Tuesday, May 24, 2011

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

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.

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