The Times - Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

By Dena Martin
the Times 

Former Times intern is KREM2 News investigative reporter

Ian Smay finds reward in telling the hard stories


August 1, 2019

SPOKANE, Wash.-Dayton High School graduate and former Times intern Ian Smay graduated from Washington State University (WSU) in December of 2018 and went to work for KREM 2 News in Spokane, as an investigative reporter and producer three weeks later, in January.

Smay said he caught KREMs eye when a highly publicized story in The Daily Evergreen, exposing sexual misconduct allegations against Jason Gesser, assistant director of athletics at the Cougar Athletic Fund, garnered widespread, and even national attention. Smay was the lead investigative reporter at the student-led paper at the time the story broke in Sept. of 2018.

After the story broke, a KREM news director visited WSU to speak at a broadcasting class where Smay was a teacher's aid and encouraged Smay to interview with KREM. He interviewed, an offer was made, and he accepted.

"I'm enjoying it. KREM is a great fit. I'm glad I stayed in news. It's fun and busy and no two days are alike. This is where I wanted to be and I'm lucky to have a chance to do what I wanted right when I got out of college," said Smay, who turns 23 in October.

While in college, Smay worked as a news editor, investigative reporter and news reporter with The Daily Evergreen and acted as newsroom manager for News 8, a nightly newscast produced by WSU students.

In the summers of 2016 and 2017, Smay interned for The Times in Waitsburg. He remained in Pullman in the summer of 2018 to work as summer editor for The Daily Evergreen. He graduated from WSU with a degree in Journalism and Media Production and a minor in Criminal Justice.

"I've always loved the news and the law. I'm very happy where I'm at as an investigative reporter. But I've also thought about going to law school, which is something I may still do in the future. The criminal justice classes I took focused more on the law than policing," Smay said.

Smay said an average workday, if there is such a thing, includes researching, interviewing and producing copy.

"I try to find people willing to talk. When you're investigating wrongdoings, that's not always easy to do. If I find someone, a photographer and I will go interview them or we'll have them come to the studio. Then, what they tell you might change the story completely and I'll need to review and update to see what may need changed," he said.

Smay said most of his investigative work in Spokane has revolved around the Spokane County Jail and the deaths of inmates.

Smay, who currently appears on air two to three times a week, said one of the challenges of working in television is making a story visually captivating.

"We have to keep in mind how a story looks on camera. A lot of my work involves public records, which are not that interesting to look at, so we have to think of how to make a story more visually appealing. It's a challenge and can be frustrating, but I like it," he said.

Smay said the television newsroom is also faster paced than his work with newspapers.

"We want to be correct in what we're saying, but we also want to get it up quickly. A good example of that is right now with wildfire season. We want to get word out so people in the area are aware right away," Smay said.

In addition to television broadcasts, the news is distributed through social media and the KREM2 website and app. Smay is responsible for much of the digital content.

Smay said he enjoys working in both television and newspaper but there are distinct differences.

"I do think about writing for The Times, especially after busy days or weeks of dark, grim stories. When I wrote about Dayton and Waitsburg I was able to write more human interest stories and could go in-depth. With TV, you can't go very in-depth in a minute and a half," he said.

"The Times was my first real job in journalism. I got to write a lot, which made my writing a lot better. You can only learn so much in the classroom. A big part of learning is going out and doing something, and you only get that by practice," he added.

Smay said that the amount of support and encouragement he continues to receive from people in Dayton and Waitsburg since leaving The Times has been "amazing."

"I received a tremendous amount of support from people back home when I was at The Daily Evergreen and Murrow News 8, especially with my investigative work on the Gesser piece. And every time I'm on air for KREM I get a lot of support and people telling me they like my work and are proud, even if it doesn't affect the Touchet Valley. It's been great an it makes the job definitely worth it," Smay said.

Smay said he is often asked about his career choice by those who think the need for journalists is dying.

"Journalism is not dying like people say. If anything, it's more needed now than ever. We need people who are willing to be truthful and tell the hard truths that people don't want told. It's rewarding work. There is always a need in a country and society to hold those in power accountable," Smay said.

"News gets a bad rap now. I'm not going to say it is never biased, but we can change that by being unbiased and dedicated to being fair. It is definitely rewarding; I'm not going to become a millionaire, but I enjoy what I do every day," he added.


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