It’s good to be back – in the shadow of the Capitol building and in the Pacific Northwest.
My name is Peter Jensen, and I’m the new reporter for the Washington State Wire. I come to the Wire after spending the last three years covering the political scene in California and the Bay Area, and I am ecstatic to be back in my home state.
First, some introductions are in order, and then I’ll turn to discussing my plans for the Wire. I knew I wanted to be a statehouse reporter in Olympia way back in 2007, when I was a journalism student at Western Washington University. Almost on a whim, I signed up for a stint with a student magazine, and took an assignment that would bring to the steps of the Capitol building.The assignment was to cover the debate over the safety of chemical flame retardants called polybrominated diphenyl ethers. You may remember it; I’ll never forget it. I found endlessly fascinating the discussions of whether to ban a proven-to-be effective flame retardant over fears of its bioaccumulation in people. It was a story of how science traverses a political environment, and what kinds of science – and scientific arguments – win out when a bill hits the floor for its third and final reading.
I threw myself into the story. Working as a dish washer for restaurants in Bellingham, I downloaded TVW podcasts of committee hearings to my iPod to soak up as much knowledge as I could on the issue. I scrounged up enough gas money to drive down to Olympia to interview sources on both sides of the debate. One source, Democratic Rep. Ross Hunter, the bill’s sponsor, is now the chair of the House Appropriations Committee. Anther, former Republican Rep. Dan Newhouse, may well soon be a Congressman.
To this day, I can recite to you the quotes they gave me, but I cannot tell you which legislator was right, because it’s not my place to make those judgments. It is my job to report on what both sides are saying, fully and accurately, and to get beyond the talking points to the heart and true nature of the debate. That is what I pledge to do for you, whether the issue is Gov. Jay Inslee’s proposals on addressing climate change, how lawmakers will continue to grapple with the fallout of the McCleary decision, or the litany of other issues we’ll confront in the coming months.
Just as foreign correspondents are drawn to mass protests, war reporters to a battlefield, or theater critics to opening night, I have always found myself most interested in the messiest political issues. In my view, the more complicated issues work best for my articles, because there’s no more effective antidote to the political spin machinesthat run on superficial understandings of the debate.
But at that point in my young career, I knew I was hooked. Seven months later, I was back in Olympia as a political reporting intern for the Oregonian. I left a short 60-day session later, and it’s been a long six and a half years working at daily newspapers to get back. I’ve covered some great stories in the mean time, and more than a few Frisbee-throwing contests and cheeseburger-eating competitions. Such are the travails of daily deadlines at local newspapers.
I promise you plenty of serious coverage of Olympia politics, and none of the fluff, as the new reporter for the Washington State Wire. I will report on the most pressing issues and public policy debates facing Washington state, with some stories on the other Washington mixed in. I want the Wire to be a must-read for any and all state political topics – an independent, nonpartisan source you check every day like you would any of the state’s major daily newspapers.
So, follow me along here, on social media via my Twitter account, @ByPeterJensen, or drop me a line via email at peterjensen@WashingtonStateWire.com. I look forward to connecting with you as I start to cover the Legislature. I want this to be a conversational, interactive experience, so don’t hesitate to ask me a question or give me an idea. There are few story ideas too impractical for this space, unless they involve seeing how far you can throw a Frisbee.
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