The Columbian ignores Elder Justice Center abuse story in Clark County while Wall Street Journal makes it a front page story


“I became a journalist because I did not want to rely on newspapers for information.”
Christopher Hitchens

How do you draw the distinction between a “real” newspaper like the Columbian in Clark County, Washington State and the rest of us “bloggers?”  This seems to be an issue and a common theme of Lou Brancaccio, Editor of the Columbian, in his recent blog where he disparages bloggers (unless they agree with him) and spends a lot of time obsessing over Clark County Councilor David Madore.  I am not sure that a distinction between the Columbian and local bloggers has much meaning. However, it appears if you rely on the Columbian as your source of local news, you may be missing quite a bit.

Lou Brancaccio - Editor, The Columbian
Lou Brancaccio – Editor, The Columbian

I have had little interaction with the Columbian over the years.  In July of 2013,I was emailed by Columbian reporter Stevie Mathieu, post CRC stoppage, expressing dissatisfaction about an article I wrote.  That article identified the Columbian as one of the losers in that fiasco, and Ms. Mathieu was arguing that on at least one occasion the Columbian committed some real journalism, not just CRC cheerleading.  I believe I even had a brief phone conversation with someone at the Columbian at the time.  I might have spoken to Kaitlin Gillespie, another blogger for the Columbian a time or two at Olympia Transportation hearings or maybe a C-TRAN meeting.  Not much.

There is a soft spot in my heart for newspapers and for the important role they have historically played in our society.  This stems from my stint as a paperboy (remember that archaic job?) and the news-ink-blackened hands I received from delivering the daily Seattle Times to the front door of many homes from my bicycle.

I’ve had a lot of interaction with other media over the past few years, primarily as a content provider, including radio, television, and print media.  Some are considered “mainstream”  and others could be labeled “bloggers.”  I’ve earned journalist status from my body of work, not because someone assigned the title to me. However, this might be considered nothing more than lowly “blogging” to the self-appointed arbiter of Clark County news and editor of the Columbian. Lou Brancaccio’s comments raise a legitimate question, however.  Who determines what qualifies as news and what should not be reported to the residents of Clark County?

It doesn't seem like Lou Brancaccio wants to shake David Madore's hand any time soon, but there actually are other stories in Clark County that don't involve Councilor Madore
We understand Lou Brancaccio won’t shake David Madore’s hand any time soon, but there actually are other stories in Clark County that don’t involve Councilor Madore. Maybe the Columbian could write something that doesn’t obsess about just one local politician?

The news void in Clark County

There is a troubling element of close-mindedness found in Mr. Brancaccio’s flippant references to the growing news competition to the Columbian.  This is understandable considering his sensitivity to the declining fortunes of the paper for which he works.  Declining circulations are not unique to the Columbian.  Many recent national articles are bemoaning the collapse in print media and the rise of the outsider news sources.  Some call it creative destruction.  Some call it inevitable.  Changing times produce bitterness from those who don’t believe they stand to benefit from the change.

However, the Columbian doesn’t have to collapse and disappear into the dustbin of history like the buggy whip or the Model T.  People still need and crave news.  The question that needs to be answered by Mr. Brancaccio, and more importantly by the residents of Clark County, is this:  Does the Columbian fill the news void or do they choose to create it?

Clark County might be doing it right, but the Columbian is not
Clark County might be doing it right, but the Columbian is not

The Columbian chooses to create the news void by ignoring stories that many residents would consider important.  This void creates a vacuum that will be filled by others.  Perhaps by some of those annoying bloggers.  I believe that The Columbian is creating and fueling their own demise by ignoring local stories that matter to many in Clark County.

What local news does the Columbian ignore?

Does the Columbian report the news accurately in Clark County?  Is the Columbian pushing an agenda (like the CRC) with their “reporting” and advocacy?  Are there stories in Clark County that the Columbian chooses to ignore and hide from its readers and the public?

Before any questions like these can be answered, let’s look at a fairly recent specific example.

Clark County Courthouse
Something is wrong at the Clark County Courthouse and Prosecutor Golik’s office. Why does the Columbian ignore this?

The Wall Street Journal wrote an article on October 30 last  year (linked here), which discussed how elder justice centers are creating opportunities for abuse.  The first example in the report was the elder justice center founded by Clark County Prosecutor Golik in 2011, yet praised by the Columbian in multiple articles here, and here.  However, according to the Wall Street Journal, there are some serious problems with oversight and elder abuse from the very elder abuse justice center system created in Clark County to stop this abuse in the first place.   The article details how people appointed by the Clark County Courts through the Elder Justice Center to help the elderly are often appointed as “guardians” of the elderly, drain their assets, and provide no benefit to the elderly.   Here are some quotes from that article:

“One day in March 2012, 71-year-old Linda McDowell received a knock at the door of her small Vancouver, Wash., home. Ms. McDowell needed court-appointed help, the visitor told her.”

