Next week, members of our staff here at ClarkCountyToday.com will celebrate a milestone. Essentially, it’s our first milestone.
On Wed., Sept. 27, we will celebrate the anniversary of our first year in existence. It was Sept. 27, 2016 when ClarkCountyToday.com went live for the first time.
On March 8, 2016, my position as editor of The Reflector Newspaper was eliminated. I received several phone calls of caring friends and acquaintances that day, one of which came from U.S, Digital owner and founder David Madore.
David and I had already participated in exploratory conversations about creating a news organization. But, those discussions never gained a lot of momentum. Because of my change in job status, at least for me, the conversation took on a new level of urgency.
It took us just three months to put our plan into motion. I became the first employee of ClarkCountyToday.com on June 15, 2016. My first task was to assemble a team. We would obviously need reporters and I was fortunate enough to quickly land a couple of good ones in Nick Daschel and Joanna Yorke.
Nick, who had worked for many years with Oregonlive.com, came to work with us and was a key component in the creation of our news organization. Unfortunately, good people have options, and Nick was quickly recruited back to Oregonlive.com but he is still a friend of our organization.
To replace Nick, I hired Kelly Moyer, a tremendously talented reporter who I had worked with at The Reflector. Kelly was an incredibly productive reporter in those early days of our organization and her fine work was recognized by others. She is now the editor of the Camas Post Record Newspaper.
Joanna’s career also took a turn away from ClarkCountyToday.com. She just recently was named editor of the Vancouver Business Journal. I’m very proud of our first three reporters and the roles they currently fill in this industry.
Three other key early employees are still with us to celebrate our first anniversary. From Day 1, Mike Schultz has been our photographer/videographer. Mike is an award-winning photographer who has now become an accomplished videographer. He has done a great job of adapting to an age of new media.
Heidi Wetzler joined us in those early days and she is invaluable to our organization, wearing several different hats — as administrator, human resources director, financial officer and everything else we need to keep this organization operating. Her character and integrity are key components of the foundation of our venture.
Those early days were difficult, building something from nothing. I started my journalism career in April of 1987. But, I had served my entire career as a reporter or editor, first at The Columbian Newspaper and then The Reflector. In 2015, The Columbian celebrated its 125th anniversary. The Reflector isn’t far behind, having been formed in 1909.
I told our owner and founder when we created ClarkCountyToday.com, that I didn’t know what I didn’t know about creating a news organization from the ground up. I was prophetic, because those early days were a struggle to get our organization launched. In fact, there’s no question we wouldn’t have gone live on Sept. 27, 2016 if it hadn’t been for the fact that a few weeks prior to our launch, we hired graphic designer and webmaster Andi Schwartz, who like Schultz and Wetzler, had worked with me at The Reflector.
Andi was the final piece we needed. She took over the IT elements of our operation and has guided us ever since. I’m very proud of our presentation on ClarkCountyToday.com, and Andi is responsible for that.
Throughout our first year, David and I have used the analogy of getting a large airplane off the ground in comparison with our efforts at ClarkCountyToday.com. Even after we went live, it took several more months before we truly got this 747 off the ground and soaring toward the heavens.
In those early days, we were a traditional newspaper that was publishing online. But, David’s vision was for much more than that. The future of our industry is more than traditional news coverage, consisting primarily of stories and photos. David insisted we make video a priority and challenged us to find new, innovative ways to present content on our website. His direction has been key to our development as an organization.
Ours is not a finished product, but I’m proud of the ascent that our airplane continues to make. And, that ascent was accelerated exponentially when we were fortunate enough to hire Paul Valencia at the end of May. Paul is quite simply the best sportswriter in Clark County. He brought a legion of readers and social media followers with him to ClarkCountyToday.com, amassed over his 17 years spent as a reporter at The Columbian Newspaper.
Mike Schultz shared with our staff at a recent meeting a brief encounter he had with an area resident, who asked Mike where he worked. Mike told him, and the person quickly responded with, “that’s where Paul Valencia works.’’ So, we’ve all accepted the fact that will forever be our legacy. We will all be known as the folks “who work where Paul Valencia works.’’
The last piece to our current puzzle was added this summer when we added reporter Alex Peru to the team. Alex has been a pleasant and productive addition to our staff. He has the formidable challenge of trying to match Paul’s prolific productivity of sports content with an equal amount of news coverage.
While we will celebrate our first anniversary with pride next week, you should know that by no means do we feel our 747 has reached its cruising altitude. We have a long ways to go before we can level off our trajectory. This is a new age, we have to continue to find new, innovative ways to bring you news content.
We hope you have enjoyed our modest success over the past year and trust that you share our enthusiasm for the future.