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Sunday, March 3, 2024
March 3, 2024

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From the Newsroom: A week of lows and highs

By , Columbian Editor

It’s been a very interesting week in the newsroom, and a very busy one to boot.

It started first thing Monday morning with the “Dilbert” debacle. After we announced that we would join most of the major newspapers and drop the strip, I got a lot of comments from readers. I didn’t keep a tally, but I think at least 80 percent of them were supportive and appreciative.

Here’s an excerpt from a note from subscriber Patsy Hansen: “It is not cancel culture, but people’s voices raised to decry bigotry. Thank you Mr. Brown, Mr. Campbell, and The Columbian for decrying bigotry. You do not stand alone.”

Danielle Wade wrote, “I wanted to reach out and thank you for taking a moral stand. It takes courage to do what you did and, as a member of our community, I applaud you and appreciate you. You have a new subscriber, sir.”

Of course, there were some less-than-nice comments, like this one signed by John Roscoe: “You have a lot of nerve with not much brain power, Craig. … I’ll cancel my Columbian subscription tomorrow and encourage all in my family to also. The editor is a bigot.”

I guess we’ll be sending John’s paper to Danielle’s house.

Cowlitz Foundation’s gift

I’ve written a lot about our Community Funded Journalism initiative. Thanks to donors large and small, we’ve been able to hire four additional reporters covering homelessness, affordable housing, transportation and the environment. On Wednesday, we brought the reporting to the public in a live Columbian Conversations event at Kiggins Theatre, sponsored by Riverview Bank and Waste Connections. We had a good crowd and an interesting discussion about homelessness and some solutions. We’re looking forward to hosting more of these conversations.

Our CFJ initiative got a big boost when it was announced that the Cowlitz Indian Tribe has made a major gift to us through the Cowlitz Tribal Foundation Clark County Fund.

The Cowlitz tribe’s pledge of $120,000 over the next three years will go toward the salary of our new environment beat reporter, Lauren Ellenbecker, and direct costs of her storytelling, such as travel, training, photography and graphics. This grant brings our total raised through community contributions to $1.5 million, with the pledges spread over six years.

We’re also very close to our goal of raising $50,000 from our readers. When I looked on Friday, 215 supporters had contributed $45,421, bringing us within $5,000 of our goal. If you can help, go to givebutter.com/columbian. If you prefer, you can mail contributions in care of The Columbian CFJ Fund to the Local Media Foundation, P.O. Box 85015, Chicago, IL 60689-5033.

The Local Media Foundation is our nonprofit partner. It holds the donations in trust, then reimburses us for the direct costs of these positions. The money cannot be used to pay The Columbian’s other costs, such as my salary or to buy newsprint, or to increase profits.

Welcome, ‘Big Nate’

After we laid off “Dilbert” on Thursday, we hired a sixth-grader to take his place. “Big Nate,” by Lincoln Peirce, will also be featured in this Sunday’s comics, which we reprinted after ditching “Dilbert.”

Here’s how its syndicator describes the strip: “Aspiring cartoonist Nate Wright is the star of Big Nate, the daily and Sunday comic strip distributed by NEA since 1991. Nate is 11 years old, four-and-a-half feet tall, and the all-time record holder for detentions in school history. He’s a self-described genius and sixth grade Renaissance Man. Nate, who lives with his dad and older sister, enjoys pestering his family and teachers with his sarcasm.”

We’re going to audition the strip for a month or two, then evaluate. We got reader suggestions for at least a dozen different strips, with no clear favorite emerging. I’m hoping folks will enjoy this return to sixth grade!