Tag Archives: Tacoma Stories

5 Question Friday With Richard Wiley

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When I originally registered the domain name TacomaStories.com years ago I was glad it was not already taken. It’s simple and easy to remember. Despite this I was still surprised when I learned a few months ago that Richard Wiley’s new book was called Tacoma Stories. My first thought was that I did not want people coming to this site and learning nothing about the book even if I had nothing to do with the book. My next thought was that I did not want people thinking the book was connected to the website since it isn’t.

I decided the best way to deal with this potential confusion was to contact Richard Wiley and see if he would be interested in participating in a 5 Question Friday. This way if you end up here because of the book, you get a quick interview with the author. And if you’re a regular reader of this site, you get introduced to a new author with a book you should really check out.

Thankfully, Richard agreed to do it. Here’s Richard:

1. Can you give us a bit of background on your writing for those who are unaware?

I started writing more than 40 years ago.  My first novel, Soldiers in Hiding, was set in Japan during World War II.  It was lucky enough to win the PEN/Faulkner Award for best American fiction in 1987.  After that there were seven more novels, almost all set abroad, in Korea, in Japan again, in Nigeria, Kenya, and in 1899 Alaska.  A novel of mine entitled, Bob Stevenson, was set in New York City and came out in 2016.

2. What is your history with Tacoma?

I grew up in Tacoma, at Brown’s Point.  I went to school there, and then, after my family moved to North Jackson Street, went to Wilson High School.  I graduated from UPS, in 1967, then left Tacoma for a decade, came back to work at Tacoma Public Schools – both of my children were born in Tacoma – then left again for a few years in Africa and a twenty-six year stint as an English professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.  My wife and I moved back to Tacoma in mid-2015.

3. Can you tell us about your latest book, Tacoma Stories?

The stories are linked, but can also stand alone.  All of the characters meet up at Pat’s Tavern on North 21st Street (now Magoo’s Annex) on St. Patrick’s Day, 1968, in the first story.  Over the course of the next thirteen stories, not in chronological order, we follow one or another of those who were in Pat’s that night, into their pasts and also into their futures.

4. You’re going a bit of a book tour at the moment, where can people catch you?

I will be reading at Elliott Bay Book Company, in Seattle, on Friday, February 15, at 7 p.m.  After that, I’ll be at the Tacoma Public Library’s Brown’s Point branch at 2:30 on March 2; at King’s Books, in Tacoma, at 7 p.m. on March 7, and signing books at The Pacific Northwest Shop on Proctor Street, on March 9 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

And if anyone is in Las Vegas on April 11, I’ll be reading at the Writer’s Block Bookstore at 7 p.m.

5. What is your next project?

I am just now completing a third “Japan” novel, entitled “Cornelius, on Love.”  It is set in Kyoto in 1972.

I’d like to thank Richard Wiley for joining me for 5 Question Friday and for writing a book set in Tacoma. I know I am biased, but I am of the opinion that this city is ripe for storytelling. If you think you or someone you know might be a good guest for 5 Question Friday, let me know at jackcameronis@gmail.com

  • Jack Cameron

Special Comment: Regarding My Recent Coverage of a Local Girl’s Suicide

I’ve been writing some version of Tacoma Stories since 2006. In those years, I’ve learned quite a bit and come up with a style that works for the site. I report the facts.  Then I report what I think of those facts. My article about the young girl who jumped off the South 48th Street overpass has been viewed almost 300,000 times by people in over 130 countries. It has resulted in dozens if not hundreds of other articles including one in the Washington Post. Yesterday a radio station from San Diego called me to talk about it.

Our local media however has been fairly quiet. During the weekend after I wrote the article I was contacted by three TV reporters and a newspaper reporter from The News Tribune. I talked to the News Tribune reporter on the phone. She wanted to know what I knew, wanted a link to the shaming video, and for me to pass along her contact information to my sources.

Yesterday, nine days after the incident, The News Tribune came out with its firstsubstantial piece on the young girl’s death. It included new information such as the fact that the girl left behind suicide notes. But it said she wrote them on an iPod which made no sense because iPods are for listening to music. It said that the trouble started on May 3rd when the girl sent a photo of herself to a boy which resulted in her father cutting her hair as a punishment two days before she jumped, but doesn’t explain the three weeks between those two incidents. So I thought better of adding another update to the original article because their information didn’t make a lot of sense.

