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ClarkCountyToday.com: Filling a need for community news

In the time that our staff has spent developing ClarkCountyToday.com, I’ve thought back many times to a time in my life when I learned the value of community news. The memory, for me, begins with a drive I made out to Battle Ground in the fall of 2007 to meet Marvin Case, then owner of The Reflector Newspaper.

Ken Vance, Editor

Ken Vance, Editor

 

I needed a job and Marvin had an opening for a reporter. I had heard of The Reflector Newspaper, but even though it had been around for nearly 100 years, I had never actually laid my eyes on a copy of the paper at that time.

 

I thought to myself as I drove out to north Clark County, “how in the world can I go to work for a weekly newspaper and cover the kind of stories I would be asked to cover?’’ For a veteran reporter who had cut his teeth covering sports — primarily professional sporting events such as three NBA Finals series, National Football League and Major League Baseball games, as well as college football games — it was a sobering thought that I would no longer be rubbing elbows with professional athletes. Instead, I would now be attending (small) city council meetings, community festivals and reporting on life in rural southwest Washington.

 

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I was lucky enough that Marvin offered me the job and I accepted. Soon after, I got a congratulatory phone call from a former co-worker at The Columbian Newspaper. I shared with him my trepidations about my new reality, and he quickly dismissed my fears saying, “reporting is reporting.’’

 

My friend was right. When you have journalism in your blood, it doesn’t matter if you’re covering the NBA Finals or a Beautiful Baby Contest. A journalist takes pride in every story he or she reports on and we do our best to find something interesting and compelling in each one. And, in my time at The Reflector, I quickly found that I had no trouble finding something interesting and compelling in each story.

 

It’s often been said in journalism circles that everyone has a story to tell, it’s the job of the reporter to help each person tell it. Most community news stories involve someone telling their story, something about their life, their past, their business, family, upcoming event, etc.

 

We now live in a 24/7 news cycle, thanks in large part to social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram). If we want to read about Monday’s Presidential Debate, we can go online and read a blow-by-blow account in real time. If we want instant sports scores or information, no problem it’s all right at our fingertips. It doesn’t matter if it’s national and regional news, if you have internet access, you can usually find the answer to anything you’re searching for in a couple of seconds.

 

As a result of this dynamic, the newspaper industry has suffered mightily. I once got in trouble with a former employer, and this was more than 15 years ago, when I said on the radio that newspapers were a “dying industry.’’ They’re not dead yet, but they’re certainly on life support. Reporters will always be around, but I’m not sure their work will always find its way to a print product.

 

Enter ClarkCountyToday.com. The inspiration for ClarkCountyToday.com was shared by a handful of people, but the most passionate of the group was U.S. Digital owner and founder David Madore, who shares my passion for community news. Madore also feels strongly that a community as large as Clark County, needs as many news voices as it can get.

 

So, after analyzing trends in the journalism industry and matching that analysis for the need he identified for community news, Madore settled on ClarkCountyToday.com, which launched Sept. 27 as a free, online-only website offering, you guessed it, community news for Clark County residents.

 

ClarkCountyToday.com is sure to evolve and expand. Currently, there is no print version. There may never be. But, the future is without boundaries. Without tipping our hands and giving away the playbook, we have lofty goals for the content that our staff will provide to those who grace us with their presence on our page.

 

Wanted: Engaged, interactive readers

 

One of my top goals as editor of ClarkCountyToday.com is to develop a large readership base of loyal and engaged readers. How do we measure that engagement? Largely by the readers’ interaction with us.

 

You will have the opportunity to comment on the stories posted on ClarkCountyToday.com and join in conversations and discussions with other readers. We ask that our readers’ interaction remains cordial and respectful. We also encourage readers to submit their own letters to the editor and hopefully our elected officials and community leaders will also chime in with their own Op-ed pieces as well.

 

Reader engagement can also be in the form of the submission of announcements. We want to be able to let others know who is celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, who is having a birthday, or getting married and, sadly, who has passed away. We are offering a place for you to post or submit your announcements and we will publish at no charge.

 

That’s right, everything is free at ClarkCountyToday.com. No paywall for the website. No maximum number of visits or limit to the number of stories you can read. This is your website. We want it to be a place members of the community come to interact.

 

We also encourage you to let us know about your community events so we can let others know. When Clark County residents want to know what is taking place in their community, we want them to come to ClarkCountyToday.com to find out. Our calendar listings are prominently featured on our website.

 

We are who we say we are

 

Some of you might have a preconceived notion about who we are and what we will become. We have no intention of favoring one ideology over another. We want everyone to feel welcome at ClarkCountyToday.com, regardless of your opinions or political beliefs.

 

We’re not here to attack other news organizations or engage in warfare against anyone else. We just want to provide you another news source option. We’re not going to cover the White House in Washington, D.C., or even the state capitol in Olympia, unless the story addresses the impact on Clark County residents.

 

A peek behind the curtain

 

It would be virtually impossible for me to express my complete respect and total appreciation for Marvin Case, who not only hired me as a reporter back in the fall of 2007 but also recommended me as his replacement as editor of The Reflector when he sold the newspaper in June 2010, a role which I filled until March 2016. Also, ClarkCountyToday.com currently employs four other staff members who were once hired by Marvin and his wife Anne, including their daughter Heidi Wetzler, who serves as our administrator. That respect for Marvin is also appropriately shared by our founder and owner, David Madore.

 

During Marvin’s 31 years of ownership of The Reflector, he established that newspaper’s motto as “The newspaper with integrity.’’ It was only four words, but they spoke volumes about what he stood for and how he wanted the paper to be viewed by the community. Two years ago, current leadership of The Reflector unceremoniously removed the motto from the paper’s masthead and website. Those of us who worked at the paper at the time can attest there wasn’t any discussion. We were told it was the decision of one person and one person alone, President Christine Fossett. As was the case with virtually every decision she made, there was nothing we could say or do to change her mind. It was a mighty blow to Marvin and also the rest of us.

 

Since the motto had been abandoned for nearly two years, our founder and I decided to honor Marvin and his legacy by picking up the integrity theme in the motto for our community news website, which we dubbed “Your news source with integrity.’’

 

Just last week, the integrity motto magically reappeared on The Reflector and its own website. Why that decision was made a week before the launch of ClarkCountyToday.com and after we had disclosed our use of the integrity motto theme on social media, well I will let you draw your own conclusion. I am happy for Marvin that it is back on The Reflector’s masthead.

 

“There is no monopoly on integrity,’’ said Madore, explaining our decision to keep the integrity theme in ClarkCountyToday.com’s motto. “We should all compete for the highest level of integrity and compete to keep raising that bar.’’

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About The Author

Ken Vance, Editor

Ken Vance got his start in the newspaper industry in 1987 as a reporter at The Columbian Newspaper in Vancouver. Vance graduated from Stevenson High School in Stevenson, WA, and attended Clark College in Vancouver. He worked for The Columbian from 1987-2001. He was most recently a staff member of The Reflector Newspaper in Battle Ground, where he served as editor since 2010 and reporter since 2007. Vance’s work in the newspaper industry has won him multiple awards, including a first place award from the Society of Professional Journalists for in-depth reporting.

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