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OPB planning Southwest Washington news bureau

OPB photoWith the goal of promoting informed dialogue on issues important to the region, Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) is working to establish a new, permanent bureau in Southwest Washington.

Morgan Holm, OPB’s senior vice president and chief content officer, said the Portland-based media outlet would like to have the local bureau up and running by early 2014. Having a Southwest Washington bureau, he added, will help OPB develop more meaningful community connections and more intimate knowledge of local issues.

“I think back to my days as a reporter,” said Holm. “I would drive up from Portland to Vancouver and it was hard to quickly get up to speed on all of the local differences there. As a reporter you do your best, but it’s difficult unless you’re there every day. So as we’ve thought about the places that would make the most sense to expand our coverage, Vancouver and Southwest Washington kept coming to the top of the list.”

In terms of viewership, OPB already has a well-established presence in Southwest Washington. The organization’s television, radio and online services reach around 150,000 residents each week in Clark County, representing 13 percent of OPB’s total audience. Of its 119,000 contributing members, approximately 10 percent reside in Washington.

“I think it (a Clark County bureau) is going to be an important addition to our services for Southwest Washington,” said Cheryl Ikemiya, OPB’s director of leadership giving.

Increasingly, OPB is reporting on topics that have relevance on both sides of the river, such as transportation, environmental issues and politics. Holm said that it’s not enough to just tell a story from the Portland perspective.

“You really have to understand both sides and I see this [bureau] as a good opportunity to really build that knowledge in a significant way,” he said.

“So many of the things that face our region really unite these two parts of these two states together,” Ikemiya added. “I think this is a great opportunity to add to the discussion and to elevate issues and broaden conversation among our community.”

OPB has launched a fundraiser to support the bureau’s first three years of operations, lead by a gift from the Firstenburg Family Foundation. Building on that contribution, Paul and Debbie Speer, Jan and Steve Oliva, and The Wollenberg Foundation committed $150,000 in matching funds to encourage community participation.

At press time, OPB was within approximately $40,000 of its $150,000 goal.

“We wanted to get several years of funding in the bank so we could really get the bureau up and running and make it successful without having to worry from year to year about the expenses,” said Holm. “Our hope is that over time we’ll see a greater response from the community there that has already been very supportive of OPB.”

For more information on OPB’s initiative and fundraiser, visit www.opb.org/support/strategic-initiatives/swwa.