About Us - Salish Current

About Us

Dirty Dan Harris sculpture in Fairhaven Green
Early denizen Dirty Dan Harris continues his watch over Fairhaven — in bronze — on the Village Green.

Who We Are

The Salish Current is a nonpartisan, nonprofit, online local news organization serving Whatcom, San Juan and Skagit counties. Based in Bellingham, we serve 400,000 residents and tens of thousands of annual visitors to the three-county area. Our region is the ancestral home of Native treaty tribes including the Lummi, Nooksack, Samish, Sauk-Suiattle, Stillaguamish, Swinomish and Upper Skagit. It is home to Western Washington University, Northwest Indian College, Whatcom Community College, Skagit Valley College and Bellingham Technical College.

Mission

The Salish Current reports local news with independence and strict journalistic integrity, providing fact-based information and a forum for civil commentary.

Coverage areas include:

  • local government and criminal justice
  • public health issues
  • the natural environment
  • education, from preschool through higher education
  • agriculture, industry and commerce
  • diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice.

Vision

 The Salish Current provides information to inform public discussion and decisions on topics such as:

  • balancing population growth and increased commercial and industrial activity with the needs of rich and varied habitats, including farmland
  • meeting the challenges of climate change
  • ensuring justice and fairness for people who are displaced, poor, ill or addicted
  • examining spending on public education, law enforcement, public safety and economic development
  • holding elected officials to account for their actions.

Ethics and Policy

We are guided by and adhere to the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics:

  • We seek truth and report it accurately and fairly. We are honest and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.
  • We treat sources, subjects, colleagues and members of the public as fellow human beings deserving of respect.
  • We act independently avoiding conflicts of interest, real or perceived, in pursuing our highest and primary obligation to serve the public
  • We stand transparent and accountable to the public, and take responsibility for our work and our decisions.

Our website is accessible to all readers and our lists of donors, board members and staff are open to the public.

Equity and Inclusion

This news organization aims to reflect the diversity of the communities it serves in its staff and contributors, its editorial choices and priorities.

Funding

Support for the Salish Current comes from foundations and individual donors, community events, sponsorships and subscribers. Our news reporting is separate from our revenue sources. We do not endorse the values, products or services of any donor.

We are committed to transparency in every aspect of funding our organization.

Our news judgments are made independently — not based on or influenced by donors or any revenue source. We do not give supporters the rights to assign, review or edit content.

We make public all revenue sources and donors who give $5,000 or more per year. As a news nonprofit, we avoid accepting charitable donations from anonymous sources, government entities, political parties, elected officials or candidates seeking public office. We will not accept donations from sources who, deemed by our board of directors, present a conflict of interest with our work or compromise our independence.

The Team

Board of Directors

Janet Brownell has lived on Orcas Island since 1995, when she and her husband, Lance Evans, moved from California, where she was a screenwriter. Janet continued writing while on Orcas, and retired in 2012. Since that day, she has not missed scripting cheesy movies for television (and some that were actually okay). Both she and Lance love to travel. Their escapades have taken them from Africa to Thailand, Iceland to Patagonia — and many places in between. Perhaps despite her professional career, Janet has been involved with numerous local nonprofit organizations including the OPAL Community Land Trust, Orcas Island Community Foundation, Four Winds Camp, San Juan County Charter Review Committee and almost 20 years of service on the Orcas Island School Board. She currently serves as president of the Orcas Island Education Foundation.

Ken Brusic was the long-time editor of The Orange County Register, which was awarded a Pulitzer Prize during his tenure. He has been a reporter and editor at newspapers in Massachusetts, Colorado and Kansas; professor of journalism at the University of Montana; National Endowment of the Humanities Fellow; and a Coast Guard credentialed merchant mariner. Now a Bellingham-area resident, he is a volunteer writer and intern coordinator for Whatcom Watch, and works with Western Washington University students on brainstorming story topics and preparing stories for publication. Ken is a lifelong learner, a frustrated finger-style guitar player, motorcyclist and sailor who has a Ranger Tug.

