Tag Archives: journalism

Baurick heads to Boulder

This is a column I wrote for last Friday’s Bainbridge Islander, a weekly newspaper also published by the Sun. Change the references to “Islander” to “Kitsap Sun,” and it’ll make sense to the broad audience. Essentially, I’m explaining a really great opportunity for one of our reporters and a feather in the cap for the paper, and how we’ll adjust over the next nine months.

Beginning next week you’ll stop seeing a familiar name in the Islander.

I’m not hinting at another city hall departure, but rather one from our own office: Bainbridge Island staff reporter Tristan Baurick is temporarily leaving the Kitsap Sun and Bainbridge Islander.

It’s nothing against us, or this community. Tristan’s opted to take advantage of an experience that any journalist would jump at. He’ll spend the next nine months in Boulder, Colo., studying at the University of Colorado as a Ted E. Scripps Fellow in Environmental Journalism. He leaves with the paper’s blessing and our encouragement, and leaves us with a hint of pride due to the company he’s in: only four others were selected for the 2012-13 class, and they writers from the Los Angeles Times, the Associated Press New Delhi bureau, Spokane’s Spokesman-Review and a freelance photojournalist who’s been published in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and others. Pretty heady bunch.

Tristan’s been primarily a city government reporter for us, of course, though he’s long had an interest in the environment as well. In fact, when he interviewed for his staff job he told me that was a career aspiration, and he’s done some good work on environmental issues that affect the island over the years. During his time in Boulder Tristan won’t be writing for any publication, but he’ll have a well-deserved opportunity to study science and writing in a university setting, take field trips with other fellows, think about issues without the daily pressure of a deadline, and simply recharge his batteries for journalism.

At the Sun we’re lucky to have had reporter Chris Dunagan over the years writing about environmental issues that include land use, salmon restoration, Puget Sound and Hood Canal  (Dunagan’s even written a book on that waterway). This doesn’t mean Tristan will return to Kitsap County to supplant Dunagan. He plans to return to cover the island’s news, giving the Kitsap Sun and Islander even more expertise on an issue that is of great importance in our region and our world.

In the meantime, you can still expect consistent coverage of the island and a byline that you’ve seen periodically (including in this edition) will become more frequent. That’s because Tad Sooter, a North Kitsap resident who’s written for us on a freelance basis for the past year and is an experienced writer and photographer from his time with weekly newspapers around here, will be contributing on a more permanent basis. Tad’s been writing about personalities and issues on the island for the past few months, and will dive into the new, broader assignment next week. Contact him at tad.sooter@gmail.com with story ideas or tips.

I’m eager to watch the Islander’s continued growth with contributions from Tad and the other Kitsap Sun reporters who cover island news, arts and sports, as we keep bringing you a quality weekly newspaper. I’m also excited for the opportunity Tristan has coming up — maybe a little jealous, in truth — and we all wish him well as he enters a new chapter in his professional life. Please join me in doing so.

A simple view of the daily ritual

I spoke to a media class at Olympic College two weeks ago and shared my opinion that paying for online news would be our industry’s main conversation through 2012. Big papers like the New York Times, L.A. Times, Chicago Tribune and others have announced or implemented paywalls, and companies with community and regional papers, like Gannett, have indicated they will do the same. And the pudits on journo blogs couldn’t stop commenting.

Then the future plan for the New Orleans Times-Picayune leaked, and all everyone in the industry has talked about is whether others will follow suit and abandon the model of publishing a printed paper every day. The T-P was followed by a few other Southern metros in its chain, and we have a new “issue of the year” in the news media.

I have no announcement as far as our paper and website goes on either of these topics. In general, my opinion is mixed on paywalls (though two papers in our company, E.W. Scripps, have them now in one form or another) but firm that cutting publication days away from a daily newspaper right now hurts a community and an organization’s reputation.

Images of daily print newspaper readers best explain the value of the day's news.

