Saving the World — One Local Issue at a Time

Disregarding almost 90 percent of what is reported anywhere

You can say Snowden’s revelations matter and the big news about lies and Gaza killing matters and the unfolding bulletins about Jews and Zio-Nazi’s creating ISIS (you know all those historical terrorists that started the Jewish state and became prime ministers, generalissimos, presidents, heads of the .2 percent world wide disaster-shock doctrine capitalists WANTED an enemy to justify their existence as arms dealers, drone makers (future Buck Rogers child-woman-man killing unmanned air vehicles now in reality) matter. All of that pseudo crap of national and international scope, well, does it matter?

Think hard about how your community, wherever you reside, is being pummeled by the forces of evil, of the Eichmann variety, by those middling pigs of profit, by the constant flow of money into the wrong hands, all those sprawling billions of acres, all those highways and bi-ways clogging your life, and the dwindling water, the stagnant air, the sagging bridges and schools, the houseless and the large SWAT force that is about to make your day miserable.

Yet the world is run by Twitter politicians, rotten medicine, psychopathic psychology, the administrators and the shits that exact more and more of our flesh with taxes, fees, CPI shit so their systems runs smoothly for their ever-spiking profits.

Thinking globally, acting locally? Does it all come down to where you live and work and suffer and die that defines you, rather than the smut of the Mad Men, the smut of the elites, the smut of the coders and Amazon-Bezos and the TED-Talk pricks and all those ass-scratching politicians?

That this might matter a million times more than all the crap of Hollywood, State Department, BoA, BP, the entire warped thing those elites have unleashed like ebola and some prion of Mad Cow’s disease proportions, reported on daily and minute-by-minute by the most out of touch, mean-spirited, tragically insane reporters, err, mainstream corporate info-tainers and propagandists?

Really, we need to get a grip on understanding the worlds we live in and those we attempt to build to understand the global human condition. So, again, my alter-ego, the real me, working as a journalist, from my haunches here in the Pacific Northwest. But, every place I’ve been, even for a paltry two weeks, two months, two years, every place has been home, and has been the root of those synopses settling me into the waning years of my anarchy.

Ya’ll might recall that I had to change my avatar, from my given name to part of my name. Strange Zio-Nazi world I am in, with every word I write against the prevailing shitty sinister shysters of the fabric of my world.

It may see trivial, or quaint or paranoid, but truly, it’s so easy to let a few years as Paul Kirk go by while navigating a really shitty experience as a wage slaver today, someone drummed out of education because of not just my precariousness but my politicalness.

I just got this piece published, in my other hometown, you know, I have sixteen of them, more or less.

Just think though that your own little or big town depends on truth and news gatherers, not subject to the powers that be or the so-called sources — as that piece of shit LA Times reporter was, as the CIA’s front man for so many leads and stories.

Or, for instance, what does it mean the Associated Press (AP) held onto a story for more than three years about that missing American in Iran, Bob Levinson, who in fact was a mole/is a mole for the CIA? How does that unclog streets, lower the price of gas and give communites safe air and drinking water?

The American that went missing seven years ago in Iran, and is the longest held US hostage, was working for the CIA — and the Associated Press held the story for at least three years.

Bob Levinson, 65, was a former FBI agent. Now, a report released by the AP and The Washington Post reveals he was actually working for the CIA, as his captors have claimed.

Through the years, Levinson’s family has denied that he was working for the US government while in the country, but on a personal business trip at the time of his disappearance in 2007, while visiting Kish Island in Iran.

Just think about how dead community journalism is today, how rotten the mindsets are now of those owning the media, local or national or otherwise. Think how vital a competing and down and dirty bunch of news organs in one community, big or small, is to democracy, fairness, the universal rights we all aspire to, or at least most of us in the 80 percent.

Here, from my gig at Spokane Living Magazine.

Spokane’s Next Big Scoop – DOA for the Newspaper as We Once Read It?

cutting back on newsrooms, the dearth of on-line whatchamacallit it, distracted citizens


“The freedom of the press is one of the great bulwarks of liberty, and can never be  restrained but by a despotic government.” – Thomas Jefferson

“There are laws to protect the freedom of the press’s speech, but none that are worth  anything to protect the people from the press.” – Mark Twain

Ah, we’ll get to another take on what exactly a newspaper’s role is in our town, in this city’s future, and for our collective news literacy, but first a little history and shifting baseline: Spokane once had several dailies competing with each other. Spokane once had a full newsroom in the edifice that is known as “The Tower.” That Spokesman-Review building has seen several massive cuts to news staff that for many studying the media business liken this retraction to several death knells to our city’s news.