“The visit marked the start of a 30-month stretch in Washington’s guardianship system that upended her life and drained much of her $700,000 in assets. People involved in her case still disagree about whether Ms. McDowell ever needed a guardian. But by the time a judge decided that one wasn’t necessary, the value of her assets had dropped by about $470,000, much of which was spent on several guardians and related expenses, court and bank records show.

“My savings are gone,” says Ms. McDowell…”

(Wall Street Journal – “Abuse Plagues System of Legal Guardians for Adults” – By Arian Campo-Flores and Ashby Jones October 30, 2015)

If you are one of the shrinking percentage of Clark County residents who rely on the Columbian as your source for local news, this story would surprise you.  The Columbian has never critically examined the abuses in the Clark County elder justice center since its founding in 2011.  Instead, it took two Wall Street Journal reporters, one based in Miami, and the other in New York City to report on some serious problems in Clark County happening a few blocks from the Columbian’s building.  Despite the Wall Street Journal front page report, the Columbian remained mute on the scandal.  Does the Columbian and Mr. Brancaccio not consider this news?

Clark County Whistleblower Ad
Clark County government provides plenty of places to find stories of interest to report.

Exposing corruption in government is a healthy and necessary role
of journalism.  Most journalists share a passion to expose the truth.  The Columbian, as a self-appointed news arbiter, is ignoring local stories that are newsworthy to the Wall Street Journal and “bloggers” like me.  Do the bloggers at the Columbian prefer to post silly articles about rude council members like this rather than commit to investigative journalism?

All journalists should care about delivering the news and exposing the truth about government and our communities to the citizens who are affected.  The Columbian should be a part of that process, not an obstacle to it.  It should not matter who delivers the truth, whether the journalist has a cushy office in downtown Vancouver, or writes an article in a basement.  It is incumbent on as many of us as possible to deliver the news any way we possibly can.

This is not how we should expect local media to behave around newsworthy stories in Clark County. This is exactly what leads to local residents rising up to do their own reporting.
This is not how we should expect local media to behave around newsworthy stories in Clark County. This is exactly what leads to local residents rising up to do their own reporting.

Who determines what news is worth knowing in Clark County?  The editor of the Columbian? The answer is the people who consume the news.  For the Columbian, this would include their subscribers.  Based on the dropping circulation numbers, the Columbian is failing in this arena.  Perhaps they should try to fill this news void themselves.

We shouldn’t hate newspapers, and it would be better for all of us if the newspapers didn’t hate those of us who are filling the news void created by self-styled arbiters like Mr. Brancaccio.  Last week two of my “blogs” were reprinted in local newspapers – one in the Battleground Reflector (linked here), and the other in the Nisqually Valley News (linked here).  I’m still a “blogger” disparaged by the Columbian, but if it takes people like me to expose stories in Clark County that the local paper refuses to cover, exactly who is filling the news void?


Actions you can take:

Call the Columbian and tell them what you think:  360-735-4505

Set up your own blog site and report what you see happening in Clark County:

If you have whistleblower information about corruption in Clark County or other State and local government go here to learn more.

Buy a video camera and start taking video at local public meetings – you never know what you might discover or how useful it may be in the future for reference.Government is inherently incompetent


Our Constitution begins with the phrase “we the people.”  It was the founder’s intent that government be created by the people, to serve the people.  It wasn’t their intention for the people to serve the government.  It was always intended that government which failed to serve the people should be “altered or abolished.”  Until we return to the founder’s intent, we remain We the Governed

Related Articles:

The Clark County Council desperately needs some adult intervention

The CRC Zombie Died:  Winners, Losers, and What Comes Next

Clark County Citizens reject Oregon Ponzi Scheme

Senator misses 21 votes while urging Oregon to do CRC alone

Despite charter vote, Clark County trends more conservative in 2014

The Clark County charter – a quest for utopia or inevitable fiasco?

Does the Olympian censor letters to the editor for political purposes?


  1. Hi, my name’s Justin Forsman running for 49th district Senate and would just like say that I personally have felt their rath every time I’m written about if in their newspaper.

    They have done everything they could to throw me under the bus and as a last spit in the face… Openly endorse my opponent.

    Nice article. I’m for FREEDOM, LIBERTY AND LESS GOVERNMENT!!! long live our republic!!!

