides us with the time of the 911 call, the type of incident, the address, and the responding agency. It’s not enough for a story, but it does verify an address and give us an indication of whom to check with.

To find out about people, a few years ago we purchased the Washington voter database from the secretary of state’s office. Politicians love to buy this, which is how you get on mailing lists during election season. We don’t offer public access to our list, which gives us the names of registered voters, their street addresses, and their dates of birth. But we can use the data to verify the spelling of an unusual name, like Herrera Beutler. I sometimes use to tell if someone has a Washington criminal record.

Another site I frequently use is the Clark County property records, which you can find on the county’s website (or follow the link from the digital version of this column). Enter an address and you can get a bunch of information about a property, including the name of the neighborhood, the owner’s name, the assessed value, and even a photo. This is most helpful when a fire breaks out; you can see what kind of property is in danger.

We can check on traffic accidents in several ways. For those occurring on state highways, the Washington State Department of Transportation has an active Twitter account and a website, also available as an app, that shows live traffic cameras and conditions. This week, for example, we captured a WSDOT webcam image of a crash near ilani casino for our website. Clark County also has an elaborate traffic webcam system on its webpage.

The final piece of my breaking news bookmarks is FlashAlert, a press release distribution service used by local police, fire and other government agencies. It can be found at

I keep some other sites handy, too. AP Newsroom lets me see what is going on in the region and around the world. AP is like Comcast — there are a lot of subscription options. Just because something on the internet is from the Associated Press doesn’t mean we can use it for our newspaper or website. But, if it’s in my AP Newsroom feed, it’s included in our license.

Finally, I admit to having the Princess Cruises live webcams bookmarked. This site shows live views from the bridge of the various ships in the fleet. Hey, even a busy editor deserves a 10-second vacation. Especially when he has to deal with a new computer.


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