I could go on about my belief in a daily printed newspaper (particularly in New Orleans, where I visited for the first time three months ago), and formulating some of those thoughts was what kept me from posting on the Times-Picayune earlier*. But now I simply want to share this pictorial from a nonprofit online news startup in the Crescent City (which will be an interesting study itself when T-P does make this change, incidentally). It’s a more elegant answer to the question “Why print a newspaper?” than me going on and on about ink smudges on my fingertips.



*Ok, I will share one observation. When I was in New Orleans last March, I picked up a Times-Picayune every day. We’ve been very conscious over the past three years to be more locally oriented than ever, as that is the one niche we can fulfill for our readers in a world full of media choices. It’s local news only on A1, a trimmed-down Nation and World report, all that. I was tickled to see that the T-P, even in a metropolitan area, essentially shared our strategy. Its front page was all city stuff, and even fit the territorial stereotype I had of that area: the Saints led A1 every day I was down there, and one day a review of Po’ Boys started out front as well.

**Ok, one more observation on NOLA: An editor I used to work for liked to play the parlor game, “What’s the best newspaper name?” It’s kind of a fun newsroom conversation that we waste time with; I’ve always liked newspapers called “Bee” for some inexplicable reason. But the beautiful and antiquated word “Picayune” on a masthead could never be topped. Try to use it in a sentence without thinking about the New Orleans newspaper; you can’t.

We are newspaper reporters

Last Saturday we produced a special “saturation” newspaper, so those of you non-print subscribers in Port Orchard, Bremerton, Silverdale and Poulsbo may have received a free Sun on your doorstep. The idea was to introduce, or re-introduce, the Kitsap Sun to folks we may have lost touch with. Remind ’em newspapers are still alive, and maybe sign a few people up for subscriptions*.

Part of the strategy was a marketing piece that featured photos and short descriptions of most of the reporters and photographers in the newsroom. It was nicely done and hopefully introduced our staff to potential readers, but the idea to spotlight a newspaper’s headliners or personalities really isn’t “new” (though it had been awhile since the Sun’s run that kind of “get to know us” effort).

What is kind of new is the little project on Tumblr I noticed yesterday, which is generating some buzz in journalism circles (at least circles on Twitter), called We Are Journalists. It’s along the same lines as our campaign to personalize reporters, in a way I haven’t seen before. From what I understand it’s patterned on the “We are the 99 percent” slogan going on with the Occupy movement, as a way of collectively standing up to ask for a little respect for the work reporters do in the face of some increasingly tough odds. So journalists write a short bio and post a photo of themselves, and the world can see that we are real people, who, for one reason or another, love and care about the work we do.

The submissions seem mainly to come from young reporters so far, but we’ve all been there so it’s interesting to read in a sentimental way. Some of the war stories or stereotypes sound a little schmaltzy or cliche, but deep down I like those in the way most people are suckers for romantic comedies. And then there’s the inside jokes that only journalists can come up with, and probably that don’t make anyone else laugh. Like: “I feel like I’m sinning if I don’t read at least 3/4 of the newspaper, and I often find myself reading yesterday’s news to cure my guilt.”

I loved that one.

Here’s mine (which should probably be edited if I’m really going to submit it):

I go home every day having learned something new. My friends ask me what’s going on around town because they know I’ll know. When I meet people, we’re able to find some connection because the newspaper’s reported on them, their neighborhood, their job or something they’ve been involved with. I’m neither a Democrat or a Republican, and won’t ever be because I’m a journalist instead. I get to cringe when certain area codes are on my caller ID since I know I’m about to be unfairly criticized because we did our job in making someone uncomfortable with a status quo belief (and then everyone in the newsroom gets to roll their eyes about it together, which is fun).

I like when a reader, who is insignificant in the reams of customer statistics that drive business decisions in the world today, takes the time to say thanks for a photo or puzzle or book review or publishing the score from her granddaughter’s volleyball game, reminding me that the Sun makes a difference in someone’s life every day.

