Although you wouldn’t know it by the weather, we are in the middle of the summer news season. I feel like a meteorologist this time of year, because you can forecast summer news by the calendar.
The three weeks after July 4 usually find Clark County in the news doldrums, with not much happening in city halls or the county administration building. Leaders are out of town, school is not in session, boards aren’t meeting — you get the idea. That might be for the best, because Columbian reporters and editors often take their vacations too, which leaves us with fewer people to get out the news.
The news winds will pick up starting the week of July 28. The Clark County Fair opens on the next Friday, Aug. 2, and runs for 10 days. Every year I come up with eight or nine story ideas for the fair, with the goal being not to do them all, but to do harder news instead. Most years that goes by the wayside, because the news is so slow, and we end up with a fair story almost every day.
After the fair starts, it’s only four days until the primary election. This is an off-year election, which means there are more local offices on the ballot and thus more work for our news staff. Although everybody likes to talk about the 2020 presidential race, that’s not something that uses a lot of our local resources. For us this is the big year, with a dozen races and measures on the primary ballot.
After the election is sorted, it will be the middle of August, when wildfire season builds toward its peak. As you’ll remember, the last few years have been marked by horrible air quality due to wildfire smoke. It’s been a long time since Clark County had a conflagration, but that is a possibility too. I am certainly hopeful that we won’t have to write any of these kinds of stories this year, but experience — and the rain gauge — suggests that we should be prepared.
Then it’s time for back-to-school stories. Washington State University Vancouver students start classes on Aug. 19, and K-12 public schools will start about two weeks later. By then, the relative calm of July will be a full news season ago.
I realize that we bring the news to you, but if for any reason you are near our downtown office, two blocks west of Esther Short Park, be sure to admire our new signage. We’ve installed a large LED sign and added logos to our front entry to advertise our sister businesses that share our building, the Camas-Washougal Post-Record and Sprout Digital.
If you haven’t heard about Sprout, it is a digital marketing company that provides an array of services to businesses, including website development and search engine optimization. They’re not in the news business, but from time to time you’ll see sponsored content they developed posted on The Columbian’s website. They have their own staff of very pleasant people, and their work is deliberately kept separate from the news division of The Columbian. We don’t develop, review or schedule any of Sprout’s sponsored content, but I do like to read it.
Have you noticed there’s a new byline in The Columbian this week? It belongs to photojournalist Zach Wilkinson, who has just joined our team as a summer photo intern. Zach, who recently graduated from the University of Oregon, is our first-ever Snowden intern. The Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism was founded in 1998 and honors a former Oregonian and Oregon Journal editor. We’ve hired several former Snowdens over the years — Assistant Metro Editor Jessica Prokop is one — so it is exciting to get in on the front end of this venerable program.
We also have a reporting intern, Jeni Banceu, who attends Clark College and is the first recipient of what we hope will be a long line of Dee Anne Finken endowed internships.
We’re really glad to have the ability to offer these new journalists a helping hand onto the first rung of the career ladder. Look for their bylines this summer, and watch how their work improves every week.