Clark County Today staff members celebrate our third anniversary

Opinion: The difference between opinion-based content and news
ClarkCountyToday.com Editor Ken Vance offers his thoughts on the third anniversary of Clark County Today.

This month, the news website had a record 81,575 unique visitors and 259,195 page views

Three years ago today, ClarkCountyToday.com went live. In one of our first posts, I shared with you the vision that our owner and founder David Madore had for our news organization.

“As the journalism industry has continued to evolve over the years, one thing has become obvious: area residents have an almost unquenchable thirst for community news more than any other content. ClarkCountyToday.com recognizes that and will strive to provide Clark County residents with a daily view of timely community news,” I said in that initial announcement, before also stating that “ClarkCountyToday.com will make every attempt to provide community news content that is unbiased, independent and impartial. Our reporting will not be ideologically driven. We want to become a place where all residents of our community gather to seek timely news content and share their thoughts about what’s going on in Clark County.”

As I read those words I spoke into existence three years ago, I am very proud to say that I strongly believe we are well on our way to delivering on those promises. On my first point, that “area residents have an almost unquenchable thirst for community news,’’ that has definitely been proven by the response we’ve received from Clark County residents over the past three years.

In that first month (October 2016), ClarkCountyToday.com had a modest 10,313 unique visitors and a total of 28,891 page views. As of this morning, this month (September 2019) we have had a record 81,575 unique visitors and 259,195 page views. That’s obviously significant growth in what I consider a rather short period of time.

Proving my second point, that we will “provide community news content that is unbiased, independent and impartial,’’ is more difficult than the first because I can’t provide raw analytical data to support our performance. I can provide anecdotal evidence, however.

Many of our critics enjoy labeling us as “a conservative website.’’ We have never branded ourselves as such. When we launched three years ago, some of those same critics dismissed us, thinking it was our intention to become “Fox News Clark County.’’ While I tend to have a conservative slant in some of my editorials, I challenge anyone to provide evidence that our news coverage or editorial decisions have been made with an ideological slant.

As far as the anecdotal evidence, I recall in those early days, The Columbian Newspaper questioned then-County Chair Marc Boldt as to why he would grant our reporters interviews. Boldt replied that he considered it part of his duties as county chair to be accessible to all media outlets (I’m paraphrasing his response to the question). I can attest to the fact that Boldt never once turned us down when we reached out to him for an interview or a response to a specific question. He wouldn’t have done that if he felt we wouldn’t treat him fairly and with respect.

Also, in those early days after we launched, I assigned a story to one of our reporters who reached out to a leader of a city here in Clark County. That leader politely declined to grant our reporter an interview. I contacted the city leader, who I had a positive long-term interaction with, and asked why the leader wouldn’t grant us an interview. The leader said they wanted to observe us for a few months to see how we conducted ourselves. After several months, we contacted the leader again and that person has consistently interacted with our reporters ever since without any concern for being treated with any bias. I could go on and on with other anecdotal evidence, but I believe I’ve made my point. 

We established “Your news source with integrity’’ as our original motto. It was out of respect for the long-time owner of The Reflector Newspaper, Marvin Case, who originated the motto “Your Newspaper with Integrity.’’ Keep in mind, four of us here at Clark County Today worked for Case at The Reflector. At the time we adopted the same theme in our motto, the then-president of the company that owned The Reflector, had dropped Case’s motto from that paper’s masthead. The current leadership at The Reflector, who I’ve worked with and I respect a great deal, have since re-branded the paper as your “Newspaper With Integrity since 1909.’’ It was a great decision, but we kept ours because we all should seek to conduct our business with integrity, the way Case did during his 31 years of ownership of The Reflector.

In the last year, we have adopted a second motto, “No Agenda. No Subscription.’’ The first part of that continues our theme to “provide community news content that is unbiased, independent and impartial.’’ The second part addresses the fact that access to our website is free. We have no plans to ever charge our readers or ask them for a subscription.

The increase in your response to our website, which I shared earlier in this column, has essentially happened in the last 21 months. We doubled our unique visitors and page views in the calendar year 2018 and did so again in the first six months of 2019. In the past few months, the numbers have continued to rise to the record-setting numbers we enjoyed this month.

In addition to the reasons I outlined earlier in this column, there is one very obvious reason for our success. It’s because of our staff. We have a small, but incredible staff of seven people here at Clark County Today. And, what’s significant about our growth in the last 21 months, is it essentially coincides with the time period since our last addition. We have the right people on our staff and they’ve now been with us for a modest, but consistent period of time.

In addition to myself, we have three other employees who have been with us since before our launch. Let me briefly remind you of our staff members:

Heidi Wetzler
Heidi Wetzler

Heidi Wetzler, administrator: Heidi wears many hats for us, each role being vital to our success. She’s our Human Resources director, office manager, bookkeeper, purchaser of equipment and she also single-handedly keeps our calendar up to date. 

Andi Schwartz
Andi Schwartz

• Andi Schwartz, graphic designer/webmaster: Andi is enormously talented and vital to our success. First of all, she almost single-handedly designed and created our website and performs all the maintenance and management to keep it performing at a high level. She also designs all of our posts and creates many of the videos we publish.

Mike Schultz
Mike Schultz

• Mike Schultz, photographer/videographer: Like Heidi and Andi, Mike has been with Clark County Today since we launched. He is an award-winning photographer and has significantly increased his skills as a videographer.

Paul Valencia
Paul Valencia

• Paul Valencia, reporter: Paul joined us in the spring of 2017. He is simply the best sportswriter in Clark County. His passion for his job and the members of the community he covers is unmatched. When time allows, Paul also covers general news topics, including stories about veterans and activities and events for veterans.

Chris Brown
Chris Brown

• Chris Brown, reporter: Chris joined Clark County Today early in 2018. In my mind, there is no question that he is the best hard news reporter in Clark County. His in-depth coverage of important issues like school funding, including last year’s teacher strikes, and the homeless crisis have been worthy of awards in my opinion. Chris is also extremely talented as a host for our video efforts and also produces high quality video projects.

Jacob Granneman
Jacob Granneman

• Jacob Granneman, reporter: Jacob is our most recent addition, joining Clark County Today in the summer of 2018. I used to say Jacob is an aspiring filmmaker, but he’s proven that he’s a budding filmmaker, not an aspiring one. He’s also an exceptional reporter, writer and storyteller. His knowledge and skills have been an extremely important addition to our staff.

Tom May
Tom May

• Tom May, consultant: Tom has been an important, yet silent, member of our team for the past two years, advising us on marketing, advertising, analytics and other vital aspects of our organization. Tom has enjoyed a long and successful career in the journalism industry and now works as a marketing consultant (May52, Inc., May52.com).

David Madore
David Madore

I led this column by crediting our founder and owner David Madore for his vision and for creating Clark County Today. David has never once asked to be given any credit or praise for the incredible commitment he has made to provide Clark County residents with a news organization they can trust. I realize many of you have your own opinions of David from his tenure as a Clark County commissioner, but I must say that working with him on this venture has been the most rewarding thing I’ve done in my 32-year career in this industry. He provides us with all the resources we need and allows us the freedom and flexibility to do our jobs without interference. He also provides us with structure and vision while insisting that we make character and integrity the core values of Clark County Today.

We all have high hopes and dreams of making Clark County Today even more successful than it is today. We can’t wait to share more good news about changes and upgrades in the near future. Thank you for your patronage of our organization. 

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About The Author

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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