Yesterday I was at the Manette Bridge opening, tweeting and sending photos back to the newsroom and saying hi to my neighbors, and a few people asked how I got out of work on a sunny day to hang around at the bridge. It was my work.

I am the editor of a local newspaper.

*It kind-of worked.

The inimitable Adele

Wednesday morning at the Friends of Scouting breakfast the CEO of one of the state’s most successful businesses spoke to the crowd about his company’s values. At the top of the list Ivar’s restaurants adhere to: “Revere history.”

Ivar’s CEO Bob Donegan told about his company by first talking about the founder, Ivar Haglund. He painted a picture of a creative, eccentric restaurateur who treasured — and understood deeply — his company’s place in the community. The company pays heed to that now, and is better for it.
I’ve always seen our newspaper’s role as a curator of history for the community, so the value of reverence for history isn’t lost on me. Donegan’s message was especially timely because there’s a woman in Bremerton Sun lore who deserves the same nod, and we happen to have an occasion to do so.

You all know her name: Adele Ferguson. Now you may learn a little more about her story.

As you’ll see from an advertisement on page 9A of today’s edition, we’ve published a biography and oral history of the Sun’s groundbreaking political reporter and longtime columnist, titled “The Inimitable Adele Ferguson,” done in partnership with the Washington State Heritage Center.

I could go on for a while about Adele’s history here, but you’ll find that in the book. I could pitch how to buy it, but you’ll find that in the ad. (Copies will also go to local branches of Kitsap Regional Library.)

What I will tell you is some back story, and how we became involved with a project to salute a name as recognizable as any, save perhaps Julius Gius, in this newspaper’s history.

Two years ago Adele was one of three inductees into the state’s new Legacy Project, a program organized by the Heritage Center to recognize Washington’s pioneers in a variety of fields. Our reporter Steve Gardner covered the story at the time.

A year later, Bremerton resident Lillian Walker, a civil rights pioneer and co-founder of local chapters of the NAACP and YWCA, was added to the Legacy Project. In October, thanks to fundraising by the YWCA, a biography, drawn from interviews by John Hughes of the Heritage Center, was published. Again, Gardner wrote the story.

While covering a book signing for Walker, Gardner got to talking with Hughes. Remembering the enjoyable experience of interviewing Adele in 2009, he asked whether a biography was planned for her. Hughes handed him a business card, which Steve passed along to me.

Within weeks we had an agreement for the Sun to sponsor the publication. We offered some photos of a young Adele from our archives, Hughes polished the interviews he had done in 2009 into a manuscript, the Heritage Center tracked down more photos and designed a book and cover, and a publication date was set.

So today, we can share one of the most significant stories in our company’s history, right from Adele’s mouth. Her only regret, she told me Thursday night, was that all the funny stories didn’t get into the interview.

Something tells me she shares more in common with Donegan, who thumbed his nose at permits for barges or salmon windsocks, than I may have realized.

Fortunately, we do share a characteristic in common with the company Haglund founded (which is just three years younger than the Sun, by the way). Adele Ferguson’s storied career and role in this state’s journalism is a piece of history that’s worth remembering.

The Kitsap Sun in New York City

You won’t see cops and courts reporter Josh Farley’s byline the early part of this week, and we’re pretty proud of the reason why.

Josh flew to New York City Sunday, and for the past two days has taken part in the 6th annual Harry Frank Guggenheim Symposium on Crime in America at John Jay College of Criminal Law. The symposium is for journalists, legislators, policymakers and scholars to discuss issues surrounding criminal justice. Josh is one of just 26 newspaper, magazine and television reporters who were invited through a fellowship offered by the school’s Center on Media, Crime and Justice, most of whom come from larger news outlets than the Kitsap Sun.

If you pay attention to Josh’s work you won’t be surprised at his recognition, of course. He’s the main reporter for our Code 911 section and covers criminal cases, and also delves into broader stories about criminal justice, public safety and legal issues on a regular basis.

