One of the most enjoyable things we can do as the local newspaper is tell stories about the community that may surprise as well as inform readers.
Recently, we’ve had several opportunities to do that. I’m guessing that most people didn’t know there was an orphanage in Lacey, where hundreds of Depression-era children were cared for when their families no longer could.
Columnist John Dodge heard about the home and shared the story with readers in a column March 30.
The 71-acre farm site is now the Homewood Addition on the east side of Homann Drive in Lacey. Records, such as they are, are kept at the Lacey Museum. But most were lost when fire destroyed the boys’ dormitory in 1936. We were able to find the front page of what was then the Daily Olympian to document the demise of the Children’s Farm Home.
In another story, reporter Rolf Boone looked back at a landmark that is still standing — the Skyline Drive-in — which is celebrating its 50th anniversary. It’s the last drive-in movie in the area, and many people have fond memories of long nights there, including one reader who told us how she and her friends used to pack the car to sneak in.
Of course, outside of Thurston County, the horror and tragedy of the mudslide in Oso has dominated the news. We talked to local geologists and planners and found out that while there are slide-prone areas here, none has the potential to claim as many lives and create as much damage as did the Oso slide.
When disaster strikes, news teams come right on the heels of the first responders. It’s always a fine line of how to get vital information to the public while not impeding rescue efforts or intruding on victims.
As the routine of daily press conferences wore on, many in the public, the media and the agencies offering information grew frustrated with the difficulty in finding out names of victims, or even the number of victims. I saw some comments on social media about reporters asking too many questions, or repeating questions.
From our point of view, it’s better to push for information from those whose job it is to provide it than to intrude on victims or members of a grieving community who are thrust into public view because of a horrible disaster. We repeat questions because sometimes that will tease out the end of a thread that will lead to more answers.
I hope we never have to respond to a disaster like what is happening in Oso. But The Olympian does have a plan for how to react in the case of a major storm, snowfall, fire or other big breaking news event.
After ensuring their personal safety, news staff member have lists of key phone numbers for city officials and first responders. They know how to get information out online from wherever they may be.
Everyone has the equipment to take photos and video and upload it to theolympian.com.
Big news stories have a rhythm, with a flurry of quick response, a flood of sometimes random information, and an ongoing attempt to sort everything out so that readers get the information they need to cope with the event.
Then, as first responders begin to manage the crisis, the story settles into a series of press briefings, with new information officially released. About that time, the personal stories begin to emerge, and the disaster can be seen through other people’s experiences.
It’s an adrenaline rush that we hope not to have to experience. But we’re ready.
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I’m venturing out into another medium Tuesday, sitting on the other side of an interview at 9 a.m. on KGY.
It’s been a long time since I’ve been on the radio. It will be a good reminder about how it feels to be answering questions instead of asking them.
I’m also going to speak to a group at Panorama later in the month. If you have questions for me or would like me or someone from the newspaper to talk to your group, give me a call at 360-754-5422.
Thanks for reading.
Jerre Redecker is senior editor of The Olympian.