The Columbian: Bankruptcy, Restructure, Tax Breaks and Still Late

by lewwaters

I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised to see our local newspaper of record once again reporting news after others do. It seems to be the pattern down there for some time now.

Be it the news of death threats against former congressman Brian Baird being found not credible before his August 18, 2009 town hall, uncovered by blogger Kelly Hinton weeks before the Columbian reported it or ongoing problems at the Hazel Dell Value Motel, reported on and uncovered by Marcus Griffith of the Vancouver Voice, not to leave out the numerous times KPAM, KATU, KPTV, KUPL or KGW news teams scoop them on local Clark County news, the Columbian continually comes up short when it comes to getting news out in a timely fashion.

Editor Lou Brancaccio has said they will not run with rumors or publish speculation, which was highly noticeable in the case of former 49th legislative district representative Jim Jacks abruptly quitting the seat, mid-session and just weeks after being sworn in for another term.

Others weren’t so fortunate to have the local paper of record in their pocket that spared little ink in speculating or questioning the truthfulness of their claims.

In the case of Marcus Griffith of the Vancouver Voice, someone I have had my differences with, he did make the effort to confirm what nearly all of us in town knew, that there were serious infractions and shady dealings going on at the Motel. I believe he could have accomplished that without spending the night there, but have to credit him with actually going in there and doing his own investigation and then reporting on it, once again, before the Columbian reported about it.

And now once again, almost as regular as clockwork, Griffith beats them to the punch on the Motel asking for additional time to clean up the mess they have allowed to fester there.

May 23, 2011 the Vancouver Voice ran Filthy hotel may get 30 more days to clean up where we read,

“The owners of The Value Motel have requested a 30-day extension to the May 25 deadline to correct the myriad of deficiencies discovered by health inspectors earlier this year.”

“Rodent infestation, soiled bedding, blood stains and “organic smears” were only a few of the wide spread unsanitary conditions the inspectors discovered after the hotel’s conditions were featured in a Vancouver Voice article.”

“A decision to grant, or deny, the 30-day extension may be reached by the end of this week, according to Department of Health Program Manager, Shannon Walker. Walker also indicated that no decision has been made regarding what type of sanctions the hotel will face if it doesn’t meet the deadline.”

May 24, 2011 the Columbian runs Value Motel owners ask for more time to clean up where we read,

“The state gave the Value Motel ownership until Wednesday to correct the identified deficiencies or face sanctions, including civil fines or revocation of the operating license.”

“Last Thursday, the state health department received the request for a 30-day extension, said Sharon Moysiuk, a spokeswoman for the department. State officials have not yet decided whether to approve or reject the extension, she said.”

“The safety survey included the inspection of the main laundry room, pool, hot tub, electrical panels, common areas, stairwells, hallways, water heaters, the exterior of the building and 23 unoccupied rooms.”

“Officials reported finding grimy, oily and unsanitary bedspreads; mattresses and bedsheets stained with urine, feces and blood; and walls discolored by grimy smears, food splash and ‘other organic debris’.”

Not much difference, but a day later than a local blog/free newspaper.

It’s been a couple years now that the Columbian filed for bankruptcy, having gotten into financial difficulty, not the least of which was the eagerness for a bright and shiny new office building amid a time of declining subscriptions. They emerged from bankruptcy with editor Brancaccio boastfully proclaiming in a February 6, 2010 editorial,

“because we’ll be around for a long time: To those who challenge us on what we do and why we do it — well, you’ll have a place to voice all of that. Here at The Columbian.”

A year before they emerged from bankruptcy we read, Newspaper publishers seek tax cut with publisher Scott Campbell saying,

“As leaders of our companies, we have had to really buckle down and figure out how to weave through this economic time.”

They received their tax cut, went through the bankruptcy and emerged successfully. But, that “figure out how to weave through this economic time” seems to elude them still.

Perhaps, getting on top of news in Clark County, stop lagging behind out of state media and bloggers, being fair across the board when it comes to reporting on scandalous activities of elected officials and actually having reporters take on tough assignments, not just appear at fluff council meetings would have Clark County citizens seek them out before they do blogs and free newspapers like the Vancouver Voice and tuning into Portland, Oregon media for the latest in Clark County, Washington.

Until then, people will turn to where they get the news first and all too often, it isn’t the Columbian.

11 Comments to “The Columbian: Bankruptcy, Restructure, Tax Breaks and Still Late”

  1. Virtual high five to both Lew and Marcus.

    Well done to you both.

