I thought I’d always remember my first, except I didn’t. Not the specific date — there’ve been so many since then — only the circumstances: a guy in a three-piece suit at the Division Street off-ramp holding a cardboard sign reading “I need a plasma screen TV.”
It was 2005, and I’d brought my portfolio of design, writing and teaching samples to the Inlander in hopes of securing a graphic designer job. (I didn’t get it.) Instead, former editor Michael Bowen assigned me to interview the guy in the suit. In 2006, former Inlander editor Ann Colford said yes to me writing about food.
Eighteen years later, here I am, a freelancer-turned-staff writer, at least until next week. Although you’ll still see my byline, I’m stepping away from writing as a full-time staffer, which has resulted in hundreds of photos and well over a thousand Inlander articles.
Originally, I focused on North Idaho, including three years helping create the Coeur d’Alene Pages on Lake City places and events. Now you know who to blame for increased Coeur d’Alene traffic.
I’ve written about “preppers,” skateboarders, and Orange County Choppers’ Spokane visit. I rode on the mechanical bull and with drift drivers, both in Stateline, Idaho. I spent a cold day in search of North Idaho’s cranberry bog, and another with Second Harvest’s wonderful mobile market team. And I’ve contributed to nearly every seasonal gift, drink, dining and local lifestyle guide the Inlander produces, and there are lots!
Sometimes I found stories, like animal-assisted therapy organizations and Spokane’s Fire Lookout Museum. Sometimes they found me, like the Pullman-based conservationists working with Madagascar’s voatsiperifery pepper. Some stories were entrusted, like the Coeur d’Alene Resort and Casino’s 25th anniversary, and the tribe’s qhestlife initiative.
I’ve covered farms, kindergarten-through-college food programs, and people whose passion and hard work puts food on our tables. Memorable pieces include Village Bakery’s “uniquely abled” employees, Washington State University’s viticulture degree program, Feast World Kitchen, and cultural panoramas like European holiday traditions and the origins of curry.
I’ve followed narrative threads to the end, too, with tributes to industry icons: longtime restaurateur Connie Naccarato, and chef Rod Jessick, as well as Ruben Trejo, Harold Balazs and Mel McCuddin in the arts.
Through the arts, the Inlander has also explored climate change, contemporary folk art and artmaking through various lenses, from the Black and Native American experiences to residents of the United Arab Emirates. Memorable culture stories include art in rural areas post-COVID, the all-Spanish radio station Ke Buena, Spokane’s Scottish Highland Games, and Out of the Shadows Theater’s special needs focus.
Looking back, it seems like a lot, but it’s a fraction of our region’s stories. Even as I’ve finished one article, I lament others I’ve missed. Someone else might have chosen different stories or different words, and working in this industry means accepting its limitations.
There have been rough patches, of course, and I’ve made mistakes. I appreciate that when the Inlander corrects errors on its writers’ behalf, it does so because the publication is above all, a team effort.
A huge effort … every single week for three decades. And when the Inlander celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, I’ll be cheering from the sidelines, honored to have been a contributor.
It’s been a blast, though — a journey of discovery with the added honor of delivering stories about people, places and events that make our region so extraordinary.
Oh, and the guy in the suit? That was Gabriel Brown, an Eastern Washington University art student whose art performance we highlighted in a last-page feature, appropriately titled The Last Word. ♦