Editorial | The Totem Lake Malls series is eye opening

The Reporter’s series on Totem Lake Malls has been eye opening – even for us. Going into the series we wondered how we would get a five-part series out of the topic. What we ended up with was so much information that we could have done a seven- or eight-part series. Our average story length for any news story is about 15 inches. The average story length for the Totem Lake series has been about 50 inches, not including photos, with the longest being a whopping 80 inches.

The response from readers has been nothing short of amazing.

The survey that ran with the series in the first issue and online is just one component. As of Tuesday morning, we received 29 hard copies in the mail and 304 online. We want to thank those who took time out of their day to give us their thoughts. Not all the responses were from those in Kirkland. We received surveys from people who used to live in Kirkland and have since moved away to places such at Florida, Colorado, New Jersey, Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina, Iowa, Oklahoma, New York, Hawaii and Canada. For more on what people had to say in the survey see our cover story.

The idea for the series came from a Reporter Newspaper's editorial conference. We strive to print good community journalism with in-depth reporting. We stay true to these values in an attempt to set ourselves apart from online news sources and other news outlets. Both Reporter editorial staff members Carrie Wood and Matt Phelps have been asked about the state of the malls since arriving in Kirkland and figured it was time to get some answers. Since moving our offices from the Market neighborhood to the Totem Lake neighborhood we have seen first hand the frustration with the property. But we have seen that frustration from readers, local businesses and the City of Kirkland turn towards optimism since starting the series.

We worked on the series for over four months, researching, interviewing, taking photos and spending countless hours on the phone.

While many of the news stories that run in the Reporter average about three to five sources, the Totem Lake Series was off the scale. The final story accumulated more than 350 sources with the survey included. The story on the lawsuit and ownership profile had more than 60 sources, despite never being able to get a response from anyone in the ownership group.

We apologize if other areas of the paper have suffered during the last five weeks, but we thought this issue is one of the most important facing the City of Kirkland and its residents right now.

The series has included the history, demise, profile of ownership, economic impact, current state of the malls and the future of the Totem Lake Malls. The Reporter has also attempted to augment the series with profiles on other aspects and businesses in the Totem Lake neighborhood. Denny’s Pet World has been in the upper mall since the beginning. Totem Lake Cinemas is one of the only Bollywood theaters in the Western United States. Bob Lightfelt was the owner of Shady Lady in the mall for 15 years and has since retired. ShopSmart Bazaar is the newest business at the malls. Also included, was a story on the remodel of one of the most frequented businesses in the neighborhood, Fred Meyer, which is located just across the freeway from the site.

The most astonishing aspects to the series for Reporter staff was the absolute stonewall received from the malls’ ownership group and the economic impact of that single piece of property in the City of Kirkland.

There are some people we would like to extend a special thanks in making this series possible: Everyone at the City of Kirkland including Marie Stake, Ellen Miller-Wolfe, Kurt Triplett, Joan McBride, Dave Asher, Mary-Alyce Burleigh, Ray Steiger, Eric Shields, Robin Jenkinson, Denny’s Pet World owner John Fleshman, Loita Hawkinson and Matthew McCauley of the Kirkland Heritage Society, former Kirkland Mayor Bill Woods, Matt Harding, Sue and Sants Contreras, and everyone who e-mailed and called to thank us just for doing our jobs and producing the stories.

Our hope with this series was to educate the public and to hopefully push the process along. All residents of Kirkland have a stake in the future of the Totem Lake neighborhood.

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