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Publisher talks about his Yakima Valley Justice Center coverage

More than 20,000 people receive copies of at least one publication from Yakima newspaper publisher Bruce Smith. According to Smith, just under 7,000 businesses in Yakima County receive the Yakima Valley Business Times, as do 13,000 people ages 55 years or older in the Yakima and Tri-Cities areas.

Smith was the guest speaker at Wednesday morning's Sunnyside Daybreak Rotary Club meeting. Smith talked about everything from the newspaper business to the Yakima Valley Justice Center being constructed by Yakima County.

Smith said being in the news industry in the Yakima Valley he works hard to distinguish his publications from other newspapers published in the area. He said his staff on the Yakima Valley Business Times, a twice monthly newspaper, works hard to find breaking news for its readers, news they can't necessarily find in other publications.

"When you open our paper, what we really want is you to learn something," Smith said. "We try to go out and find something you don't know and tell you about it."

Smith said the Yakima Valley Business Times also works to have a unique editorial section. He said the editorial page has been referred to on more than one occasion as "feisty." He added that the newspaper's editorial page does try to take a conservative point of view.

Smith told the Rotarians one area he feels the newspaper could improve is with its coverage of business news in the Lower Valley.

"I do not think we do a good enough job covering this end of the Valley," Smith said.

Being that the Yakima Valley Business Times covers business news around the Valley, Smith talked about the newspaper's coverage of the Yakima County jail project.

Smith said one of the stories that recently ran in his newspaper dealt with the jail and the knowledge that once the facility is complete it will lose money for the county on an annual basis.

Smith explained that Yakima County currently has about 1,100 jail beds, between the Yakima County jail and the county's restitution center. He said that at this point less than half of those beds are filled with Yakima County prisoners. The rest of the beds, Smith said, Yakima County is renting out.

According to Smith, Yakima County is getting paid for 440 beds a day. He told Rotarians that Yakima County gets paid whether or not those beds are full.

"So that money has been rolling in already," Smith said.

He noted that the county has been able to do this with its existing facilities. He added that when the new Yakima Valley Justice Center opens its doors and its 288 new beds, those 288 beds will be filled from the county's existing facility. Smith said this means that revenue coming in to the existing facility to house out-of-county prisoners won't automatically increase, because those same prisoners will move into the new jail facility, meaning Yakima County will then have to find a way to replace the revenue being taken away from the existing facility.

"[The county] will experience a loss in the millions of dollars if they don't replace those people," Smith said.

Smith added that the topic of the Yakima Valley Justice Center is not something that will leave the pages of his newspaper anytime soon. He said his staff is currently looking into several different stories involving the facility.

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