Making Headlines – The Competing Printed News

One of the hallmarks of a free and organized peoples is the robust level of the Press’ function in a community, or at least that’s one way of thinking about a town like Spokane and hundreds more across this country. Simply put, newspapers help us stay informed in order to be participants in the community, in democracy.

For me, with nascent newspaper roots in Tucson beginning in the 1970s, that included daily newspapers, both morning and evening ones, neighborhood bi-weeklies, radical weeklies, slick monthlies, and plenty of school newspapers, including the college rag where I cut my teeth, University of Arizona’s Daily Wildcat.

What that meant was Tucson, for its overall good, had a large tableau from which to debate politics, the razing of the Sonora desert, water issues, education, growth, crime, culture, sprawl, as well as those state and national issues where good local reporters and writers made broad and narrow connections to us, the citizens of the Old Pueblo (Tucson).

To cite the hackneyed economics’ focus around competition in today’s America, there was tooth and nail grappling with a morning and evening newspaper: reporters and editors competed to out-scoop the other team. This made for checks and balances (many times) in the minds and actions of elected officials and the business elite.

Out Go the Salish Songs, In Comes the Hot Type

Spokane has the same sort of competing dailies legacy as other cities I’ve worked in, including El Paso. Think of our Salish first nation’s gathering around the Falls; “Sun People – Children of the Sun” more or less translated from Spokan. While the paper of record in the country is considered by many to be the New York Times, for our neck of the Pacific Northwest, it’s been the Spokesman-Review.

Before the Spokesman-Review, there were other newspapers – The Spokane Falls Review, established in 1883 and The Spokesman, established in 1890. Of course, a weekly, Spokane Chronicle, had already been up and running in 1881.

The politics of the Chronicle was deep into the Democratic party, while Spokane Falls Review publisher Frank Dallam wanted his weekly to lean Republican. People from California and Chicago helped nurture this town’s news business.

Think of Spokane’s and the region’s mining boom, starting in 1883, and you will find a scoop by Dallam’s Review. The power of the pen magnified mining fever in these Review headlines – “Coeur d’Alene Mines!” “Gold Excitement at Fever Heat!” “New Developments with Rich Results!” “A Perfect Stampede into the Diggings!” “The Richest Placer Mines on the Coast.”

All over the West and as far east as St. Louis those stories launched the city of Spokane Falls’ huge influx of people. By June 1884, Dallam’s weekly turned into an evening daily, Spokane Falls Evening Review. Soon the “falls” was dropped from the paper’s masthead and the city writ large. All that early newspaper history is deftly cataloged by historian Ralph E. Dyar, in his 1952 book, The Spokesman-Review.

The new morning newspaper (1890) The Spokesman, entered the news field, and the competition was on. The Evening Review called the morning paper, “The Squaksman,” deriding it as a bogus paper. The Spokesman called the Evening Review (with a majority buy-in from the Portland paper, The Oregonian) “The Spokane Oregonian” and “The Morning Alien.”

Hold the Presses – Evening Papers Dying a Slow Death
That’s all changed for me long ago– the death of the evening papers in both El Paso and Tucson occurred more than a decade ago. The same with Spokane decades ago.

Our American landscape is littered with historically-significant newspapers that went belly up. Contraction of newsrooms has not abated by any measure.

“I’ve been lucky,” says Shawn Vestal, 47, who hired on with the Spokesman-Review in 1999 as assistant city editor. “I’ve reached a point of denial. I think about the state of journalism much less than I used to. For around ten years I went through shock for the people being laid off. I don’t spend time pondering the unknowable.”

Vestal’s teeth-cutting in journalism (25 years) goes back to Bozeman, Montana, and Roseburg, Oregon, work that ranged from city editor to reporter. In the 1990s, the Spokesman-Review had a circulation of over 152,000 (Sunday) with 164 newsroom staff. In 2001, 24 were cut. The newspaper was voted by Columbia Review of Journalism in 1999 as 23rd in the ranking of Top 25 Newspapers in the US.

Hell, when I ended up in Spokane from El Paso, in the summer of 2001, I sent in my application for a job as a reporter. For my decade in Spokane, cut after cut hit the Spokesman-Review – in 2008 another quarter of the newsroom staff was pink-slipped, bringing it down below 100.

If No More Competing Dailies, Bring in the Alternatives

There are alternatives to dailies, and one mainstay since its founding in 1993 has been the Pacific Northwest Weekly Inlander founded by brothers Ted S. McGregor, Jr. and J. Jeremy McGregor. I’ve worked for both the Inlander and another weekly, The Local Planet.

