<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=192888919167017&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">
Thursday,  July 18 , 2024

Linkedin Pinterest
News / Clark County News

From the Newsroom: Giving thanks to our readers

By Craig Brown, Columbian Editor
Published: December 2, 2023, 6:04am

By now, you are surely aware of our Community Funded Journalism program, where we use donations to pay the costs of five reporting positions. That’s more than a third of our reporters! Thanks to these donations, we are able to do a much better job of covering Southwest Washington news than anyone else.

Because The Columbian is a business, and not a charity, we work with a nonprofit partner, the Local News Foundation. This organization accepts charitable donations on our behalf, and reimburses us for the direct cost of these reporters’ salaries, plus some directly related expenses, such as photography or travel.

On GivingTuesday, which was this week, we celebrated this program. We made our website and all of our online content free for the entire day. Web Editor Amy Libby invoked our rarely used “home page takeover” feature that allows us to present multiple stories in a special black box at the top of the home page. We filled this space with recent stories that attracted a lot of reader interest, were behind the subscriber-only paywall or that we are just plain proud of.

We highlighted Scott Hewitt’s profile of Tanna Engdahl, the Cowlitz Tribe’s spiritual leader. We resurfaced William Seekamp’s history of the Interstate 205 Bridge. And, of course, we featured what so far has turned out to be our most-read local story of the year, which is Sarah Wolf’s interesting article about a 19th-century cistern discovered underneath a downtown Vancouver street.

Because it was GivingTuesday, we asked for donations. Our goal was to raise $5,000, and nearly 60 people responded, allowing us to exceed our goal and thus receive a matching $5,000 gift from the Vancouver Audubon Society.

It was gratifying to read the comments that donors made on the site, givebutter.com/columbian.

“Thanks for all your hard work providing local journalism!” Kyle Potter wrote.

Debbie Townsend wrote, “Thank you to the newsroom staff for your courage and resilience.”

Thank you!

We should have done better

Of course, pride goeth before a fall. We stumbled on a story that appeared in print the very next day. We discussed it and found several things went wrong at various steps of writing, editing and illustrating the story. We have implemented some changes we think will prevent a similar series of errors.

The story reported the outcome of a civil rights case filed against Vancouver and its former police chief by a female police officer who had been passed over for promotion. After a 10-day trial, a federal jury found in favor partly for the plaintiff and partly for the city, and cleared the former police chief. Our original headline and online photo caption were inaccurate, and the story itself wasn’t very clear about the complicated verdict. We’ve since corrected it and extended our apologies to everyone involved in the story.

While I’m talking about things that could have been better, I liked everything in our Thanksgiving edition, except the outdated weather page. We put the Thursday paper together on Monday so that it could get on newsstands early, which was fine, but the Thursday weather page wasn’t available for obvious reasons. So we ran the most recent one we had, but it was out of date by the time many readers saw it. I think next year we’ll omit the weather page from the Thanksgiving print edition and put it in our e-paper, which we can do at the normal time Wednesday night.

Finally, this wasn’t actually a mistake, but a change that we ended up rolling back: At the very bottom of our home page, there’s a link that will take you to the vital statistics (births, marriage licenses and Superior Court sentences). We were trying to streamline the page and took the link out, assuming it wasn’t used by readers very often. Bad assumption! It’s back now.