By Jesse Major
My time working at The Buccaneer, Peninsula College’s award-winning student newspaper, was the launch of a wild career I could never have planned for. It started in 2010 when I enrolled at Peninsula College as a Running Start student and Professor Rich Riski encouraged me to join the student newspaper.
It didn’t take long for the newspaper to ask me to do things like write stories, design pages, and take on leadership positions as a photo editor and managing editor. This is where I really learned photography, writing for an audience, design, and how to ask tough questions. It was my time at The Buccaneer that taught me the critical thinking and life skills that have been the foundation of my career.
After graduating from Port Angeles High School and Peninsula College with an Associate in Arts degree in 2012, I transferred to Pacific Lutheran University where I continued my work as a student journalist. Once I earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communication in 2014, I drove halfway across the country to work at a daily newspaper in Iowa. After one winter in the Midwest, it became clear I would be making my way back to Port Angeles.
While at the Peninsula Daily News, my primary beat was County Government. My goal was to not just cover the meetings but to show the impact the decisions made during those meetings had in the real world. I also made it a priority to give a voice to some of our most vulnerable citizens. I regularly interviewed people who were homeless, suffering from substance use disorder, or who were in recovery from substance use. This led to increased awareness in our community and reduced stigma. One of the things I am most proud of is that my reporting directly led to an increase in sober housing by inspiring landlords to rent to recovering addicts.
Just before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic hit, I accepted a position as a code enforcement officer for Clallam County. There, I used the skills I had acquired at The Buccaneer every day. I interviewed people, wrote reports, and conducted research. As a code enforcement officer, I also relied on the relationships I had built in our community as a newspaper reporter. This helped me work with other departments in the County and with other agencies, such as REdisCOVERY, Peninsula Behavioral Health, and Serenity House.
Now I am a Public Records Analyst and work in the Public Records Office of the County. As a reporter I used the Public Records Act all the time, but now my job is to work with the Public Records Officer to ensure our County follows the law and provides records to our citizens. Washington State has a powerful Public Records Act, and with good reason; Government functions better when our citizens know what is going on.
I am thankful my education at Peninsula College prepared me for my journey and I would encourage anyone to take at least one journalism course at PC. Even if you have no intention of being a journalist, I have found the skills I learned in student media have helped me throughout my entire career.
About the author: Jesse Major is a Public Records Analyst for Clallam County and previously worked as a journalist for the Peninsula Daily News. His work has appeared in newspapers across the country, including the Seattle Times, Des Moines Register, Washington Post and numerous others.
PHOTO: Jesse Major, center, with FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, left, and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, right, during a visit to Peninsula College in 2019. (Photo by Ricky Talbot)