The Inlander has always seemed, though, to be a mainstream weekly, not biting off radical views, not taking under its cloak a truly left-of-center approach to the news. That’s been a trend in alternative weeklies for 20 years – pacification — as well as many weeklies haven been bought up into media groups. Not a good thing for hard-edged and cutting edge news.

Add to the list of options in Spokane the soon-to-be 10-year-old Out There Monthly, (OTM) purchased a year ago by husband-wife duo Derrick and Shallan Knowles.

Derrick had been with Conservation Northwest for years, and he’s got a graduate degree from EWU in technical writing. The magazine he and his wife (she went back to school to get a graphics arts degree) publish is all about the outdoors, the necessary equipment, camping, river-running, the gear and the personal insight into clambering outside for those four seasons of recreation this neck of the woods is well known for.

While not a newspaper, and while the monthly is not about reporting on natural resources issues, Knowles says OTM’s dueling editorial forum covers two sides of a particular issue – for example, pro/con columns about expanding or leaving alone the Mt. Spokane ski area; to wear or not to wear bike helmets; to cut down trees and pave the Ben Burr trail or keep it natural.

As is the case for all the news organs in town, size matters, so for sheer length of stories, there are limitations, as Knowles points out the 550-to-750-word mainstay of the monthly, including smaller sidebar pieces. He counts 1,000 words as features and 2,000 words as cover pieces.

The native Spokanite considers a recent piece he published, “The Art of Risk: Roskelley Awarded the Piolets d’Or Lifetime Achievement Award” by Chris Kopczynski, as indicative of more developed and multifaceted articles OTM will be offering up.

School House for Journalists?

I did the college daily thing as photographer, reporter, city editor. Took a load of classes in journalism, but ended up with biology and English degrees. For someone in the trenches a long time, since 1985, Roberta Kelly, teaching faculty at WSU-Pullman, has seen a sea change of thinking and abilities in each new class since teaching the Intro to News writing and Beginning Reporting to thousands of students.

Her glass when scanning the newspaper horizon is way less than half-filled.

She looks at all sorts of cultural dynamics at play with the downfall of journalism: “There will always be thoughtful consumers of news, but young people are not reading as much. Social issues play into this: parents aren’t able to spend as much time with their children. Then the single parent issue. There are many pressures on the family, and the downside is that students aren’t reading . . . reading the news. Being not very well informed is not good for democracy.”

The issues of why news is going down the drain are fundamental to Kelly, who was on the staff of the WSU veterinary college and was doing some freelancing when the college was shorthanded and asked her to teach basic journalism courses. She ended up going back to school to get a master’s in journalism.

“We have some big gaps in basic education. For example, geographically, my students don’t know much, for instance, where Afghanistan is on a map,” she said.

I also pointed out that the country as a whole is pretty misinformed.

“It’s pretty hard for Americans to see past their own needs,” she added. “If it’s not burning our house down, then we just don’t care, and just do not know. I do the best I can running around this track. If I can light one candle out of a hundred, then that’s all I can do.”

This is not just sour grapes or the dwindling light of a waning career, since Kelly sees herself working the 9 to 5 seven days a week grind for more years at WSU. Her philosophy is “to push everything else out of your mind” while in the classroom, and to put “all attention on the kids in front of you.”

Closer to home, within the EWU-Spokane journalism realm, one journalist and teacher ramifies much of what WSU’s Kelly told me.

“In my estimation, the state of journalism in Spokane and in the rest of the nation is very worrisome,” says Bill Stimson, dyed-in-the wool local journalist who’s worked for the Spokane Chronicle, the Inlander, Spokane Magazine and written a book, A View of the Falls. “The Internet has obviously given us access to much more information. I might say something in class like, ‘I don’t know what percentage of high school drop-outs subscribe to The New Yorker. . . . ‘ and fifteen seconds later some student in class will have consulted a smart phone and told me. That is a healthy sign for the future. They can get whatever information they want.

“The problem is in getting them to want the range and depth of information sufficient for citizenship,” he adds. “I get the feeling their interests are fragmented like the Internet: Many facts, no big picture. They can follow sports without turning a page and happening upon a story about, say, how Afghanistan is going. News is a serial story; if you miss it at first, it’s hard to get interested later.”

Goliath (Cowles fmaily) v. David (the rest of us)?

The big gun in town, the Spokesman-Review (SR), also lays claim to the Spokane Journal of Business and TV stations including KHQ-NBC, financial services, Inland Empire Paper Company, out of state media “products.” The Spokesman’s on many locals’ radar for various reasons, from the Riverfront Square debacle, to the Jim West story and earlier, in 1992 for Jess Walter’s coverage of the Ruby Ridge “incident,” capturing a Pulitzer finalist moniker for the paper.

