Opinion

Behind the scenes at the Federal Way Mirror | Inside Politics

Bob Roegner - Contributed
Bob Roegner
— image credit: Contributed

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to work at a newspaper? To feel the ink between your fingers and smell the printing press as it spews bundle after bundle of papers with headlines reading, “EXTRA, EXTRA,” onto a platform for a waiting delivery truck.

Your publisher is the gruff, hard-boiled, cigar chomping, scotch drinking Clark Gable who will stop at nothing to unmask corruption and deliver you the news. Your editor might be the hard charging, but fair, thoughtful, and insightful Lois Lane and your reporters have notepads in every pocket with a pencil behind each ear. If you like black and white television and staying up late, you can still catch a glimpse of that romanticized version on an old movie.

Real life is much different. I write the political column for the Daily Planet, err Federal Way Mirror. I’m not a real employee and nothing I do could ever be considered work, but for a few hours each week I get a front row seat as the newsroom questions, debates and writes the news you will read online tonight or in print on Friday.

I have had some residents, justifiably, question my journalistic credentials. I don’t have any. But after 30 years in public office I try to share a perspective on what’s happening in the world of politics that might be of interest to you. Several people have wondered why the Mirror continues to keep me. I don’t know either, but I think it has to do with seniority or maybe I’m in some kind of protected class. I’ve decided to not ask a lot of questions on that topic.

So let me take you a brief tour behind the scenes.

Over the years some things have changed in the newsroom. They don’t smoke much any more, and wine seems to be more popular than scotch. And it’s after hours, not in the lower left hand drawer of a desk. You don’t see or smell ink much anymore, and I think it’s Eddie’s job to worry about where the newspaper is printed and how it gets to you. They still have notepads and pencils but computers are now tools of the trade.

But one thing that hasn’t changed over the years is the role of the newspaper in the community.

Newspaper people still work long hard hours to get you the story as fast and as accurately as possible. The Mirror lives its name. It is the messenger that reflects the beauty and glory of our community, along with its warts and blemishes. The paper revels in the success of its residents, be they athletes, academics, business people or volunteers, with just as much community pride as you do.

They cover the inspiring and the heartwarming, such as a young man or child beating cancer, but they don’t shrink from the unpleasant such as domestic violence, or hide the story of a public official’s indiscretions, just because it might make the community look bad or embarrass the official.

No, they don’t always tell only good news, because sometimes the news is bad and they are still the messengers. The newspaper cares about student grading and academic success, progress on the downtown park, construction of the new high school and ways to improve the community. But, in what may be a surprise to many of our local officials, the newspaper won’t ignore cost overruns, wink at questionable management decisions, or look the other way when friends or relatives of those local officials show up on public  payrolls. The newspaper isn’t an object; it is made up of real people.

It is a small staff, but impressive to watch as they go about their business and you see the thoughtful, passionate manner in which they refine and define their craft.

Raechel Dawson joined the staff as a reporter to replace Casey Olson. Behind that cherubic smile is a serious news woman who is smart and can ask the hard questions. Greg Allmain appears pretty laissez-faire, but his tape recorder is always handy and he never misses a quote. Don’t let low-key fool you; he covers hot stories and knows the community.

Cindy Ducich sells print space and raises money for several charities with equal zest. Behind the ready smile is depth and compassion. Her new sidekick Kay Miller is learning her way with quiet determination. You can buy an ad from her and also talk golf.

Jennifer’s smile and wit light the room as she handles customers, and proofs and improves upon another one of my grammar-challenged columns. She reminds me to hit spell check, or she will send a dictionary home with me. (So that’s why I keep getting dictionaries for Christmas?) Marcie doesn’t say much, but the staff continually counts on her to  pull it all together, and would be lost without her. She’s calm even in the Thursday chaos.

New intern Alisa Gramann could be really good at this business. Publisher Rudi Alcott neither drinks or smokes and would never be called hard-boiled. He’s tight with a buck but his affection for his staff and the business of running this award-winning paper shines through. Alcott lives “integrity” and demands it as the newspapers mantle. Our Lois is actually Carrie Rodriguez, who arrived eight months ago from the Kirkland Reporter. As editor she has brought new ideas and a bit of an edge to investigative thought.

Each government agency has a well paid staff person to make the agency and its top official, be it mayor, chief or superintendent and its board, council or commission look good. Each tries to “manage” or, in less subtle cases, “dictate” how the editor writes the story. A word of advice to public officials: don’t try it. Carrie knows you have a job to do but so does she.

I have come to respect and admire these hard working people because while they may inhabit only a small corner of Federal Way they recognize their impact is large. They aren’t in the business for the money because it doesn’t pay all that well.

They are professionals, whose diligence and humanness should be appreciated. They take their responsibilities seriously. They care about what they do, the product you see and they care about each other. Everyone feels part of the family that Alcott has built. They miss Casey and former editor Andy Hobbs and wish them luck in their new endeavors. We all miss recently deceased Mary Lou Goss but know she is helping the angels with their spelling.

But mostly they are people doing their jobs, and living their lives and doing their best to let you know what is happening in this home we call Federal Way.

Bob Roegner, a former mayor of Auburn: bjroegner@comcast.net.

 

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