5 Question Friday With News Tribune Columnist Kathleen Merryman

Recent 5 Question Friday participant Luke Byram enjoyed doing 5 Question Friday so much, he asked if he could try his hand at being the questioner. For his first 5 Question Friday, he’s talking to News Tribune columnist Kathleen Merryman. So here are Luke’s questions and Kathleen’s answers.  

1. What is your favorite column you have written?

You know, Luke, I don’t have one. It¹s just a privilege to be allowed to tell the stories of the community I love.

2. What is your favorite column, who’s it written by?

Dave Barry won the Pulitzer for commentary. I wish he still wrote a weekly column. Bloviating is easy. Comedy is hard. Using it to explore important issues without alienating half the readers is genius.

3. What community activities are you involved in?

There are plenty of people out there who are much smarter than I am, and they are developing the ideas behind the big, positive changes in Tacoma. Some of those ideas need muscle, and that’s where my husband and I jump in. Remember the old ‘Give 5’ campaign that challenged all of us to give five hours of volunteer work a week and 5 percent of our income to non-profits? It launched when our daughter was in pre-school, and at the time we thought it was impossible.

Through our daughter’s school years, it got easier. We helped on auctions, special events and at the school store. We’ve both served on boards, but agree that most anyone is better at that than we are.

Groups ask me to speak at events, which, as a shy person, is a huge stretch. The advantage is that I get to learn about groups like CASA  and University Place volunteers, who are doing the work that is transforming this community for the better.

Community groups let me jump in on work parties, pulling ivy, caroling and picketing with First Creek Neighbors, digging and hauling blackberries at McKinley Park, picking up trash on community cleanups in Summit and the Lincoln District, painting over tagging with Dome Top Neighborhood Alliance and Lincoln Lawgs. It’s always a blast.

We¹ve volunteered with Habitat for Humanity and Emergency Food Network (including Plant-A-Row with our garden this summer) and will again.

This summer, we’re on our second house with Paint Tacoma-Pierce Beautiful. That¹s been pretty much all weekend, every weekend except two, since June. It¹s also been a lot of fun, working with delightful people. One of my favorites is Phu Bui, 17, a student at SOTA. His neighbor, the amazing Edwina Magrum, suggested he letter in volunteerism with United Way, and he’s going for it big-time.

When you’re a reporter or columnist, you never know whether you’re doing the community any good. When you paint a house and clean up a yard for a senior or disabled person, you know you’re making one person’s life easier. You’re also making a neighborhood prettier, which fights crime and supports property values. Also, it’s a fabulous weight loss program.

4. How has the newspaper industry changed, what is most startling to you?

My first journalism job was as the Meeteetse Page correspondent for the Cody Enterprise in Wyoming in 1972. I made $10 a week, shot my own photos with real film and wrote my stories on a manual typewriter in a log cabin. And not one of those nice log cabins. It was a drafty settler’s cabin that has since fallen down. No kidding.

When I landed a job as obit writer at The Billings Gazette in Montana, one of my jobs was rolling the ticker tape that was used to transmit copy. Computers have changed everything. Information is much more readily available, as is misinformation. The process of writing and editing is streamlined. Reader feedback is virtually instantaneous.

We network with blogs and Facebook, and have a broader and more immediate connection to the community.

 Newspapers have been quick to adopt new technology, and are figuring out how to make money on new business models. That’s been a bumpy ride, what with furloughs, freezes, layoffs and buyouts.

Our staff is much smaller than it once was, but the people I work with are far more productive on more platforms than we were in olden times.

5. How has Tacoma changed over the years?

For the better, and from the bottom up. When I came to what was then The Tacoma News Tribune 28 years ago from Spokane, a friend asked why I¹d want to live in the official state armpit. Um, a full-time job?

Back then, Pacific Avenue was lined with strip clubs. Gangs ran the Hilltop and the East Side. Salishan was a dangerous dump.

Union Station, the History Museum and UWT put money and confidence back in the downtown.

Hilltop Action Coalition members took their stand on crime, followed by Safe Streets. They demanded, and earned, more effective policing. These are heroes like Sally Peterson, Skip Young and Jeannie Peterson who made walk-about rounds, took photos of gang and drug  knuckleheads at work, recorded the license plates at crime houses and, most importantly, bought their homes and stabilized their neighborhoods.

The city-wide honor roll is pretty long now: Dan Fear, Edwina Magrum, Andy Mordhorst, the Scheidt family, the Grotes, Frank Blair, Darren Pen, Moni Hoy, the Vignecs, Rose Perrino, Laura Rodriguez, Bob McCutchan, David Whited (keep going, and add your name here.)

Leaders at the ground level are moving through neighborhood councils onto the city council and the school board. That keeps the pressure on officials to invest in all parts of town.

We are a smart city, smart enough to know that community gardens fight crime, and taste yummy.

We are a connected city, using social media for everything from crime watches to work party announcements.

We are a city with a sense of humor and a scrappy soul. I can’t see that changing.

Thanks both to Luke Byram and Kathleen Merryman for taking the time to participate in 5 Question Friday. If you or someone you know is interested in taking part in 5 Question Friday, email me at jackcameronis@gmail.com.

One response to “5 Question Friday With News Tribune Columnist Kathleen Merryman

  1. Jeanie Peterson

    Honestly, the best way that the newspaper industry has changed…is that Kits Merryman has been added to the lineup. What an amazing job she does of juggling stories that warm our hearts and inspire us to do more. If ever I had a few extra minutes each day to spend on something, I could find 20 ways to give just by reading her column. I could find ways to improve my life with my family (by looking at what other families do), etc. etc. etc. Thanks Kits, you are the main reason I still subscribe to the Tribune!

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