The state of newspapers in our city is for some a half-full glass prospect, as current city editor Addy Hatch sees it. She’s been at the Spokesman for a decade, and spent two decades at the Journal of Business.

She professes that there always has been more journalism grads than jobs (when I was in the J-program in Tucson, at the University of Arizona, the writing on the wall was 600 grads per one daily newspaper job). She also points out that change through technology is disrupting her profession and hundreds others, “probably for the better.”

At age 52, SR‘s city editor counts her lucky stars, as any future downsizing will not affect her. For Addy Hatch, young people wanting to come into the business need to be ready to freelance, cobble together a living working many jobs, and get technology under their belts and specifically “to learn to write code.” It’s a new era of big data, analytics and a rapidly changing business model for the media, she enthusiastically states.

She rattled off many of the lacerations in what many of us old timers see as the death by a thousand cuts to journalism – a smaller footprint (less coverage in rural communities, small towns), fewer reporters (less coverage in rural communities, small towns) and navigating the digital platform which is undercutting the traditional business model. Read: lack of advertising revenues.

Like Metro columnist Vestal, SR city editor Hatch sees pluses and minuses in the disruption of news and advertising revenues tied to the on-line world. She touts the digital tsunami – “Eighty-three percent of 18-29 year olds report they use smart phones for news. It’s very challenging to report the news on that platform, but that’s a hell of a potentially large market with no barriers.”

Even as the largest news gathering company in town, Cowles Publishing Company does not have enough feet on the ground to do justice to the news potential in this large geographic area. Can we even imagine a Native American newsbeat reporting regularly on Indian Country, or regular ombudsman writers for the youth demographic or for the environment?

More than what Vestal charges are “armchair media-newspaper critics” who chaff at his idea of fair-play, there are real long-term members of the press who see some dark clouds gathering and the buzzards circling:

“For all its faults, the old newspaper unified a community or nation around important topics,” says 67- year-old Stimson, EWU’s journalism program director. “Even if you disagreed with or distrusted the newspaper, you were thinking about the topic at hand. You have to think about something even to disagree. Like other newspapers, the Spokesman-Review is melting before our eyes. I think we are going to sorely miss it. For about 125 years now, Spokanites have known exactly where their information comes from, which was the Cowles family. People have loved them or hated them, but the Cowles were a known quantity. They could be called to account. They were going to be here in a decade when results came in. They themselves had a strong stake in the community. If they made a mistake they had nowhere to hide. I have been a critic of the Cowles and their newspapers on many occasions. But that criticism was based upon very high expectations.”

Introspection and Critical Analysis – Missing from Mainstream News?

For this magazine to probe the debate – The state of news and journalism, healthy or sick? – in and of itself has something to do with my own roots, baselines, biases and values tied to what it is to be a good journalist, fine writer and open thinker.

Community journalism is intended to be a responsible journalism, a way to highlight a free-flow of information that not only entertains and creatively expresses words in relationship to how the culture engages, but also how well the community can figure out how to access all those seats of power who have large and small stakes in the public’s health, safety and welfare.

For me and others long in the tooth, journalism is about being an ombudsman for all sectors of government – the watchdog, or what is commonly called the Fourth Estate – as well as keeping in check the business sector and the public and private agencies that both live off of and depend on the citizens in a representative democracy.

What is the state of journalism in the Inland northwest? Well, for some, the glass is half empty, while for others, it’s half-full.

For Chris Hedges, well known war correspondent for the New York Times and author of several books, being a reporter is about hammering away to work for truth: “And that is the difference between news and truth. And I think the really great reporters care about truth more than they do about news. They’re not the same thing. Remember, as journalists, our job is to manipulate facts. I did it for many years. I can take any set of facts and spin you a story anyway you want. And if I’m very cynical, I can spin it in a way that I know is good for my career but is not particularly truthful to my reader. And I always attempted to convey to my reader the truth.”

Even that lifestyle monthly Derrick and his wife run (purchased from city council-member Jon Snyder) is operating as a part of the” news biz,” without too much stretch of the imagination. Although he has no grounding from a journalism school, Knowles knows that the flood of content on-line has dumb-downed the media. That’s resulted in a loss of accuracy, less news, and more entertainment, capturing the public’s short attention span.

“What’s worked for us is we are authentically part of our audience, and provide inspiring stories about things that are real, that get the reader excited about things they do and like,” Knowles says.

