Monday, March 20, 2023
March 20, 2023

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From the Newsroom: Here’s our 2022 report card

By , Columbian Editor

It’s that time of year when Columbian employees work on our performance evaluations and future plans.

The best companies I have worked for do these plans every year. It forces us to stop, look back on the year and evaluate our body of work. Most importantly, what do we hope to accomplish this year?

I thought I’d share my self-evaluation with you.

Our single most important achievement was to establish and fill four community-funded reporting positions. This effort was led by Will Campbell, our innovation editor and a fourth-generation owner of The Columbian. Will found a partner in the nonprofit sector, the Local Media Foundation, which allows us to accept charitable donations. Donations are used to pay the salaries of reporters and photographers, or to defray the direct costs to report their stories.

We found generous and willing donors, large and small, who believe in the mission of journalism, our community and The Columbian enough to support our efforts. By the end of the year, we had published more than 100 community-funded stories, nearly all of which would have gone unreported without donor support.

My second goal for last year was to welcome and train our new staff. We had a lot of reporters leave during the pandemic. (Our editing corps, on the other hand, has remained intact.) I thought we hired some very talented newcomers and by the end of the year were regularly producing solid journalism on a variety of topics ranging from transportation to affordable housing to Afghan refugees to schools coverage. Employee turnover was much lower, allowing reporters to get better established on their beats.

My third goal for the year was to help organize and present at least one community event. We want to engage readers and help provide a platform to discuss community issues beyond the printed word. But the pandemic persisted and limited our opportunity. In June, we were able to once again offer our annual Columbian Economic Forecast Breakfast. In December, we were able to organize and present a successful Photos of the Year event to the public. I had hoped for more, but I think we’ll be able to exceed that this year.

Finally, I thought we did a good job of staying on top of breaking news and spot news both in print and online. The Nakia Creek Fire coverage in October was a good example; our elections coverage was another. Our congressional district race drew a lot of national media attention when Joe Kent ousted incumbent Jaime Herrera Beutler in the primary, but we held our own while at the same time covering many other locally important races, including the one for Clark County sheriff.

The next section of the performance evaluation talks about goal-setting. I wrote that I’d like to see the newsroom identify and report a really important, critical, challenging story that will help define our role as a guardian and watchdog of the community. It may be in housing, it may be investigative, but I’d like to see us take on a big challenge and succeed. The project would include multimedia reporting and community involvement, such as a forum or public presentation. I’m not sure what the story will be yet, but it wouldn’t surprise me if at least part of it looks at how a decadelong rapid acceleration in housing prices can be linked to homelessness and social inequity.

The last question asked me what I enjoy most about my job.

The answer was easy. It’s fun and an honor to lead a team that is so passionate about local news and dedicated to presenting it to our community. This starts in the publisher’s office and runs all the way through the organization. I like weighing in on all the things it takes to run a successful local newsroom and to help solve the inevitable problems in a way that leads to better outcomes. I’m hoping for more chances this year.