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Three New Papers Bring Rich Tradition
to Knight Ridder

By Amy Rabinovitz

The triplets that joined Knight Ridder’s daily newspapers in August 2005 are healthy, hardy but hardly babies: Each has a rich tradition of journalism more than 100 years old, started by newspaper pioneers who served settlers in the Pacific Northwest.

The newspapers, The (Olympia, Wash.) Olympian, The (Boise) Idaho Statesman, and The Bellingham (Wash.) Herald were acquired as part of a deal with Gannett Co. Inc.

The Olympian
The city that’s the birthplace of grunge rock is also the state capital of Washington. It’s an eclectic mix of government workers, artistic souls, stalwart environmentalists and military families. It’s not an easy group to serve but the newspaper has proved up to the challenge.

“The Olympian is widely regarded by community and state leaders as feisty,” said Executive Editor Vickie Kilgore. “We take a stand.”

Occasionally accused by both liberals and conservatives as being “too far to the other side,” the paper strives to provide a rich and balanced view of issues. Editors often gather policy makers together for Community Forums. Two forums this year – on higher education and medical malpractice – were broadcast statewide on the state’s version of C-Span. “We take a role in leading the debate,” Kilgore said.

The Olympian gets in on the fun and funk in the city, too. One festival originated by the paper is the Pet Parade. Every year nearly a thousand kids bring their pets to city center and march around an eight-block route showing off their horses, dogs, cats, ferrets and just about anything else a parent would allow.

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The Idaho Statesman
The most geographically remote metropolitan area in the U.S., Boise is five hours by car to Salt Lake City, yet it’s anything but distant. Boise is Idaho’s state capital and the hub of a growing metropolitan area.

The Statesman focuses on this metro area with its commitment as the newspaper of the Treasure Valley (a moniker coined by the local Chamber of Commerce in 1959 to refer to refer to the “treasure chest of resources and opportunities in the area.”)

“The key to what we’re doing is local, which in our case means the entire southeast part of the state,” said Executive Editor Vicki Gowler.

In April 2006, the paper will launch a new format that divides the valley into three areas and provides zoned local news in the first section of each edition to emphasize the events most relevant to the area.

While the geography lends itself to conservative politics and a dislike of big government, it also encourages entrepreneurs. The Statesman plays an active role in that spirited energy.

The newspaper started one of the city’s most successful events four years ago, the Annual Legislative Forum. Co-sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, the luncheon brings technology and business leaders together with legislators and lobbyists to champion growth and technology issues.

“I was looking around the crowd at this year’s luncheon … there were about 800 people there,” said Gowler, “and I was really impressed that this is ‘our’ event. The impact of having the representatives, senators and tech companies together is huge.”

The Statesman also works on a neighborhood level through its Town editions. Each year, an editorial team takes part in a chili cook-off in nearby Meridian. The team makes its own concoction and, of course, covers the event.

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The (Bellingham) Herald

Though The Herald is not in a capital city, it is in the hub of a hot zone. “We’re a very politically active city,” said Executive Editor Julie Shirley. “Bellingham ranked with Berkeley in protests when we went to war in Iraq. When Bush got re-elected we had 400 people beating drums outside our offices.“

Political activism is just one of the lively points of coverage for the paper. The third-busiest Canadian border point and the northernmost and westernmost county in the continental U.S., Bellingham is growing with lots of newcomers coming from California and the Seattle metro area. But Whatcom County is still an independent market, buffered by national forest to the east, the Pacific Ocean to the west, Canada to the north and rural Skagit County to the south

“It’s a unique place to live,” Shirley said. “It’s common for people to ride bikes or walk the trails to work. We’re growing very fast and our coverage about the impact of that growth is strong. Mostly, we strive to capture a sense of place.”

Currently a portion of Bellingham’s port is undergoing a massive redevelopment, which Shirley describes as a “hundred-year opportunity [and one that] I want people to look back on and say, ‘They were all over that.’ ”

Of course it’s never all work and no play. Bellingham is home to the annual Ski To Sea Race, a rugged marathon in which participants run, ski, bike and kayak. The newspaper sponsors the parade, enters a competing team (“The Fighting Deadlines”) and after a day of participating, team members hurry back to the newsroom to write the coverage.

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