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From the Newsroom: Seasoned pros are back in the fold

It almost feels like the old band is getting back together.

A few months ago, I got a call from Jeff Mize, for many years one of The Columbian’s top reporters. But, like many others, he’d left the occupation for a more lucrative career in government.

Long story short, Jeff was in a different place in life and interested in coming back to journalism, and home to The Columbian. Needless to say, we took him up on his offer as soon as we could. He’s now covering transportation and environmental issues, and it’s been great having him back. His stories reflect the depth and knowledge of someone who has made Vancouver his home for many years. It’s a big gain for our readers to have him at The Columbian.

Then, a few weeks ago, I got an email from Erin Middlewood. Given that she started with a youth paper route, Erin has probably been with The Columbian for most of her life. As a reporter, she was a frequent winner of regional journalism awards, and she and Stephanie Rice shared perhaps the biggest honor ever bestowed on The Columbian: the Society of Professional Journalists’ national award for investigative reporting.

Their three-day series, published in November 2007, revealed that roughly one in 10 licensed child care facilities in Clark County had violated serious safety and health guidelines with little or no consequence. The stories also documented how the state made it difficult for parents to research a facility’s licensing history and compliance record.

After the series was published, then-Gov. Chris Gregoire requested more resources to boost child care regulation in the state. The Legislature granted $435,000 to add five employees to the state’s Department of Early Learning, which is charged with improving enforcement of child care regulations.

Erin went on to be our assistant features editor before leaving full-time journalism due to the multiple demands of a busy life, though she has continued freelancing for us and others.

Now, she had heard we had created a new features editor position. Could she apply?

Long story short, she starts Monday.

I’m hoping that in her new job she will have a lot of time to do reporting and writing, like what Allan Brettman has been doing as our business editor. Allan and reporter Anthony Macuk have really increased our business news coverage over the last few months.

Unfortunately, there is some bad news. Allan is leaving us — and journalism — for a different career. His last day was Friday, so we’re looking for another great business editor.

Welcoming our intern

Another new byline at The Columbian belongs to Jeni Banceu, who joined us this month as our first Dee Anne Finken Intern. This new endowed internship is a partnership between The Columbian, Clark College, and the college’s fundraising arm, the Clark College Foundation. It’s named for Clark’s former journalism professor, who retired in 2018. Thanks to some great work by her successor, Beth Slovic, we put together a campaign, raised some money and hired Jeni for the summer.

It is unusual for news organizations to take interns from community colleges, but after meeting Jeni I could tell she would be a great choice. I was most impressed by a story she wrote for the Clark College Independent about a student who lived in a dilapidated RV. Jeni was unafraid to knock on her door, and she asked the obvious, yet sensitive question: Where did the woman go to the bathroom? We ended up publishing the story, too, in June 2018.

I’m hoping Jeni will gain a lot of experience working with us and end up taking it back to Clark, where she’ll be the Independent’s editor-in-chief this fall. By the way, if you want to donate to the Finken Internship Fund, visit the foundation’s website, We want to keep our partnership going.


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