My career transition and what it will bring

I wish to thank everyone who sent their congratulations, appreciation and good wishes to me over the past week since I announced that I’ll be starting down a new career path in environmental reporting. See Water Ways, Oct. 17.

I’m still in transition, and I expect that it will be about three weeks before I rev up this blog to a new level, with more original reporting — like my interview Monday with Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research, who talked about the discouraging loss of the newest orca calf born to the Southern Resident pods.

If you’re not a subscriber to this blog, you may want to wait and see if you like the change. On the other hand, you won’t get any junk email by subscribing. All you’ll get is an email with a paragraph of text when I write something new — an email easily deleted if you’re not interested. To subscribe to email (or RSS) click on the appropriate box in the right column. If you have any trouble or would just like to contact me directly, my new email is ChrisBDunagan(at)gmail.com.

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While this Water Ways blog will bring you more discussions of new ideas and reflections about ongoing environmental issues, my other goal is to write some in-depth stories for the Kitsap Sun and potentially other publications. I will be completing the series “Taking the Pulse of Puget Sound” in November and December.

Although I officially accepted an early-retirement package, I’ve avoided the “r” word, as noted by the Kitsap Sun’s editor, David Nelson, in a piece that ran in Sunday’s edition. Thank you, David, for your strong and ongoing support.

By David Nelson, Editor, Kitsap Sun

I promised Chris Dunagan we wouldn’t use the “r-word” when telling readers about the transition he’s entering in his career. Chris, as he’sexplained in his column, is stepping away from the daily grind of the newsroom. But he’s not losing the passion he has for environmental journalism, or the significant role he’s played and will continue to play in our mission of providing local journalism.

So I won’t use that word. But I’m going to take a moment to recognize a desk in a corner of a newsroom cubicle, suddenly empty after so many years, piled high with scientific studies, legal documents, tip sheets and notebooks overflowing with ideas. And then there are the shelves in our newsroom library, stacked with books on salmon and stormwater studies, and the files that fill a row of cabinets labeled with the same name: Dunagan. Most of these, I’m afraid, are retiring from our cluttered office.

But those stacks are the signs of a career spent digging deeply and seriously into a topic, and it’s a role Chris has performed like no one else. He was the first environmental and land-use reporter in the history of the Sun and three decades of work on that topic has provided this community and the region with an incredible resource. From early work that turned into a book that was honored by the governor and state library, “Hood Canal: Splendor at Risk,” to an intensive ongoing project that will conclude this winter, “Taking the Pulse of the Puget Sound,” to his fun annual guide to salmon stream watching, Chris’s ambition can never be questioned.

There isn’t a reporter I know who spends more time researching and detailing his ideas. Editors know what that can mean — a Dunagan story may be proposed at a certain number of words, but once he’s fleshed out every nook and cranny of a topic and understands complicated matter inside and out, he’s going to ask for a little more space in the paper. Even having cursed the editing process myself occasionally when squeezed for print space, I admire the perseverance, dedication and joy he has for his topics, from orcas to neighborhood disputes over land development, to the health of the waterways that are vital to our way of life in the Puget Sound.

I’ll miss seeing Chris buried at that busy desk each day. But as he mentions in his column, readers will still know what’s on his mind and what he’s studying. He’ll continue having a byline into the future, similarly to how longtime Sun writers like Chuck Stark, Seabury Blair, Travis Baker have remained part of our family while also focused on other aspects of life or pursuing outside projects.

And I remain committed to the Sun’s long-standing coverage of the environment, both through Chris’s continued contribution and our more recent development of outdoors coverage, which approaches environmental and land use questions from another perspective. You can plan on continuing to read about resource management, land planning and the health of ecosystems in our pages and websites.

Chris isn’t gone, he won’t be forgotten. But he is thanked for an incredible contribution to this newsroom over more than three decades and he leaves with the only r-word any reporter really wants from his editor and readers: respect, for both the stories we’ve read and those to come.

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