Today The News Tribune came out with an unsigned editorial attacking the online coverage of this girl’s death and defending their near silence. It accuses us of spreading rumors as facts and attempting to publicly shame the victim’s family. I cannot speak for other websites or their coverage but given the sheer volume of traffic and the number of sites linking to mine about this, I feel these untrue accusations demand a response.

One of the primary purposes of Tacoma Stories is to put the victim and the victim’s family first because traditional media tends to lead with the killers rather than giving a thought to the victim or the victim’s family. This is why in the case of the young girl who jumped off the bridge I felt it was appropriate to not mention her or her family’s names. This is where the accusation that we’re publicly shaming the father falls flat. You can’t publicly shame someone you refuse to name.

As for the accusation that I’m spreading rumors as fact. This is also absolutely untrue. I said that a public shaming of the victim made by the victim’s father was released online, that days later she jumped from her grandparents’ car, and jumped off the S. 48th Street overpass. Not one of those facts are in dispute. After that I start talking about public shaming and its consequences and I point out this tragedy as an example.

The News Tribune has gone out of its way to say that the video had nothing whatsoever to do with the girl choosing to jump off the overpass. This is as much speculation as saying that the video was the sole reason for her choosing to jump. Tacoma Stories makes neither assertion. I believe that the video was a contributing factor and I’ve said so. I don’t believe that the father or the family wanted the victim harmed in any way. These are my opinions on the matter.

I also believe that the family of the victim is going through something unimaginable and deserve privacy during a time I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Of course they shouldn’t be publicly shamed. This is why I never named them. It’s also why I took down offending comments and closed the comments section of the original post when the family asked me to do so.

To be clear, I do agree with the News Tribune that some coverage of this story has been reprehensible and deserving of criticism. Though I would argue that lack of coverage is worth criticizing as well.

Traditional media has spent years trying to understand the online world and how to monetize it. They scoff at bloggers and other ‘citizen journalists’ who write because we have an interest and a passion in something. And yet we’re among the first people they contact when they’re looking for a source.

– Jack Cameron

Update 06/14/15: The News Tribune has posted yet another editorial about this. I’ve decided that it’s inappropriate to continue to respond to the local paper’s accusations on this page. For my response, go to the TacomaStories Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/tacomastoriesofficial

Tacoma Homicide FAQ

policelineI’ve been writing about homicides in Tacoma since 2006. Over the years I’ve received dozens of emails from the families and friends of victims. These emails are what I look at whenever I feel like I should stop. They remind me that what I write sometimes is exactly the thing a grieving person wants to see. If I can be even a small amount of comfort, then I don’t see how I can morally stop writing about these times when people are taken from our city.

I also receive emails and am asked questions in person about how I go about writing these things and why I write about one thing and not another. I’m going to try to tackle all of these frequently asked questions in this post. Here goes:

How Do You Get The Information About Tacoma Homicides?

Almost every piece of information I post about Tacoma homicides is found online through a combination of news reports, my own research, and a handful of local contacts.

Unfortunately, it’s a lot easier to get information on how homicide victims died than it is to get information on how they lived. I do my best to include details about the person who was killed whenever possible, but I more than anything I rely on the friends and family of the victims to help share who we’ve lost from our cities. In some circumstances, I’ve welcomed friends and families to do guest posts about their loved ones.

Why Don’t You Write About Vehicular Homicides?

Most police departments treat these differently than regular homicides. In fact up until recently you perpetrators of vehicular homicide only received a third of the sentence they might have received if they’d shot the victim. But the reason I don’t cover them is simply that they’re difficult to cover. Often charges aren’t brought until long after the incident and if I covered every vehicular death then I might as well start covering every unnatural death and that’s beyond the scope of what I want to accomplish here.

Why Don’t You Write About Suicides?

I want to write about suicides. There are far more suicides in Tacoma than homicides. But they’re rarely reported to the media and so getting any relevant information is difficult. Some suicides make the news and others don’t and I’d rather cover no suicides than just some of them.

