Thinking ‘big picture’


It’s awards season around the BBJ, as we learned during the last month that Isaac Bonnell, Lance Henderson and I won Society of Professional Journalists awards for articles written last year. Of course, we won’t know until the big awards banquet May 30 what we won exactly, or for which articles, but it’s always an exciting time. The month-long anticipation is part of the sweetness of the deal.

We also learned that one of our past interns, Gabrielle Nomura, has won a third-place SPJ award for in-depth reporting by a student for her article titled “Bellingham’s push to end ‘paper or plastic.’” We are always proud of the work of our interns, who come to us from Western’s excellent journalism program, and we love it when they are recognized externally as well.

We pride ourselves in striving for excellence and trying to think “big picture,” and part of that is writing articles that require a holistic approach and tackle the big issues. It’s my thought, anyway, that these types of articles lend themselves to excellence, so it’s nice to have professional journalism peers recognize our efforts as well.

And speaking of big issues, during the past month I also had the opportunity to attend a publisher’s conference in Ocean Shores. During those two days, fellow newspaper publishers addressed the same issues that all businesses are wrestling with these days: how to be of best service to our clients, how to encourage and support our employees, and how to draw on all of our collective resources to problem solve in creative ways. It’s always nice to talk over common concerns with others who are facing similar issues, as it tends to help everyone look at things differently.

The trip was a bit of an eye-opener in other ways for me, as well. The drive to Ocean Shores passes right through downtown Aberdeen, a trip I had not taken in a very long time. I was dismayed to see block after block of boarded-up homes and businesses in that town, and it further made me realize how healthy an economy Bellingham has. We certainly are not facing some of the same issues as other areas of Washington state — and the country — where whole communities are dependent on single industries like timber, fishing, or auto manufacturing. Our diversified economy has blessed us with staying relatively strong during hard times.

It makes me think that perhaps we should not complain too loudly about some of our “problems,” like how to grow our city limits or whether we should allow big box stores to locate here. At least there are jobs and an attraction for businesses to move to Bellingham, as opposed to the opposite problem of trying to replace failing industries and resurrect dying neighborhoods.

So getting out of town for business events seems to me to have a twofold effect: They help us keep in touch with our industry peers, who can give us some good perspective on how to problem solve common issues, and it also just gets us out of town, which offers its own rewards.

It’s always good to get out of town, out of our own heads and ready to think big picture. We can always use a little perspective.


Vanessa Blackburn is the editor and publisher of the Bellingham Business Journal. She can be reached at

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