Troy Brynelson, reporter at Salem Reporter. (File/Salem Reporter)
It’s hard for me to believe it’s been a year at Salem Reporter.
As a reporter, it’s easy to get caught up in the daily churn — with news seemingly breaking at all hours — and forget how it’s turned and rolled over and over 365 times.
It’s not always a churn. This job is at its most fun when you’re pursuing something. The stories that rise in my memory, and the stories I want to revisit here, are those that took a lot of digging, many phone calls, some heated arguments, and some long drives to meet sources in other cities.
Just about all of these articles were launched by tips from you, the readers, and others who knew I would handle difficult stories with care. Thank you for all your continued trust and for always reaching out when you have questions about how our community works.
When you drive through downtown Salem, you’ll invariably pass the steel-and-concrete skeleton that will be Salem Police Department’s new headquarters.
I think that’s why so many readers kept emailing and asking: When is Salem Reporter going to ask why the building’s price tag keeps getting higher?
I spent a few months talking to engineers, police officers, construction workers, construction experts, architects and elected officials trying to wrap my head around the answer. Mostly I got, “Well, construction costs are rising.”
But I asked: what does that mean exactly? How did it rise? Can we break this down so people understand? I hope we did.
It only took a month or two to learn that the city of Salem had been in court for a few years over what is often a run-of-the-mill public document. We wondered why.
By the time this article was written, the city of Salem had lost its case in the Oregon Court of Appeals, ordered to pay a Woodburn newspaper’s attorney fees, and sought to take the case to the state Supreme Court.
Salem Reporter sought to explain why the city felt this case was so important, what precedent it could possibly mean for Salem residents if this record were released, but also what their efforts had already meant to taxpayers.
The state Supreme Court never did pick up the case.
The tumultuous career of Salem police’s Seth Thayres
An email popped up in February that an off-duty Salem police officer was arrested for meth possession and theft after a rash of burglaries in southeast Portland.
It’s not every day that a peace officer finds himself or herself in this kind of situation. It seemed important to start asking what happened and ask the kinds of questions anyone would have about the fitness of the men and women who patrol Salem’s streets.
While the initial breaking news relied on court documents, Thayres himself eventually agreed to meet me at a coffee shop in Portland and share his side. Telling his stories also meant scouring police records in Oregon and Florida – Thayres’ home state – and unsuccessfully seeking Salem city records.
In the weeks that followed, Thayres would be arrested again, then flee the state only to get arrested once more and extradited.
In February, the Salem City Council halted work on the proposed Salem River Crossing.
To be honest, the headline and the article does not do justice to what this bridge has meant for Salem and why this article is so important. The council today, which leans largely progressive and liberal, is a direct byproduct of this 13-year-old project.
Having only been a reporter in Salem for about six months, I tried to encapsulate how momentous this decision was for the city. The meeting itself was hours long and palpably contentious. Many in the room who supported the bridge stormed out after the majority of councilors struck it down.
Salem Reporter expresses no opinions about the project itself, but there’s little doubt that this was the most important development we covered for the community.
Articles like this, I have to say, are why I got into this profession.
Very few people knew of Alexandria Tereshka. She was in the news for one day in November after she died. I’ve already written an extensive column detailing how I went about trying to detail her life, how she circulated in and out of public services for substance abuse and behavioral health problems.
But I’d bring it up again to say that I still get emails about this article every once in awhile. Months after it was published, Tereshka’s story has helped people better understand how treatment can be a life or death situation for people in our community.
Troy Brynelson covers local government and business for Salem Reporter. He joined the news team from the start after time at The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Wash.