At Large in Ballard: Meet your press
The roles seem reversed. The reporters used to work in an office above Market Street, leaving to cover meetings and conduct interviews while I fancied myself the one who was “at large in Ballard.”
Lately, I seem homebound with a project while the Ballard News-Tribune reporters and sales staff are the ones truly “at large” in the community.
As a cost-cutting measure Robinson Newspapers has closed the Ballard and West Seattle offices and switched to delivery by mail service. The commitment to the community is still there, and one could argue that reporters without an office can be even closer to the heartbeat of a neighborhood.
The question is, how to find the staff: The answer for now is the Ballard Neighborhood Service Center meeting room every Tuesday from 9 to 10:30 a.m.
People have come to expect news and information 24-hours a day, not once a week, which is why the publishers have put a great deal of effort into creating an online Ballard News-Tribune that has new content throughout the day, all the days.
In addition, online media allows for entire photo galleries of events, whereas the print edition has room for one at best.
Closing the office is partly a trade-off for expanded daily coverage. As the reporters and interns seek out wireless Internet for their Dell mini-laptops throughout Ballard they are available by email, on Facebook, through Twitter and cell phones.
Ballard, meet your press.
Rebekah Schilperoort (firstname.lastname@example.org) has been with the Ballard News-Tribune and West Seattle Herald since before graduating from the journalism program at the University of Washington, with a short break working for a web development company. Her title is currently Online Content Editor.
It’s hard for Rebekah to pin down her favorite places in Ballard, but she’d choose La Carta Oaxaca for lunch and Cupcake Royale for her tea or coffee, because they also have cupcakes, “and you can’t beat that.” She loves Classic Consignment and Damsalfly for browsing. Golden Gardens Park for hanging out when it’s sunny, at least before her bicycle tire exploded. She loves the free slice of bread at Great Harvest and the wallet she bought at Laura Bee.
Michael Harthorne (email@example.com) is the lead reporter. In addition to meetings and news he tries to cover as many of the Ballard athletics as possible. He’s Ballard Class of 2004. He graduated from Western Washington with a journalism degree, where they laughed at him because his career goal was to work for a community newspaper. In a way he’s living his dream. The part that isn’t a dream is the economic reality of reduced hours and needing to work a second job as cashier at Marketime in Fremont.
Michael knows all of the coaches at Ballard, which ones are great about returning phone calls and which ones aren’t. His freshman year in high school he chose the arts over sports by trying to go to a concert at The Moore instead of basketball try-outs.
As a journalist he gets to follow sports and music, along with everything in-between. He loves funky places like the Sunset Tavern, in part because of the music and they have one of his photographs hanging over the bar. He’d choose to lunch at Malena’s Tacos and play touch football at the new field at Salmon Bay School because it’s soft when you fall. He remembers strobe lights and strange emanations at night from the vacant Safeway store where Ballard Commons Park now stands. “Even with the graffiti,” he says, “It’s still way better than anything that was there before.” He misses being in the office right across the street from Sonic Boom.
Their first week with community office hours was quiet; the day and time were announced online, but on Tuesdays the library next door doesn’t open until 1 p.m. We discussed how they could increase visibility, a banner in the window, or free coffee and donuts. I proposed they take up residence in a vacant storefront.
“Like mannequins?” Rebekah asked.
They probably won’t like any of my other ideas. Even before the rainy season wireless was an issue for working from the skate bowl or the concrete couch in Ballard Corners Park. The area by the blood pressure machine at Bartell’s Pharmacy would be congenial but not a good match with prescription confidentiality.
These are strange times all around for print and online reporters like Rebekah and Michael but if being office-free opens the door for more community dialog they will be happy. They might even agree to working in a store window.
Go find them. Tell them your stories. Offer your news tips. Take them a donut, but mostly take the weekly opportunity to meet your press in person.
Ballard News-Tribune staff will be available on Tuesdays starting at 9 a.m. in the meeting room at the Ballard Service Center at 5604 22nd Ave. N.W.
Peggy Sturdivant can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.