CLIFF’S EDGE: Getting to know those we finally get to meet


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My wife and I sat in on the 10th birthday party of this blog Monday evening, and I came away realizing how little I know about a community in which I’ve lived for some 45 years.

For one thing it was my first time spent in the Tin Room Bar where the party was held. In contrast, many of those who had packed into the bar and then the theater behind it gave the impression they’d been in it forever.

In a way I felt like we were guests in their home.

I could drop names of many of those I met there for the first time, but you’d probably wonder what took me so long to get to know them.

I was asking myself the same thing, until I realized that in the 45 or so years my wife and I have made our home in Burien that I was employed, first, in Seattle and the last 35 years or so in the Tacoma area.

We got to know well the schools our children attended for the first two or three decades, but only lately have included them again in our routine activities.

We have done our banking at a couple of local banks. We have a long-standing, frequently exercised relationship with a Burien pharmacy,

We’ve put our elbows on the table at a few local restaurants, but would call only a couple of them our “regulars.”

It’s only since I started writing with The B-town Blog last June that I’ve wandered off the familiar routes between home and customary places of business, and I’ve come to really “find” Burien and its neighbor communities, White Center and Normandy Park.

I came to know Des Moines well only because I drove through there regularly on my way to Tacoma.

When we came to this area in 1969 one of the first people I got to know was a Burien resident, Jerry Robinson. But he also was a local newspaper publisher and I got to know him, not as a Burien neighbor, but through my association with the Washington Newspaper Publishers Assn.

One of those I chatted with at the Tin Room Bar Monday had worked with Robinson at the Highline Times in a production capacity. He knew him within a Burien context, while I’d known him through a context that seemed in a whole different world.

While we’d come together Monday evening to celebrate 10 years of The B-Town Blog’s existence it was obvious many of those in the place were looking ahead to the next 10 years, or 20, or more, and it was a treat to listen in on their aspirations.

As I’ve mentioned recently in this column, you can’t be around media people these days without sensing the uncertainty that’s a part of their everyday lives.

Those who spoke aloud Monday used terms that those in news media have used in this country for a couple hundred years… free press and media responsibility on the one hand, and building audience and making money on the other.

I pretty much kept my thoughts to myself, but a dominant one was that it is great to sit in on a conversation like this knowing that it’s similar to those going on all over the country as we try to preserve a vigorous and responsible press.

And through those conversations, old-timers and newcomers also are meeting for the first time or reacquainting themselves with their communities for a really meaningful time.

Like we were doing.

Cliff Rowe is a retired journalist and journalism professor. (He practiced both in a time before journalists and what they produced were considered “enemies of the people.”) He and his family have lived in the Shorewood area of White Center (then Burien) since 1969 when they returned to the Northwest after seven years in the Chicago area. There, following graduate school, he wrote and edited with the Chicago Sun-Times and with Paddock Publications in the Chicago suburbs. On moving here, he was with The Seattle Times for 11 years before turning to teaching journalism at Pacific Lutheran University for 35 years, retiring in 2015.

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