Part of what earned Josh the fellowship was the story idea that he and local news editor Kim Rubenstein submitted as part of his application. Fellows were asked to explain an ongoing reporting project or a planned investigation that would match with one of the conference’s topics.

The story pitched — which Josh is required to follow through on, so you’ll see it soon enough — surrounds the courts and social media. We published a story in October during the jury selection for Daniel Mustard’s trial, when potential jurors were asked if they had posted in the story comments on kitsapsun.com following our reporting on the murder of Ruby Andrews.You all know what comments following most criminal stories can be like, and the question attorneys were asking was whether participation in those comment threads could influence a potential juror’s thinking.

That question, a first in this county’s court system and likely something pretty rare nationwide, prompted Josh to begin thinking about how social media is forcing change in the criminal justice system. He and Kim have brainstormed more ideas to get at the issue, and hopefully something he can get feedback on this week from experts around the country.

Look for the story soon, and we’ll look forward to hearing about our reporter’s trip to the big city later this week.


Beautiful Storytelling in St. Petersburg

We kvetch in the newsroom too often about segments of our online comments community, as many of you know. (And as many of you do when you read some of those insulting rants that seem to follow many police blotter items or controversial topics.)

Today I read an article that wasn’t just a well-told reminder of how everyone has a story, but that also effectively handed the online “trolls” some good news to ponder.

It was what we call a “news obit,” written about a man that would never qualify for a news obit because he wasn’t a politician, or a prominent business owner, or a pioneer in a community*. He was just a guy — a restaurant dishwasher who was killed by a hit-and-run and then slammed by those anonymous commentors we struggle to reason with.

Here’s the St. Petersburg Times set-up:

Shortly after the St. Petersburg Times announced Mr. Smith’s death on its website, a reader posted a comment stating the following: A man who is working as a dishwasher at the Crab Shack at the age of 48 is surely better off dead. Web editors removed the comment, deeming it an offensive and insensitive insult to a dead man’s friends and family. Though hardly unusual — check out the comments beneath stories about any recent tragedy — this one spurred the Times to make Mr. Smith the subject of this story, as a reminder that every life matters.

And here’s the full story.

There’s plenty more to say about online comments, of course. As I’ve mentioned to you we’re re-evaluating the whole thing both in our newsroom as across Scripps newspapers, and one of the strategies is to do exactly what St. Pete editors did; that is, acknowledge comments and call out the inaccuracies and hurt in them. More on that to come.

For now, a reminder to all critics that there’s a story to tell behind every police report, and a life behind every story we tell.

*That’s not to say we never recognize someone who’s “just a guy” with a news obit, or must do it to prove a point. Read Derek Sheppard’s 2005 account of a similar death in Bremerton.

One other update: A few weeks ago I wrote about my neighborhood’s effort to help the victims of the Jacobson Avenue fire. The barbeque was last Sunday, and a few dozen from the neighborhood showed up through the afternoon. People gave what they could, and more than $2,000 was offered for Zak, Ariel and John to help with their needs.

A Future for News

Just more than a month ago, I wrote about our 75th anniversary and shared what that felt like in the newsroom. It was a look back at where we began, and the thread that still runs deep here on Fifth Street.

Today I’m writing with the same intention of opening the door to the Sun’s psyche, if slightly differently. I also hope to bring you in on the discussion of a question always present in a newsroom: what’s next?

Call this part two of that 75th anniversary column.

I’m asked often about our future, which is no surprise in a region that’s seen a major metro newspaper go online-only, is filled with tech companies, and has an audience that has heard too often our industry’s “bad news” — declining circulation, laid-off staff, loss of trust in traditional news sources. With that backdrop, where we’re headed is a question we ask ourselves internally during the cycle of annual planning, both as the Sun and as a part of the E.W. Scripps company.

