Saturday, October 1, 2022
Oct. 1, 2022

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From the Newsroom: We’re fixing up the place

By , Columbian Editor

When the COVID-19 pandemic set in more than two years ago, it prompted most of our news staff to change to remote work. It was a good idea; the first waves of the virus were particularly fierce, and vaccines and treatments were still undeveloped.

As 2020 wore on, we rearranged the newsroom cubicles to provide for higher walls and more social distancing as people slowly started trickling back into the office. Everyone liked having a little more space, but hated the “prairie dogging” that required you to stand up to see what was going on around the room.

So now that some normalcy is returning, we’re in the process of rearranging the furniture yet again to lower the partitions between the desks. We also took an hour or two at the end of the workday and painted a gray “feature wall” in the newsroom, then attached an old The Columbian sign we had in storage. Then we added a lounge area with a sofa and a couple of chairs. It looks really nice!

We are still giving our employees the freedom to determine whether they wish to work from home or from the office. What we have been doing has been working for us, so we aren’t in a hurry to force anyone to change their habits. But I am seeing more and more people gradually return to the office. It’s fun to hear the once-familiar buzz in the air and get to talk face-to-face with so many smart, passionate people. I love it!

Press problems persist

Something I don’t love, and you probably don’t either, is the temporary lack of full color in the print edition. While the metro press was running last weekend, a bolt somehow came loose and, before the press could be stopped, gouged several press cylinders.

As I understood it from Production Director Cris Matta, the affected unit will have to be partially disassembled and the very large and heavy cylinders will have to be removed and sent to a local machine shop to be lathed until they are smooth. Then new metal will have to be layered on until the rollers are back to the right size. Then, of course, they’ll have to be reinstalled and tested.

The best estimate is the entire process will take several weeks and cost a lot more than the $5,000 telephoto lens we just had to replace. In the meantime, we are doing our best to work around the lack of color on some pages. This means shifting some ads and some regular features. News Editor Merridee Hanson warned me that today’s paper is going to be a little strange, with the editorial page on A3. Sunday may look different too, as we juggle remaining color positions with color ads. Rest assured we will get all the content in, but you’ll want to look closely.

Once the press unit is repaired, we’ll revert back to our normal layout. In the meantime, thank you to our print readers for their patience and understanding.

New reporter starts

This was a milestone week in the newsroom. We welcomed our third new journalist funded by philanthropic donations.

Kelsey Turner is our new reporter covering homelessness and affordable housing. She joins Dylan Jefferies, who slides over from his beat covering social services and nonprofits. They’re already working on a couple of special projects that should be of high interest to our readers and important to our community. Our third CFJ reporter is William Seekamp, who covers transportation and the Interstate 5 Bridge.

Innovation Editor Will Campbell heads our Community Funded Journalism initiative. So far, $1.4 million has been contributed by donors large and small. We would like to raise enough to hire a fourth community funded reporter next year, probably to cover the Columbia River Gorge, environment and climate change issues. If you want to help, visit to learn more about the program.


Support local journalism

Your tax-deductible donation to The Columbian’s Community Funded Journalism program will contribute to better local reporting on key issues, including homelessness, housing, transportation and the environment. Reporters will focus on narrative, investigative and data-driven storytelling.

Local journalism needs your help. It’s an essential part of a healthy community and a healthy democracy.

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