Cascadia Daily News offers new local news source and job opportunities for WWU journalism students, grads

by James Ellis
WWU Office of University Communications Intern

Cascadia Daily News launched on January 24 to offer the city of Bellingham a new source for local news from its office on State Street. It publishes online articles daily, and this month it began offering its weekly newspaper.  

The paper was established by the Cascadia Newspaper Company, owned by fourth-generation Whatcom resident David Syre. It adopts the name of its predecessor Cascadia Weekly, which ended its 15-year run in December of last year.  

“Our owner, David Syre, is very regionally focused,” said Executive Editor Ron Judd, a Western alum who has taught in the university's Journalism Department. “He likes the idea of ‘Cascadia’ as its own region. Not politically, but culturally, geographically and environmentally.” 

The emphasis on local community guides the newsroom as it develops and refines its coverage priorities, since one of the benefits of a startup newspaper is the freedom from the conventions and practices of long-operating newsrooms. The Cascadia Daily team chose to solicit feedback from the community, rather than conform to a typical beat structure, to determine how they will focus their coverage.  

“We’re getting a lot of feedback from people —which is great, and what we want— because we want people to help us decide what it is they want to see us cover,” Judd said. “Our doors are open for that kind of communication, and I feel like that’s not the case for a lot of other publications.” 

Another quality that will set Cascadia Daily apart from other publications is their print newspaper, which will play a significant role in business operations. Since advertising and website subscriptions are the two central elements of the paper’s revenue plan, the ability to load a physical newspaper with ads will prevent the “whack-a-mole game” people have to play with online ads. 

“We want our website to be a clean experience, so the print paper carrying our advertising makes that a lot more financially feasible,” Judd said.  

Additionally, Judd believes the presence of a printed paper and its ads in local businesses is part of their identity and facilitates their service to the community. He said the ads from Cascadia Weekly would promote civic engagement with information about clubs, community events and restaurants, which was a vital role of traditional newspapers that has been abandoned by corporate-owned media companies as they cut features for the sake of profit.  

“Living here for 20 years, I’ve seen that impact on the community,” Judd said. “I’ve gone to public meetings and seen important things happen that never get discussed because they never get reported, let alone commented on by people watching the news who may have an informed opinion about something.” 

“The other void I see is in papers that have cut their staff to the point that they can no longer cover things that are basic functions of life to most people, like high school sports or arts and entertainment. Things that are the lifeblood of the town outside of crime and hard news and business and government.” 

With no competition to discourage those kinds of cuts for news corporations, Judd looks forward to Cascadia Daily filling that void for Bellingham.  

“We want our approach to be local, personal, people-oriented and consumer-oriented. To me, it’s more of an approach issue than a beat-coverage issue,” Judd said. “We just want to bring a different perspective to the news, and I hired reporters that I think have that kind of focus and that kind of orientation.” 

One such reporter, sports editor Hailey Palmer, graduated from Western in 2018 and heard about Judd’s venture from a social media update he made to announce his departure from the Seattle Times. Judd reached out to Palmer after she left a like on the post, and when they met up a week later he mentioned his interest in a sports section for the paper.  

“I think Bellingham has become so starved for regular, comprehensive, in-depth news coverage, and being able to do that, and be part of something that changes the way that people in Bellingham value and look at news is definitely an honor and a privilege,” she said.  

Kai Uyehara, a current Western student interning at Cascadia Daily, shares the excitement of his coworkers. He applied for the internship after one of his professors mentioned the opportunity.  

“I’m a creative writing major at Western, and I’ve always wanted to do journalism,” Uyehara said. “Once I had my creative writing major finished before my 180 credits, I got into journalism as a minor. I just love it because it’s exciting and you’re doing work that really matters.” 

Uyehara thought interning at Cascadia Daily would be an informative experience as he helped build the publication from the ground up, and he finds the work fulfilling so far.  

“Everyone keeps talking about how we’re in a news desert here in Bellingham. The Bellingham Herald is kind of dying out and not covering as many things as they used to, and it’s cool to be able to fill that void. It feels like people are seeing our work and we’re getting to tell stories that otherwise wouldn’t get told,” he said.  

“We’re made up of a lot of local Western students, both past and present, and it’s kind of exciting to be homegrown.” 

Tuesday, March 8, 2022 - 12:42pm
From left, Ralph Schwartz, Hailey Hoffman, Jaya Flanary, Ron Judd, Elizabeth Kayser and Julia Lerner stand in the Cascadia Daily News newsroom.

From left, Ralph Schwartz, Hailey Hoffman, Jaya Flanary, Ron Judd, Elizabeth Kayser and Julia Lerner stand in the Cascadia Daily News newsroom. (image courtesy Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)