There’s also the future of our industry to contemplate, a complex question in a time when change is more prevalent than ever at newspapers and websites competing to stay relevant.

The easy answer is yes, there is a future for the Sun and for journalism. The tougher follow-up question is what that will look like, what growing pains we’ll go through, what skills our journalists will need, what new options readers and advertisers will demand, and whether the revelation that solves the riddle will be posted to Facebook or Twitter first.

I’m kidding on that last one, but those social media tools are a real part of our present and important to our future. How to harness new software or products to share the news and recruit talent that uses them is something we’re seeking, both in this newsroom and in collaboration with our 14 sister newspapers in the Scripps chain. (Newspapers that, incidentally, are using Facebook now to explore the issue if you’d like to join, at facebook.com/futureofnews.)

One step in finding that answer is Sunday’s front-page story package, our contribution to the media’s attempt to explain how changes in information consumption shapes what we do. The exercise helps explain a trend to readers, but also helps our newsroom think through the challenge.

The lead story, by reporter Derek Sheppard, looks at how mobile devices have changed communication habits. That’s as broad as how much easier it is to talk with one another, something not unique to Kitsap County, and can be as narrow as how that technology delivers kitsapsun.com in a way not even thought of four years ago.

When we review readership numbers, mobile-phone use — whether on the iPhone, Blackberry, Android or other phone through m.kitsapsun.com — has become the consistent leader for growth. With Kindle and iPad popularity growing, smartphones may not hold that lead for much longer. Looking at where readers fit us into busy and technology-soaked lives is in part what prompted Sheppard’s inquiry, and it’s why we are spending resources to find out how we serve our community through those platforms while still putting energy into a printed newspaper.

Another piece in today’s edition is a profile of Publicola, a Seattle website started 18 months ago. We examined the niche political site to offer a specific look at an online-only publication staffed by journalists with deep roots — who, not incidentally, walked away from paying gigs to experiment with digital-only publishing. Other attempts have been made in the Pacific Northwest, most notably with seattlepi.com, but Publicola offers an interesting angle on the story because it’s evolved a niche news strategy and business plan swiftly — with a flexibility that may be common in media for the foreseeable future.

There is some hope for journalism in that start-up, just like the encouragement I see when the Sun’s mobile and online readership builds on our print reputation. Or when our staff adapts to new technology, or when new readers find us through Facebook or a mobile site. As I wrote in July, there’s also optimism when people simply ask how the Sun is doing these days.

Technology, as we’re seeing with niche websites and social media hubs, doesn’t diminish the interest folks still have in local news — and I believe the advances can make that community more inclusive. For example, visit a site that specifically serves tomato growers, or fly-fishermen, or Kitsap County prep football, or, I have to mention, our comment threads on stories. None of that existed not long ago. People are in dialogue more specifically, but we’re still a relevant part of that.
There are more entry points to our newsroom now, more ways for us to be part of a conversation that was for decades relegated to the Opinion page or your breakfast table, and more ways for readers to be informed or involved. There are success stories coming from start-up news organizations that we watch, new delivery devices to make reading convenient, and nonmedia digital companies we can learn from or partner with.

Answering the questions related to those innovations and other trends we see in the business world — “Who pays for this stuff?” chief among them, of course — is the part of the discussion we’re knee-deep in. It’s also the part I’m inviting you to participate in.

— David

A Few Last Thoughts On 75 Years

By now you’ve all seen how we celebrated our 75th anniversary in print. I hope you enjoyed the special section, and the online companion piece. I’ve been raving about the ‘How News is Made’ video the past two days, and not because of my performance. It just did such a nice job capturing so many aspects of a day here, as well as the thoughts and personalities that are a part of putting the Sun out. If you see Angela Dice on the street, tell her “nice job.”

The anniversary day here was filled with, naturally, putting together news for kitsapsun.com and Friday’s paper. You can’t completely close down for a party at a daily operation. But we did take some time to savor the moment.