Bill Craven

Bill Craven retired in 2019 to Bellingham with his wife, Terri, and Riley, their labradoodle, to be with family after 20 years as the chief of the California Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee. Previously, Craven spent three years at the state director of Sierra Club California, leading that group’s political involvement, lobbying and fundraising. Craven moved to California from Lawrence, Kansas, where he was a lawyer and lobbyist for the Sierra Club and the Kansas Natural Resources Council. He has reported for the Topeka Metro News, National Law Journal and other news outlets. An Illinois native, he graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University and Washburn University School of Law. In Bellingham, he has been active with Save the Waterfront, the organization that marshaled opposition to a proposed industrial metal shredder and pollution from metal piles on the waterfront.

Jim Davenport

Jim Davenport, a lawyer in his 47th year of practice, is a fourth-generation Washingtonian, his great-grandparents having homesteaded on the Samish River in 1912. After attaining degrees from the University of Puget Sound, University of Washington and Willamette University College of Law, his legal work has primarily involved land and water, from both private and public agency perspectives. He is the author of “Western Water Rights and the U.S. Supreme Court” (2020) and several articles about the constitutionality of western water law. He is a past assistant attorney general in Washington and in Nevada, and has been a city planning commissioner, county civil service commissioner, state historical association president, library board member and counsel to state and county agencies. Jim and wife, Pam, live in Yakima and Whatcom counties.

Jerry DeBacker

Jerry DeBacker’s early career was in restaurants, learning both culinary craftsmanship and front-of-the-house management, and eventually owning and operating a 120-seat cafe specializing in contemporary cuisine and live jazz. After returning to college for a degree in history, he spent four years managing and coordinating an academic symposium devoted to the 200th anniversary of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The last 30 years of his working life were devoted to conservation work. He has a wealth of land trust experience, having worked for Sagebrush Steppe Land Trust in Idaho and Whatcom Land Trust. He was the founding executive director of Prickly Pear Land Trust in Helena, Montana, and before retirement was director of Okanogan Land Trust. Jerry assisted three organizations in securing national accreditation in nonprofit standards and practices, and secured permanent conservation of trail corridors, nature reserves, agricultural lands, mitigation properties and public parks. Jerry, and his wife, Ellen, enjoy camping, skiing, biking and river-running with their two daughters and their husbands. They now devote most of their energy to enjoying their three grandkids and the family pets.

Britta Eschete is both an alum (’98) and employee at Western Washington University. She collaborates in organizing career fairs and other activities to facilitate connections and next steps among students, alumni and employers; has found her fantastic second career as elected bargaining representative with Local 1381 representing classified staff; and is pursuing an M.Ed. in adult education. Previously, she was education and outreach coordinator for People For Puget Sound, and hosted the interview program Puget Sound Voices at KSVR Radio. She is a decades-long volunteer with the Lincoln Theatre, RiverSong Farm and various music festivals, and more recently with the Celtic Arts Foundation; on the board of the Skagit River Poetry Foundation; a graduate of Leadership Skagit; and co-founder of the annual environmental educator workshop Storming the Sound. She recently completed a term on the board of the Skagit Food Co-op.

Jayne Freudenberger

Jayne Freudenberger moved with her family to Bellingham in 1969, looking for a forever home. Swept into an activist community, she became involved in political and community campaigns, and co-owned a gift and candy store. As Bellingham Public Library board president, she helped drive its first building remodel. She was the YWCA board’s citizen representative in building Dorothy Place, and served on the Bellingham City Club board and chaired its program committee. Jayne served as president of the League of Women Voters of Bellingham-Whatcom County and on the state board. She led local LWV advocacy against the GPT coal terminal proposal, and as climate issues co-chair has adopted eliminating single-use plastic as her bête noir. Post-retirement, she and her husband, Bill, traveled widely, in China, Tibet, Europe, India, Patagonia, the Galapagos and Myanmar.

