I went to college with a lot of people who became TV journalists, and one of the things we liked to talk about was George Carlin’s “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television.” Thinking back, I now realize that we print journalists had our own dirty word: “partnerships.” As in, newsrooms need to remain more independent than McMurdo Station in the middle of the winter in order to maintain their integrity.
That notion seems archaic these days. Certainly, we need to maintain integrity. But we realize we are part of the community we cover, and we’ve been working hard in our newsroom to forge new partnerships on a variety of fronts.
Probably our most simple partnership is sharing stories and photography with other news organizations. Our most frequent partner is The Daily News in Longview. A decade ago, we considered them a competitor; now we share several times per week. It’s improved our coverage of Woodland and Mount St. Helens, to name two.
The partnerships don’t end there. You’ve likely seen Columbian photos and/or stories on KATU-TV and occasionally other Portland news stations. On Thursday we published the first of what is planned to be several articles on the local Patriot Prayer group and its charismatic leader, Joey Gibson.
These stories are being produced by a new online news startup serving Oregon called underscore.news. It was spun out of a Seattle online news organization, InvestigateWest, and is being advised by veteran Portland journalist Lee van der Voo. I’ve known Lee for more than a decade; it’s fair to say she is one of my heroes. She is a four-time winner of Oregon’s top award for reporters, the Bruce Baer Award. The reporter on the Patriot Prayer story, Sergio Olmos, is a long-form journalist who has spent more than a year following Gibson, who has given him access to the group. We will contribute some photography to the series, as will Pamplin Media Group, the owner of the Portland Tribune and a major partner in the story. John Schrag, Pamplin’s executive editor and another journalist I’ve long known and admired, edited the first part of the series.
Without these kinds of partnerships, we would be missing out on opportunities to bring local journalism to our readers. I’m hoping we will be able to leverage more partnerships like this.
Seen at the fair
Did you go to the fair this year? If so, you might have seen a completely different kind of newsroom partnership. Working with Darren Conerly, the superintendent of Open Class Photography, we contributed a non-judged exhibit. Each of our three photojournalists submitted three of their favorite prints. We also provided some of our page proofs, showing how their photography is used in the newspaper. In addition, the team was at the first day of the fair to talk with amateur photographers. It seemed to go well, we learned a lot, and we hope to be back next year.
Another example of a new partnership for the newsroom is our summer reporting intern. You’ve seen Jeni Banceu’s byline all summer. She is a student at Clark College, and she will be the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper, The Independent, this fall. Earlier this year, Clark’s journalism professor, Beth Slovic, reached out to create a Dee Anne Finken Endowed Internship in partnership with The Columbian and the Clark College Foundation.
Jeni has been with us for almost three months; her internship ends next week. She’s been game to tackle any assignment; I sent her to the fair to write a first-person story about what it’s like to wash a pig. She might become a journalist someday, but I don’t think she will raise hogs.
All of these successes have made me rethink what I learned in school. Used well, partnerships can increase the quality and quantity of our journalism and give our work a wider audience. We still won’t be using George Carlin’s seven words, however.