Management grilled hot dogs and burgers out behind the office and we shared a big staff lunch in the afternoon. The in-house ping pong tournament was won by Circulation Manager Dennis Harang, who then compared himself to Kobe Bryant for the focus it took to climb such a mountain. He might have been joking. In the evening we unveiled the “Newspapers in Art” show at Collective Visions Gallery. First prize went to “Paperboy,” by Brett Enos, seen just below. Second was “Zenoscope” by Frank Corsey and Ron Harper, and Bruce Enns earned third for his box covered with portrait illustrations and a poem, titled “Faces of Kitsap.”

"Paperboy," by Brett Enos

We also welcomed Paul Scripps, who flew up from San Diego. Like I mentioned in Thursday’s special section, when Paul visits he always takes the time to greet everyone in the office and expresses how much this newspaper means to his family.  His father was the man who rescued the Sun in 1940, and to hear Paul tell it this place never left the heart of John P. Scripps. Paul’s a true gentleman, and to hear him share about our history — from “an acorn to an oak” is how he phrased it — was special.

I also had a few notes leftover that didn’t make today’s “75 Things You May Not Know About the Sun” I’ll share here.

First, I omitted Ed Friedrich from the list of long-time employees — Ed should have been listed as having been here 25 years. (There was a break in his tenure, so I think HR categorized him incorrectly. Still, I should have caught it.) Secondly, I didn’t find a space to point out one more interesting thing about former editor Gene Gisley: Gisley wasn’t a journalist by trade initially. He was a professional printer, and came up through that side of the business before moving into a reporter’s desk. That doesn’t happen often. Third, when preparing a presentation on our 75th that I’ve given to a few Rotary Clubs, I found Gisley’s notes from 25 years ago. One is a memo scheduling an appointment to speak to a Kiwanis Club. The contact name on that yellowed sheet of paper is Vic Ulsh, now head broker at Bradley Scott — and the same guy who arranged my speech to the East Bremerton Rotary Club on Wednesday. The more things change…

Finally, I apologize for being a little light here on the blog lately. I’ve been busy working on that 75th anniversary material and got a little swamped. But there’s a few ideas kicking around on items to share, and I’m planning to get back into a more regular schedule of keeping you up to date on the comings and goings of a newsroom.


Keeping the Public’s Business Public

In the newsroom we place considerable importance on the maintenance of public meetings laws. Our watchdog role, after all, includes publishing the rather mundane weekly schedule of those meetings and having reporters sit in to listen and report on our elected officials’ decisions. So we’re sensitive, and take it seriously, to any time public servants meet in an unannounced group — or even when there’s any perception that the public’s business is taking place behind closed doors.

Two situations this week highlighted those laws to us, and I hope can showcase the extent our journalists go to pay attention and uphold the responsibility I mention above. The situations here don’t border on illegality — quite the opposite in one case — so don’t read this as an accusation. This explanation is to provide some insight on an issue we consider vital in a functioning democracy.

With that said…

Wednesday morning Kitsap County issued notice of a special meeting, giving a legally-required 24-hour advance that it would be open to the public. Hours later at the commissioners’ work session, where Sun reporter Chris Dunagan was in attendance, they previewed the meeting between commissioner Josh Brown and the Port of Bremerton commissioners to discuss transit planning. South Kitsap Commissioner Charlotte Garrido said she wanted to be there, with all commissioners acknowledging that her attendance would make the meeting public.

The county had noticed a meeting before it even knew the session would be public, in other words. That’s pretty proactive in following the letter of the law. Commissioner Steve Bauer also made the point that any “candid” conversation should not be withheld because a reporter may be in attendance. (As one was, if you read Ed Friedrich’s story from that meeting.) You could call that pretty proactive in following the spirit of the law. Both actions are the type we like, the law likes, and you should like too.

Now, the other example.