Metro columnist Vestal – featured in our magazine last year as author of a short story collection, Godforsaken Idaho – feels strongly that he is a vital member of the community. “That changes my attitude, softens it. I think differently about the people I write about. I have more empathy and am less zealous.” He has embraced Spokane, defends it, hates constant criticism of it and sees things taking off culture and economic wise in River City.

The Bronx native Roberta Kelly sees the daily erosion in our culture’s – youth’s – ability to tell stories as one prong of the trident skewering journalism. She sees a need for students to get “more face to face handling,” not much less as the new on-line University of Phoenix and ASU models are pushing. She also sees a journalism diploma as a broad degree where graduates if they applied themselves can use technology and access information and digest it critically in almost any profession.

The plight of the ordinary citizen is being shunted aside for celebrity/entertainment “journalism,” and that frightens me, Hedges, and thousands of others, including the local news folk cited in this piece. Protests – unlike those in the 1960s – rarely get national and local attention. Those defying the common narrative and paradigm need to be heard, and newspapers and TV once provided that. The failings of newspapers are huge, but as Stimson and Kelly ramify for me, the battle for democracy flooding the world, including dissent, civil disobedience and protest, has been part and parcel what the Press has done to help our world learn to fight against repression and despotism.

Stimson: “This sorting out into narrow interest groups will likely be true of most journalism based in the Internet, which tends to be an infinitely targeted medium. I now get Internet ads based upon what I have purchased. How long can it be before I am getting news reports based upon my beliefs? If that happens we’ll all continue to believe what we already believe, except more and more intensely, and in three or four decades our politics will resemble Iraq’s.”

Dramatically, two countervailing but insightful commentaries on the power of the press posted as this article’s epigrams can be counterpointed with words by one of my J-heroes, Izzy (IF) Stone:

“The fault I find with most American newspapers is not the absence of dissent. It is the absence of news. With a dozen or so honorable exceptions, most American newspapers carry very little news. Their main concern is advertising.”

Paul Haeder's been a teacher, social worker, newspaperman, environmental activist, and marginalized muckraker, union organizer. Paul's book, Reimagining Sanity: Voices Beyond the Echo Chamber (2016), looks at 10 years (now going on 17 years) of his writing at Dissident Voice. Read his musings at LA Progressive. Read (purchase) his short story collection, Wide Open Eyes: Surfacing from Vietnam now out, published by Cirque Journal. Here's his Amazon page with more published work Amazon. Read other articles by Paul, or visit Paul's website.

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  1. Paul Kirk said on September 7th, 2014 at 11:47am #


    I liked your article — its very true, “it all comes down to where you live,” and that’s where awareness and positive change for the better always begins. Back in 1969, graduating high school in June, low SAT score, into fast cars and girls, and having been rejected for admission at Wilkes-barre-based King’s College, my draft number was 22, and I hopped onto the draft’s “Fast Track.”

    Right now, it is evident (around here) that lots of 19 year-old people desire to join the military — simply due to fact there’s not enough Wal Mart and Waffle House jobs around, and warehouse pay is diddly squat. Back in Summer 1969, lots of jobs for a academic under-achiever like myself, but the Draft beckoned, and the Vietnam War and the daily “casualty count” horror became quite a LOCAL reality. Was not just a news report about crushing jihadist “insurgents,” killing by weaponized drones, and every now and then, an American soldier dead by I.E.D., gunned down by “friendly fire.” I should not GENERALIZE and undermine “grunt” victims of the War on Terror travesty, but it’s quite rare for local Scranton-based communities to actually even KNOW a war is going-on, AND sometimes realize THEY THEMSELVES are targeted by the exceptional forces of 1% Goodness.

    Finally, in your articles, I am hoping you might choose, as a sordid example, another Nazi creature than Eichmann. This is of course tentative to your perhaps using him as an example of a sophomore demon who bureaucratically made sure Nazi deportations and extermination processes went smooth. If you find time, please consider reading journalist Hannah Arendt’s book, “The Banality of Evil: Eichmann in Jerusalem.” She did her job very well while at the weird trial, and showed how Eichmann’s completion of his “awful-things-to-do-list” depended on the vital help of Jewish Councils. Along with 9/11’s official line, the world can add Hannah’s latter insight to the list of “The Greatest Stories Never Told.”

    Lots of US Empire success depends upon their ability to control history. Freud said, “In order to understand one’s present, one must understand the past.” Then came Orwell’s brilliant insight about distorting language and prophecy about State control of the past and present, and the development “good jobs” in US public/private sector’s MEMORY HOLE, Inc. and INFRASTRUCTURE TO HELL and NOWHERE, L.L.C. industries.

    Good job, wish you and family a good day.

    Chuck Orloski