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News / Clark County News

From the Newsroom: Being a reporter can be fun

By Craig Brown, Columbian Editor
Published: July 15, 2023, 6:06am

Being a news reporter is hard and occasionally stressful and difficult work. But it can also be a lot of fun.

I’ve been reminded of that over the last few weeks as I read The Columbian.

In my opinion, environment reporter Lauren Ellenbecker has had some of the most enjoyable gigs. She recently went on an overnight trip with the Washington Trails Association, helping repair and maintain trails on Silver Star Mountain, and, of course, writing a story afterward. A couple of weeks later, she was out with the Mount St. Helens Back Country Horsemen for a feature on what they do to create and preserve recreational opportunities in Southwest Washington.

Food writer Monika Spykerman generally spends part of her week experimenting in the kitchen and making delectable dishes. Some are her own creation, some are family recipes, and others, like this strawberry-raspberry pie, come from readers. I can assure you the Features Team meetings are always very well attended when Monika says she is bringing samples.

This summer, sports reporter Will Denner is spending a lot of time with the Ridgefield Raptors, watching some pretty good baseball and talking with potential future major-league players at the start of their careers.

Me? At this stage of my career, I go to a lot of meetings. But I had my day:

  • In the summer of 1998, when I was The Columbian’s business editor, I was driving down Interstate 5 in Woodland when I spotted a banner: Biplane Rides. I called the owner and talked myself onto a flight for a story that started like this: “The adrenaline starts when you put on the aviator’s cap and goggles and settle back into the open-air front seat. Pilot Jim Grant gives the word, the ignition hums, the prop twitches. The motor roars to life and washes you with a cooling wind that causes the speedometer to already estimate you’re going 20 mph. … In the air, it’s exhilarating, cruising at 80 to 100 mph a few hundred feet over the Columbia River or the Woodland bottoms. The open cockpit allows tremendous views, and the flight is over just a little too soon.”
  • In the early 1990s, I worked as associate editor at Oregon Business magazine at a time when the state was forming regional economic development strategies. My editor wanted stories about each region’s strategy. No problem, boss! I visited Bandon and Gold Beach on the southern Oregon Coast to learn about their tourist attractions. I spent two days in Central Oregon, near The Dalles, where locals pointed out the Oregon Trail and took me to see where it once crossed the Deschutes River. It hadn’t changed much. Finally, I got to fly in a small plane over Eastern Oregon and visit a melon research farm, where I tasted a whole bunch of delicious fruit.
  • Surely my most outrageous experience was when I was the Okanogan County bureau reporter for The Wenatchee World. I covered all the news in a county bigger than Connecticut but with, at that time, exactly one stoplight. This was in 1985, the best as I can recall, and the county had received a grant to bring awareness to drunken driving, which was a huge problem at that time in the Okanogan.

To illustrate the peril, I was invited by county officials and the State Patrol to drink and drive. They secured the use of the local dirt track and a driver’s ed car with extra controls, and a couple of us — I think the local paper sent a reporter too — went at it. We drove a course through some cones, had a few, got a field sobriety test from a trooper, drove again, etc. A sober driver rode with us and could have taken over using the car’s other controls.

I remember slaying some orange cones, getting a ride home, and writing a story the next day even though I didn’t feel all that great.

Yes, it can be fun to be a reporter.