OPB meets funding goal for new Southwest Washington bureau

By Andrew Lapin

12/16/13: This item has been updated.

Oregon Public Broadcasting is preparing to open a permanent bureau in Southwest Washington state by early 2014, and has surpassed $400,000 in funding to make it happen.

The bureau will allow OPB to deepen its reporting on Washington’s Clark County, which is located just across the Columbia River from OPB headquarters in Portland, as well as cross-border issues and the Washington State legislature in Olympia. It will contain one staff member, a full-time multimedia reporter, to start. Stories produced by the bureau will be shared across public radio stations and for-profit media organizations in the Pacific Northwest, and with national outlets such as NPR and the PBS NewsHour.

To fund the first three years of the new bureau’s operations, OPB has lined up major donations from the Firstenburg Family Foundation and OPB supporters Paul and Debbie Speer, Jan and Steve Oliva and the Wollenberg Foundation. With a combination of listener donations and a thank-you reception for top donors on Dec. 12, OPB raised the last bit of money needed to fund the first three years of the bureau’s operation, according to Steve Bass, c.e.o.

According to OPB, 150,000 residents of Clark County tune into OPB broadcasts or visit its website on a weekly basis, representing 13 percent of the pubcaster’s total audience. What’s more, ten percent of the network’s 119,000 contributing members reside in Washington state.

“So many of the things that face our region really unite these two parts of these two states together,” Cheryl Ikemiya, OPB’s director of leadership giving, told the Vancouver Business Journal. “I think this is a great opportunity to add to the discussion and to elevate issues and broaden conversation among our community.”

Correction: The Columbia River separates Clark County, Wash., from Portland, Ore. An earlier version of this story misidentified the body of water as the Hood River.

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