Readers are invited to discuss the future of the paper over coffee

Danielle Chastaine takes over as the new editor of the Renton / Covington-Maple Valley Reporter

Did anyone else besides us news junkies see the NiemanLab article in April about how less people run for office if there is no strong local paper? I’d like to believe more people than those in this profession took an interest in the study, but just in case it was swept up in the daily flurry of trending news stories, here is a quick breakdown.

Past research has shown newspapers that cover local elections, public meetings and issues help increase “voter turnout, reduce government corruption, make cities financially healthier, make citizens more knowledgable about politics and more likely to engage with local government, force local TV to raise its game, encourage split-ticket voting, make elected officials more responsive and efficient,” among other things listed in the article.

In a sense, newspapers are the cornerstone of small democracies. This is something reporters and editors have instinctively known, but it’s great to see actual data on how a local newspaper can positively influence its coverage area.

As the new editor of the Covington–Maple Valley Reporter, my job is to make sure our paper keeps this community’s local democracy thriving.

This is my third introduction column I’ve written in five years and I am hoping it will be the last one for a long time. I started my journalism career at the University of Idaho when I worked for the school newspaper, the student radio station and the city paper. After graduation, I worked at my hometown’s daily paper as a general reporter before taking over a weekly nearby.

I moved to Washington in 2017 after getting married and I have worked at two different newspaper companies before starting what I hope is a long career with Sound Publishing.

As a reporter, I mostly covered local cities, counties and state issues. In Idaho, I focused more on small rural towns, and now I am in a coastal, urban setting. What may be surprising to some is that the big issues between the two states nearly mirror each other.

Both in Idaho and in Washington, readers expected us to cover the local city taxes, budgets, the police, road construction and public health issues. In both states, school districts faced a lack of levy funds, failing bond measures and issues with the state legislators school funding formulas. Population growth, rising home prices and new construction have shown to be hot button issues in both areas as well. And both my Idaho and Washington readers wanted to know what their city and county officials were doing to make life better for the taxpayers.

That’s my goal here as the new editor. Luckily, both the Renton Reporter and the Covington-Maple Valley Reporter have two reporters who are already elbow-deep in the local news. Both Haley Ausbun and Kayse Angel are dedicated to their papers, which in the end makes my goals for this publication easier to achieve. Now I just need to keep the ship sailing forward.

I think the best first step is to meet our readers for a listening session. I want to hear what you care about. What are the issues you think need to be focused on? What are we doing well, and what are we missing?

Come visit me during our “Coffee with the Editor” event. From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, May 31, I’ll be at Bruchelle’s Bagel Bistro, 16340 SE 256th St., Covington, to talk about how our paper can continue to improve coverage of your cities.

I am looking forward to meeting our audience and learning more about my new community. Together I think we can keep the local paper a strong cornerstone of our small democracy.

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