Reflections on five years of community news

When I accepted a job as sports editor of this newspaper, I figured I’d work here for a year. Then I’d be off to a bigger paper.

That was in 1996 — a whole different millenium. Things don’t always work out the way you plan.

Since ’96, I’ve worked as a sports editor, general assignment reporter, associate editor and editor here. I spent last week contemplating how that time has been spent:

I hired nine reporters (Kari Thorene, Andrew Hirsch, September Woods, Erica Jahn, Ben Cape, Carolle Rugenstein, Robin J. Moody, Sean Lamphere and Chuck Stark) and fired none.

I covered everything from high school soccer (a sport I still don’t understand, despite the best efforts of Steve Haggerty, Lee Yeager, Troy Oelschlager and Jason Visintainer) to Kitsap County’s deadliest fire in recent memory (Kona Village in November 1997).

I cringed at hearing people call the Reporter “that little paper,” back when we were a tabloid-size publication — then cringed again when the pejorative was used after we went to our current broadsheet format in 1999.

I listened to former Port of Bremerton executive director Dick Brandenburg sniff that he didn’t read the paper, and was gratified by the kind comments of many people who do.

I received angry voicemails from people who don’t want the paper, but get it every week; and angry voicemails from people who want the paper, but never get it.

I was accused of being a socialist (several times; for the record, I’m not) and a tool of the right wing (during the charter campaign).

I was threatened, cajoled, manipulated, lied to, flattered and enjoined by people trying to either get publicity or avoid it.

I learned from many outstanding journalists and businesspeople at the Kitsap Newspaper Group, including Becky Fox Marshall, Mike Moore, Michael Wagar, John Olson, Doug Crist, Robin Storey, Rogerick Anas, Brad Camp, Steve Wilkowske, Mike Shepard, Jim Long and Tom Morgan.

I was inspired by volunteers who do important works in the community — people like Tex Lewis, Jo Clark, Dr. Nick Nelson, Vickie Garrison, Hank Mann-Sykes and his ubiquitous Rotary Club, the Kitsap United Way loaned executives and the CK Super Saturday students.

I met politicians of every level, from city council members to a lieutenant governor to congressmen. I was intrigued by grass-roots political activism on both the right (Matt Ryan, Marcus Hoffman, Joan Gorner, the Kitsap Alliance of Property Owners) and the left (Bob Dietz, Dean Miyakusu, Virginia McKinney, the Kitsap Human Rights Network).

I sat through boring meetings of the Central Kitsap Community Council, the Kitsap County Council for Human Rights, the Kitsap County Board of Freeholders and the Central Kitsap School Board — and a few interesting meetings, too.

I was scolded by Adele Ferguson, which puts me in pretty good company.

I coaxed quotes out of scores of spokespeople, most regularly the very accomodating Lindsy Ingram of Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue and the school district’s helpful Jeannie Schulze.

I perused thousands of faxes and e-mails, edited hundreds of stories and cursed my crashing computer millions of times (that last figure might be an exaggeration, but only slightly). I wrote several columns, which were read by a couple people.

But now — after helping produce some 550 editions of the Reporter, including about 350 editions as editor — I’m off to other things.

On Thursday, May 2, I’ll start work at another paper in Kitsap County.

I just wanted to say thanks — to the sources who called us back on deadline; to the businesses that supported the paper; to the inquisitive community members who provided story tips; to the writers who sent letters to the editor and the photographers who shot Scene and Heard pictures; to the carriers who got the paper to your doorstep (most of the time, anyway); to the eagle-eyes who told us when we got a fact wrong, misspelled a word or mangled a sentence; and to my newsroom cohorts, who made me look smarter than I am.

Mostly, I want to thank the readers, without whom newspapers wouldn’t be possible.

So thanks. And keep reading.

Vince Dice was named editor of the Central Kitsap Reporter in December 1998. His last day is Tuesday, April 30.

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