This is the seventh in a series of regular posts helping you get to know the journalists who bring you the news.
Christine Clarridge is delivering news before most of us are awake.
For the past couple of years, Clarridge has helped drive an initiative by The Seattle Times to produce stories when people want them most. That can mean during your first cup of coffee, morning commute or pause between alarms. Clarridge wakes up at 4 a.m.
She then hops on a motorized scooter and catches a ferry, traveling each day from her Bremerton home to our newspaper’s office in South Lake Union. Monitoring for overnight reports on topics ranging from tragic crimes and accidents to light-hearted entertainment news, Clarridge is tuned in to Twitter, email and the 911 police scanner before 6 a.m..
The deadline-intensive gig — one that follows various reporting jobs over 20 years in the newsroom — requires strong news judgment, tenacity and an ability to quickly digest difficult subject matter. Here she explains aspects of the job, as well as personal experiences while reporting.
Q: Where did you start your career?
I was a philosophy major at the University of Texas, and I thought I was going to get a Ph.D. and go into academics because everyone in my family is in academia. And then I was in the university tower where that guy shot all of those people … We were taking a summer graduate class on the meaning of truth and reality.
I’m looking out the window, and I see this girl crying. “I wonder if she found out she just got pregnant? I wonder if her mom just died? I wonder if she can’t pay rent?” We’re arguing about truth and reality, but what people really do when they’re in crisis, when their moments of truth come, that’s the real meaning of truth and reality.
It was distinctly a click in my brain. That day, I went down to go apply at The Daily Texan; I started working that day, and I’ve been doing journalism since then.
Q: What experience has pushed your limits to the extreme?
There was this little girl who was kidnapped and murdered, and her name was Zina Linnik. At that time, she was the exact same age as my daughter, looked like her. … So this story about a man who raped and killed little women and small girls — it did push my limits.
Josh Powell, when he blew up his children, was horrifying.
And then, a story about Robert Yates. He’s a convicted serial killer, who is on death row now. But it really was an experience for me to sit behind him during the sentencing phase and watch him cry as his dad testified. And to hear his daughter say, “I love you, dad” and to just really realize that he’s a human being and a convicted serial killer … It’s not some remote situation; this is a real person.
Q: You’re working with very delicate subject matter. How do you make sure that you’re taking care of yourself and still manage to be present with the people around you?
Before I go to interview somebody that is going to be sensitive or that I have feelings about, I usually spend a few minutes of meditation in the car.
I sit there and I just feel; open the windows so I can just feel what the day is like.
Q: What reporting experience would you want other people to experience?
Being trusted to tell a story and then going through the process — for some reason it’s sweeter when you’ve labored over it, when it’s been hard — and then you’ve done a good job.
Q: The way journalists do their jobs has dramatically changed, with social media, online publishing, different tools and apps. Do you have a story about incorporating something new? Any challenges?
So far, I love it because I’ve always felt that small, daily news was the skeleton of the system upon which all of the other stuff was hung. It was the most important; it was the foundation.
For me, the immediacy of media now is a welcomed change. Yes, there’s lots to criticize. But as one of my kids said, “Don’t stress out, mom. There’s always going to be media; the form it takes is just going to be different.”
Q: How would you describe the current state of news?
In the middle of an exciting rebirth.
We’re so used to knowing everything, but there’s a little bit of joy in not knowing.
NOTABLE STORIES BY CHRISTINE CLARRIDGE
In a city with more dogs than children — and where admitting you’re not a dog person can get you dirty looks — can dog-wary individuals find peace? (June 9, 2017)
Seattle’s own monument to the Confederacy was erected on Capitol hill in 1926 — and it’s still there
On a sleepy, urban hilltop in Seattle stands a monument to Confederate soldiers. It’s been there for more than 90 years. (Aug. 16, 2017)
A hat is more than just a hat. It’s “an expression of black culture that embodies self-expression, dignity, identity, tradition and respect,” says the manager of the Northwest African American Museum. (April 13, 2017)
If their detractors are to be believed, they’re to blame for almost everything, but Seattle millennials say the world’s woes are not their fault. (July 5, 2017)
A dying father is given a lifetime membership to the Northwest African American Museum for his 3-year-old daughter and her “beautiful” white foster family in Bellevue. He hopes they will adopt her and nurture her black heritage. (June 22, 2016)
Chief Criminal Judge Ronald Kessler gave The Seattle Times a rare opportunity to view a day’s court proceedings from his bench and see what he saw as he presided over the court, where an average of 80 or so defendants are processed, sorted and judged each day.
“Every judge has to confront the element of risk,” Kessler says. “That’s what we do.”
(June 5, 2013)
Want to learn more about your favorite Seattle Times journalist? Send a message to Deputy Managing Editor Lynn Jacobson.