At least a week ago reporter Chris Henry was told about a meeting between a few elected officials to discuss county annexation policy, specifically learning from revenue-sharing issues that came up during Port Orchard’s annexation of McCormick Woods. She blogged about it, indicating the meeting was not public. But this week Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola told Chris he’d be fine if she was in attendance, with the caveat that he did not call the meeting and did not have final say on whether media would be welcome. Mary McClure, executive director of the Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council, was heading the meeting up, and therefore held the final say on the invite list.

The meeting was also to include three two Port Orchard council members, three county DCD employees and County Commissioner Charlotte Garrido. No quorum of any public body, but still a number of elected officials talking about something that is important to Port Orchard in the near-term, and eventually will be to the whole county.

Chris Henry was scheduled to be off Thursday, so the tip was passed to Brynn Grimley, who has covered the Silverdale incorporation issue for us. Brynn planned her day to be at the City Hall county offices in Port Orchard by 9 a.m., with the understanding that, based on Coppola’s offer and the fact that this was an issue that had been discussed publicly, those in attendance were unlikely to object to her presence when things got going. The city of Port Orchard, following up on Coppola’s offer, attempted to contact McClure Wednesday to let her know we had expressed interest in a Sun reporter attending.

McClure didn’t respond to the city’s email on Wednesday, but did call our offices early Thursday repeatedly trying to reach Brynn. Her attempt was done as a courtesy so that Brynn didn’t spend time showing up for something a reporter, legally, was not entitled to attend.

Brynn didn’t get those messages, which were left from 7 a.m. until 8:30 or so, and arrived at the county offices to learn McClure’s opinion. Brynn headed back to the Sun office. While frustrated to have planned on covering a meeting and then having the door shut, she understood and respected the decision. Brynn spent a few hours on other tasks and then called around to interview those who were at the meeting.

Everyone seemed candid about what transpired, with accounts that matched up with one another’s, and Brynn was able to report and write a story we believe to be accurate without actually sitting in on the session. Again, nothing improper was done by anyone involved, and all were cooperative following the session. McClure explained that she had not been given time to notice the others that a reporter may be in attendance and didn’t want them surprised, which can happen when someone with a pen and paper — or laptop and videocamera, these days — shows up unannounced. McClure also told Brynn on Thursday that, in her judgment, she wanted the meeting participants to be “sincere” in their comments, and wasn’t sure that would be possible with an “audience” present. That’s the same issue Steve Bauer raised with the commissioners, with a different interpretation.

This isn’t meant to sound like sour grapes, nor to discount the need to do some public negotiation in private. We still got the story, albeit a version based on post-meeting interviews, after several phone calls. McClure did not violate any public meetings laws with her request, and Brynn squared away any miscommunication that had transpired about who had capacity to issue invitations and who should have been asked up front.

Still — and here’s the point — when a reporter is told he or she can’t attend a meeting that doesn’t seem to step into the bounds of executive privilege or sensitive negotiations, it raises the antennae in our newsroom. When we see an attendee list that looks like a quorum, our eyebrows rise. And when we observe a public body abiding by the rules in place and openly talking about the consequences, as the county commissioners did this week and do on a routine basis to remain transparent, trust is built. We like to think those are good natural reactions.

But I also point this week’s episodes out as a reminder for politicians about how strongly we feel about those meeting laws and how should we expect them to speak candidly to one another no matter the venue. Also, it’s hopefully a sign to readers that, day in and day out, we intend to continue as the eyes and ears for the community. Last, it may be interesting for the layperson to note the procedural difference between an open meeting and what allows talks to go on in secret — in the case of the transportation discussion Thursday, one county commissioner’s attendance, and in the other meeting, the lack of a quorum of Port Orchard City Council by just one.

If you’re interested in learning more about public meetings law, the state website is here.

Maybe this is all just my way to stress that the more we are aware of that public process, with the full understanding of the laws on public meetings and transparent elected officials heeding those rules, the better off we all are. Sometimes we all need that reminder.

— David Nelson