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Russ Alman | An engaged Facebook community

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Last week, Wenatchee World reporters took some time to reflect on what had been an historic, or perhaps infamous, month. With only about one-third of the fire season over, we have already faced the largest wildfire in Washington state history. As the social media manager for The Wenatchee World, I’d like to add my perspective.

After the Mills Canyon Fire swept through the Entiat area July 9, I was already on edge when I read the five-day weather forecast on July 14: temperatures soaring back over 100 degrees, but this time with brisk, ongoing winds. I remember telling my wife that we’d better brace for “Fire 2.0.”

When the firestorm hit Pateros on July 17, it became quickly apparent to me that as the manager of The World’s social media accounts, I would be playing a critical role in our ability to quickly share information with the public during this crisis. So many people now rely on social media as their primary source of news and information. While our reporters were in the field developing stories and disseminating fire updates, I focused on curating content — from our reporters, other news sources and our audience — so that information would reach as many people as possible through our social media channels. I felt a strong responsibility to stay on top of the information that was coming in so that I could share it quickly and accurately.

While I already knew this from managing the World’s social media for the past seven months, this summer’s fires really drove home for me just how engaged North Central Washington is as a community. It’s one of the qualities I’ve found most endearing about this area since I moved here two years ago. When people are in crisis here, the entire community steps up to help. People open their homes, their pantries and their wallets, so much so that charitable organizations can’t keep up with the donations.

The World’s social media audience is a strong reflection of this high sense of community. Since the fires began in early July, we have gained over 7,000 fans on Facebook. During the three days following the Pateros fire, we gained new fans at the rate of over 1,000 per day.

Last week, The World’s Facebook page hit 29,000 followers. That’s also how many fans the The News Tribune in Tacoma has on its page. To put this in perspective, Chelan and Douglas counties combined have about one-tenth the population of Pierce County. And The World just surpassed The Oregonian in Portland as the newspaper in the Northwest with the most engaged users on Facebook — the number of people who interact with our Facebook page by liking, commenting or sharing.

Not including The Oregonian, we have more than twice the number of engaged Facebook users than any other newspaper in our region, including The Seattle Times, The Seattle P.I., and The Spokesman-Review.

This extraordinary social media performance is a testament to how engaged North Central Washingtonians are as a community. We care about our environment. We care about our neighbors. And when things get tough, we open our doors and our hearts and leave no one behind.

As an NCW transplant, I am very impressed.

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