Jerre Redecker: Reporter revisits Iraq; sports writer gets radio gig

August was a busy month for Olympian news staffers. First, in a case of either good or bad timing, depending on your point of view, Adam Ashton, military reporter for The Olympian and The News Tribune, went to Baghdad as a correspondent for the Washington, D.C., bureau of our company, McClatchy.

Ashton spent four months in Iraq on assignments in 2008 and 2009. In the spring of 2012, he spent a month and a half with Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldiers in Afghanistan.

This time, he was not embedded. He lived and worked in a Baghdad hotel with a driver and translator he’s known for six years. They got out and about in the city as much as possible.

“I wanted to see what Iraq looks like three years after the last large U.S. forces left the country. I appreciate their sacrifices much more after spending the past four years covering the Army and Air Force at Joint Base Lewis-McChord,” Ashton told his editors.

“My first impression is that the city itself is more open than when I saw it last in 2009. I noticed far fewer checkpoints and some new storefronts in Baghdad’s Karrada neighborhood. Two wedding celebrations took place beneath my hotel window, showing that someone has hope for the future.

“That said, we had to take a circuitous route to the hotel because of road closures stemming from a deadly car bomb. And I heard the rumble of a car bomb just a couple hours after settling in.”

It’s an important job, and, as the horrific news of the murder of journalist James Foley illustrates, a dangerous one. As much as we appreciate his work there, we are grateful he is safely home.

Back at home, Olympian preps reporter Meg Wochnick is taking her expertise to the airwaves.

Meg was hired at The Olympian in 2007 after graduating from Pacific Lutheran University and interning at The Olympian. She has become the source for local sports coverage in South Sound. She now juggles her duties as the newspaper's sports writer with her new gig of sports radio talk show host on KGY’s “Red Zone Talk.”

KGY approached Meg after she wrote about the station dropping its high school football and basketball play-by-play coverage. A local businessman, Greg Kero, founder and CEO of Olympia’s A Street Investment and a Timberline High School graduate, read the story, and wanted to keep high school sports on KGY in some capacity. That’s when the idea was sprung about Meg hosting a weekly show.

“Meg has a long history of covering area sports for The Olympian newspaper and is a well-respected reporter,” Kero said.

Listen for it Fridays at 8:30 a.m. on KGY 95.3 FM.

Still speaking of sports, it’s football season!

You’ll notice plenty of stories by Gregg Bell, new Seattle Seahawks beat writer. Bell’s coverage appears in The Olympian and The News Tribune.

Bell was director of writing for the University of Washington athletic department. Before that, he was a senior national sports writer for The Associated Press, working in its Seattle bureau. He also covered the Oakland Raiders and Athletics for The Sacramento Bee.

Bell is an Ohio native and a West Point graduate and has a master’s degree in journalism from the University of California at Berkeley.

And another new face, Amelia Dickson, is joining The Olympian news staff to cover police and courts. She’s a Western Washington native and a graduate of the University of Washington.

While at UW, she was a reporting intern during the legislative session, where she caught the attention of our Capitol bureau staff. Dickson has been working at the Daily World in Aberdeen, writing about local government, the Legislature, business and crime. You might be able to find her at trivia night at an Olympia brew pub, with a team of journalists, including Adam Ashton.

We’re out there, covering the news you need. Thanks for reading.