Why Didn’t You Cover That Homicide in University Place/Fife/Parkland/Lakewood/Spanaway/Etc?

When I started TacomaStories.com I decided that as much as possible I’d confine my posts to things about the City of Tacoma because if I included surrounding areas I’m not sure where I’d stop. Do I include Federal Way? If so, do I also include SeaTac? Where does it end?  I would more than welcome someone else picking up the torch for Lakewood or other local cities and starting LakewoodStories.com or something.

What’s The Worst Thing That’s Come Out of Writing About Tacoma Homicides?

There have been a couple of death threats and an incident that I had to report to the police before it became something violent, but thankfully nothing ever came of any of it. It was also difficult to write about a former classmate of mine who was shot and killed.

So…Why Do You Do It?

I’d started out writing about Tacoma’s homicides to prove a point about the city and its reputation. It’s a far safer city than it was in the 1990s. In fact it’s so safe that I can write about every Tacoma homicide and still do other things. Not a possibility in a place like Chicago. In fact even Seattle has 3-4 homicides a month vs. Tacoma’s one homicide a month sometimes.

However, as I stated at the beginning of this, the reason I keep writing about Tacoma homicides is that the families and friends of the victims appreciate it. I’ve heard from people sometimes years after their loved one’s death. In some cases my article is the only online evidence of what happened.

That’s about it for now. If you have any other questions for me, let me know.

–          Jack Cameron

5 Question Friday With Tacoma Brewing’s Morgan Alexander

Morgan

I first encountered Tacoma Brewing Co.’s place while looking for somewhere to have a drink before I went to see a movie at the Grand. Morgan’s brother, Tristan was working. Lately, craft brewers have been popping up everywhere in and around Tacoma.

 Most of them make an IPA, a Stout, and maybe something slightly different. The choices at Tacoma Brewing were strange and exciting. I ordered a honey/strawberry beer. After that, Tristan let me taste a few others. Not one of these beers seemed like a safe bet to me. Each seemed to be pushing the envelope of craft brewing. Sure, they had a stout but it was a cherry/pomegranate stout.

As I talked to Tristan, he told me about his brother, Morgan. He said, “He’s been brewing stuff practically since high school when he learned you could turn sugar into alcohol.

A few weeks later I got a tour of Morgan’s operation and got to talk with Morgan. When I tried to describe the experience and the type of adventurous drinks that Morgan is making to a friend after the thing, I said, “When it comes to brewers, where others are professors, this guy is Indiana Jones.”

I’m happy and honored that Morgan agreed to join me this week for 5 Question Friday. Here’s Morgan:

1. How did Tacoma Brewing get started?

It got started out of an obsession to make flavor-forward beers for the masses… or at least Tacoma! It was some years in the making but after getting feedback from dropping samples off at my favorite watering holes, I decided to go for it and file for a commercial beer making permit.

2. What’s your favorite brew you’ve made so far?

My favorites are the Penalty Kick Double IPA (11%) – it drinks like a 7% and is very citrus hoppy – very juicy! On the darker side I like the Kentucky Bourbon Stout… because I love bourbon and it’s very bourbon-forward.

3. What’s the most misunderstood thing about craft brewing?

I’m not sure about that one!

4. Where can people get your beer?

People can get my beer at the taproom and as of this week at the Red Hot and Parkway – and soon other fine beer places.

5. What’s next for Tacoma Brewing?

Next is scaling up production and moving to a larger space. That’s the two year plan, at least. I am also one of the only breweries making a “pre-prohibition style ginger ale” line (contains alcohol) and I hope to start bottling them by this fall to get it out to local grocery stores and bottle shops.

I’d like to thank Morgan for participating in 5 Question Friday and I’ll say right now that his ginger ale is amazing. You can try his continuing changing selections yourself at Tacoma Brewing Co. at 625 St. Helens Ave., Tacoma, WA 98402. They’re open 5pm – 9pm Mon-Fri and 3pm – 9pm on Saturdays.

If you or someone you know would like to participate in 5 Question Friday, drop me a line at TacomaStories@gmail.com
– Jack Cameron