Since moving to Bellingham in 2002, Eric Hirst has been active in local government and environmental issues, serving on boards and advisory committees with the City of Bellingham, Bellingham Herald and environmental advocacy groups. He holds a Ph.D. in engineering from Stanford University, taught at the Tuskegee Institute and was an energy-efficiency policy analyst at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Recently, Eric has focused on researching and writing articles for local media on Nooksack Basin water issues, reaching out to include multiple perspectives to encourage discussion of possible solutions. Eric enjoys hiking with friends and playing tenor sax, especially the 1950s rock ‘n roll he grew up with.

Kamalla Kaur is the executive director of the Chardi Kala Project, which bridges between Whatcom County Sikhs and the greater community. Kamalla Kaur also co-founded ONE Whatcom, a movement that brings people together within the rich diversity of our Native American, minority and immigrant cultures, to get to know and support each other. Kamalla Kaur is a Pacific Northwest writer with a degree in English from Western Washington University. She began studying the Sikh religion in her 20s and has written for Sikhi.com, Sikh Free Press and other Sikh and non-Sikh publications.

Community Advisors

    • Tony Angell
    • Jill Bernstein
    • Henry Bierlink
    • Joan Connell
    • Cheryl Crooks
    • Carolyn Dale
    • William Dietrich
    • Jessica Gigot
    • Susan Given-Seymour
    • Bill Gorman
    • Betsy Gross
    • Stephen Howie
    • Genevieve Iverson
    • Vernon Damani Johnson
    • Shawn Kemp
    • M. L. Lyke
    • Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor
    • Barbara Marrett
    • Maria McLeod
    • Ron Polinder
    • Frances Posel
    • Dan Raas
    • Chuck Robinson
    • Barbara Ryan
    • Kathy Sheehan
    • Riley Sweeney
    • Janice Walker
    • Peggy Watt
    • Ted Wolf

Editorial Staff

Lane Morgan volunteers as content editor for the Salish Current and is a writer and editor for HistoryLink.org and the Journal of the Whatcom County Historical Society. She is the author of books and articles on Pacific Northwest history and other topics and a recipient of the Washington Governor’s Writers Award. She is a former editor for the Lynden Tribune, the Bellingham Herald and the Seattle P-I, and also taught at Nooksack Valley High School and Western Washington University. A fourth-generation Washingtonian, she has lived in Whatcom County since 1980.

Amy Nelson is a founder and volunteers as the publisher of the Salish Current. An advocate for fact-based, public-service local news and for media literacy, she is a journalism alumna of Western Washington University. She has been an editor, reporter and photographer for community newspapers in the Pacific Northwest; freelanced for print, broadcast and online publications; led communications for medical and scientific not-for-profit organizations; and managed scholarly publishing for an international scientific society. She has called Whatcom County home for all but 13 years since 1972, and these days splits her time between Bellingham and Lopez Island, gobsmacked with that good fortune.

Mike Sato is a founder and volunteers as the managing editor of the Salish Current. A graduate of Reed College, he was the editor of The Island Record (San Juan County) and editor and publisher of the Seattle Sun, and served in communications positions for Seattle City Light, the Puget Sound Water Quality Authority, Hawaiian Electric Company and People For Puget Sound. He compiles environmental news items for the weekday Salish Sea News and Weather and periodically blogs for Salish Sea Communications. The author of “The Price of Taming a River: The Decline of Puget Sound’s Duwamish/Green Waterway,” he resides in Bellingham and on Lopez Island.

Contributing Journalists

    • Tom Banse
    • Matt Benoit
    • Margaret Bikman
    • Dick Clever
    • Toby Cooper
    • Nancy DeVaux
    • John M. Harris
    • Clifford Heberden
    • Questen Inghram
    • Rena Kingery
    • Aria Nguyen
    • Eric Scigliano
    • Catherine Skrzypinski
    • Adam M. Sowards
    • John Stark
    • Kai Uyehara
    • Richard Arlin Walker
    • Gretchen K. Wing

Resources

Whatcom County Library System Reference Desk, Fact Checking Support

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