  2. High 5 Lew and Marcus… And coming up very soon might be KPAM and KKOV (Vancouver Talk formerly KKAD.) who might be putting out news as well?

    One person you haven’t covered lew is Victoria and Lars? You might be surprised how much news they pick up on this side of the river too… And Lars does live on this side of the river.

  3. Jeremy, I’m well aware of Victoria picking up news from this side of the river. Often, I send it to her and many others do as well. She hs picked up quite the following from this side.

    Lars does too, but he doesn’t seem to seek as much news from over here as does Victoria. She remains our most ardent source of news.

    As for KKOV, I’ve met with a young man who would like to be a radio show host on the new channel. I haven’t heard yet whether or not or how soon they will broadcast from over here, but if they intend to be Vancouver, or Clark County Talk Radio, they do need to have some local programs as well as syndicated ones.

    Time will tell, though.

  4. I, for one, can’t wait.

  5. The Columbian has been out of touch with the community it resides in for so long now that it isn’t funny.

    In the latest out-of-touch saga, The Columbian has decided to require every commentor to post through a “facebook account”. Of course, a lot of people don’t want a facebook account and have very valid reasons not to want one, but that hasn’t deterred the latest bone-headed “edict” from Columbian managment.

    I’m not sure what they expect the “goals” to be of this latest move. Scaring away commentors surely won’t help their pop-up ad revenue, and it sure won’t drive people to subscribe to the newspaper.

    Since it’s very easy to create a phony facebook account, it sure won’t stop the trolls but it will stop the average person from making an occasional comment online.

    So all you will end up with is the trolls.

    Stupid move, I think.

  6. I wonder if they think it will boost readership by facebook ads?

    If it is, I doubt it will work.

    Many of us have told them what we wished to see before we subscribed again and they refuse to supply it, falling back on their claim of equal coverage because they endorsed Bush in 2004 and a RINO in 2010.

  7. Over 200 comments were made regarding this announcement. The vast majority were negative. Most of their frequent contributors indicated their intent to boycott the plan to require Facebook.
    The Columbian might as well try charging money to view their website. That would have the same effect as forcing it’s users into this Facebook plan. Once the users abandon them, it will be too late to “rollback” this crackpot idea.

  8. Honestly Lew and Jack, you are not the only ones to complain that the local newspaper is “out of touch with reality.” I have heard the comment for nearly twenty years and its still seems to ring true?

    And yes, I have commented on the bone-headed idea to use facebook as a login and authentication tool do to the ability to fake accounts at multiple levels to regain access and who is to know at the newspaper who is or is not a “real” person?

    And add to the horrific ideas is Facebook’s lack of security, ever changing lapse of focus and random changes to settings that leaves a person open to scrutiny. It forces a person to have to check each and every single successful login that some thing major did not change.

    And do you ever hear Facebook ever sending any special warnings or email letting us know about new options, opportunities or problems?

  9. George, they all ready do charge for an online e-edition. And a few years back, there was talk on the site that they were going to move to a WSJ and other online media paywall. They even still have some stories that they only allow in the paying print and e-editions.

    So it was talked about but I think it was trounced when it was shown that they made more money from all of the local web traffic and data mining efforts they place on columbian.com than they do from those newsprint and e-edition only stories OR a paywall for groups of stories they want to monetize.

    And until recently, most of their stories were really not worth reading.

  10. There is a “method” to The Columbian’s recent “madness”, Jeremy.

    After giving the matter some thought, by cutting off general comments and requiring posters to use facebook, The Columbian is effectively “silencing” critics of the “new bridge” boondoggle, the city council, and the county commissioners, from posting comments that can be seen by the general public at a time when the comments are most damaging to the boondoggle and the politicians.

    Remember, we have elections coming up and pressure is growing to get a vote on the “new bridge” boondoggle and The Columbian knows that. Hence the “shake-up”.

    The Columbian knows it will be losing revenue from “hits” in doing so, but the elitists don’t care. They’re going to be suicidal until the end.

    Hopefully the end will come soon for The Columbian.

  11. Well, I guess I might as well be the first one to say it: The Columbian blog has overnight become nothing but a boring place where everybody glad-hands Lou Brancaccio and Lou does a lot of glad-handing of himself.

    There is no real discussion or exchanges of opinion on the site worth mentioning and certainly no reason to join the Liberal love-fest. The blog receives few comments and is now but a shadow of it’s former self.

    Of course, I think we all knew that would happen.

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