    Yours in liberty,

    Justin M. Forsman


  2. Nicely written and well reasoned article. There are those, naturally, who take a different view. I think Lou certainly has negative views of several local political figures, and enunciates those views adroitly. I have observed that bloggers who oppose his positions rarely dispute his facts, mainly his conclusions. I suspect that when he discusses these folks, readership goes through the roof (as opposed, say, to his views on more mundane subjects). Most people I know, of various political persuasions, devour what he has to say politically. At the same time, many of us are also interested in what Lew Waters has to say. The COLUMBIAN itself has a lot going for it, even considering the well-known profitability and circulation problems print journalism faces. It’s coverage of world news, good (if incomplete, as you note) local coverage, great comic section, diversity in syndicated columnists, well thought-out factual editorials (even if one disagrees), and distinct institutional positions – as every newspaper has.

  3. As per usual, a diatribe about the Columbian from those on the right opposed to mass transit and moving Vancouver into the 21st Century.

    The difference between a “blogger” and a “journalist”? Journalists can spell and write a grammatically correct sentence; very few self-styled bloggers can. A good example is Mr. Madore himself: he frequently misspells words and his writing style and grammar are both atrocious. His followers are equally badly educated.

    By the way, Christopher Hitchens didn’t say “I became a BLOGGER because I didn’t want to rely on newspapers for information” did he? He became a journalist. ‘Nuff said.

    • For anyone capable of considering long term transportation needs, the U.S. has to trend toward mass transit to move people around at some point. New York City is a prime example of living with this reality. In the big city arena, Los Angeles is probably on the other end of the mass transportation spectrum. Anyone from out of town who has had to drive through L.A. won’t be repeating the experience willingly.

      • Jon,

        The bigger challenge is whether this can be done through maximum incompetence like the $200 million + clown show of the CRC scam, or Seattle’s Big Bertha, or the I-405 tolling mess, or the endless series fiascos which are wasteful or idiotic at best. There must be a better way to deal with serious transportation needs than repeating the same disaster time after time and then blaming anyone who is a critic of the waste.

        • By normal standards Government led operations are notoriously inefficient, but eventually projects get done. It’s too bad private enterprise is unable to independently finance huge operations, but that’s reality. Eventually we’ll get an upgrade in the Interstate bridge, but the government(s) are going to be doing the heavy lifting. I imagine for every Big Bertha-fiasco (or the downtown Seattle toilet mess), there’s the interstate highway system, the reconstruction of the New Orleans dikes, and the construction of the Columbia River dams. Even Boston’s Big Dig eventually got done. Very long term, there is no question in my mind that individual vehicles are going to be replaced by other forms of moving people around, and governments are going to be the entities that effect that transformation, probably not in our lifetimes, but eventually.

          • Jon,

            The challenge is two-fold, I suspect. On one hand, what was once considered “infrastructure spending” for bridges or highways have become special interest feeding troughs inviting massive fraud, waste, and no consequences for either. That is what turns feasible projects into never-ending fiascos and black-holes for all funding that removes legitimate transportation funding from less sexy problems. Related to this is the Gang Green approach to scamming the system with their army of consultants, “mitigation” schemes, and other scams that suck massive sums of money for absolutely zero value return to the community.

            The second challenge is the ability to pick the technology of the future. It is silly to see the massive scam job related to light rail – a 19th Century technology and claim that is the “future.” If it is so great and so certain, then it should be done by the private sector. If it isn’t worth funding, then it should really be scrutinized. Creating Tri-Met Ponzi schemes is not the solution. The massive disaster of the Sound Transit scam – true transportation for the 1% paid for by the 99%, and which won’t be experienced by many who are alive today (trust us, we will build it someday).

            I talk to too many people inside these programs to believe the stories they shovel out the door to the rest of us peons.

            • The $200mm spent to “research” the bridge project should be a junior edition of The Day That Will Live in Infamy. Nobody of consequence talks much about that debacle. I often where that money came from and why it has had literally no effect (that I can measure) on either my lifestyle or standard of living. It’s almost as if whoever was responsible for it, just printed the money in the basement.

  4. Hmm, story sounds familiar, I heard it at the office, the only people stirring up division in Clark County is David Madore and Tom Mielke who also dislike the Columbian. Well only when it doesn’t benefit them. David Madore had no problem inserting his campaign materials in the Columbian for County chair last year or for Liz Pike Write in. It is obvious which “side” you are on… At least they don’t restrict who can respond to them

  5. As usual, a very good article! Thank you.

    For over 50 years, I lived in Clark County (Camas, Washougal, and La Center). We now live in Kalama.

    I have noticed (and complained about) newsworthy items in areas outside of Vancouver have been ignored by the Columbian.

    Lou has ignored my respectful complaints. Katie, after I suggested she is showing bias, told me to “quit telling me how to do my job” and blocked me.

    Your blog, Hinton’s, and Water’s are definitely filling the void.

    Keep it up and if I can be of assistance, please advise.

    • Gary, thanks for the kind words. As you know, I am always on the lookout for stories about government corruption, incompetence, and waste. Feel free to send me any information as you get it on issues related to that. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

Comments are closed.