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News / Clark County News

From the Newsroom: It’s nice to have friends

By Craig Brown, Columbian Editor
Published: July 29, 2023, 6:05am

Columbian readers surely are some of the nicest people in the world.

For some reason that I can’t quite figure out, we’ve been overwhelmed with compliments lately. They don’t seem to stem from any single particular story or photo or page layout, which makes me even more grateful that people would take the time to write or call and let us know they appreciate our product and think we have been doing our best to cover local news. They feel a bond with us.

Generally speaking, newspaper editors usually hear things like “Your reporting stinks so bad I used your lousy paper to wrap day-old fish guts, and it made them smell worse!” I am sure I will get more of those messages, too.

Although these compliments are coming to the newsroom, I take it to mean the whole team is doing well. Our advertising department is serving its customers. Our production staff is doing a great job of printing papers that are in register and don’t smear ink onto your hands. Our circulation team is getting digital subscriptions to our online customers and newspapers to our home delivery customers, despite a chronic shortage of carriers. And our IT team and business office makes it all possible.

I’ve been sharing the compliments with the staff and wanted to share a few with you:

  • Deanna Lynch: “Your weekend edition of The Columbian is hands down one of the best newspapers we’ve read. … As a matter of fact, it takes us two days to read all of it because of all the fascinating stories of people, places and things. We travel and whenever possible purchase newspapers wherever we are, and we both agree The Columbian is the best.”
  • Ellen Gentry: “I look forward every morning to the delivery of the paper. I enjoy the objective and truthful reporting of current events. … I’m aware that most people don’t have access to a high quality local newspaper and feel thankful that we do.”
  • Bob Ives: “As you have noted, there are fewer papers like The Columbian every year, and your team deserves thunderous applause for the consistent high quality of the paper.”

Wow. Thank you.

A community asset

I think that we’re getting this kind of response because the Campbell family, which has owned The Columbian for 102 years, sees their business as a community asset, not as a cash machine. I’m not a member of the Campbell family, but I’ve worked alongside them and participated in The Columbian’s management for years.

We know that to stay relevant, a community newspaper (or newsletter or news website) has to invest time and money into telling local stories, serving as a watchdog and reflecting local life and culture.

That is no longer the case in too many U.S. cities, which are now served by “ghost newspapers” with only a handful of local staff. A lot of those papers are owned by chains, burdened by debt acquired in numerous rounds of mergers and acquisitions. A few of the papers are owned by billionaires who made their money in the corporate world and don’t seem to understand local news.

Just last week, the Santa Barbara, Calif. News-Press ceased operations. Founded in 1868, apparently it had been roiled by strife and staff reductions since a telecom tycoon’s ex-wife bought it more than 20 years ago. The same thing happened earlier this year in Medford, Ore., where the Mail Tribune ceased publishing.

Unfortunately, I see sad endings ahead for more of these ghost newspapers. I am much more hopeful about The Columbian and other community newspapers that foster a bond with readers. As long as we can fulfill our mission and make our customers happy, we’ll have a place in our community. Thank you for the positive feedback and supporting our local journalism.

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