On the night of July 17, 2011, Warren Kagarise drove to Lake Sammamish State Park because he heard there was a shooting. 

The reporter from the Issaquah Press traveled the 3.3 miles from his office to the lake and got on top of the story. The reporter The Seattle Times sent to cover the killings, meanwhile, ended up on the wrong side of town, questioning strangers about the park’s location.

That level of connection and closeness with his community was one of the benefits of working at a small-town newspaper Kagarise shared with a class of UW journalism students Thursday, a job he said has more ups than downs.

In his short time at the Press, Kagarise has transformed from the Southern transplant he was coming out of the University of Florida into an engaged community journalist, all the while managing to enjoy living in the city he always wanted to live in, Seattle, an arrangement he described as “the best of both worlds.” In fact, he was recently named the community newspaper news writer of the year in the state of Washington.

Kagarise also spoke about the rising importance of social media in his profession. He currently operates the Twitter account of the Press. 

The coverage he and his colleagues provided of that shooting at Lake Sammamish was a driving force in the paper’s forays into social media, an effort Kagarise said he has played a major role in.

He emphasized the opportunity social media sites like Twitter and Facebook provide for community journalists to interact with their readerships. Often enough — during the snow storm in Washington during January, for example — Kangarise even finds sources for his stories through Twitter. 

That can ease the many stresses of working for a newspaper with an editorial staff of five, where writers often find themelves covering a wide array of stories simply to fill the weekly’s pages. 

But all things considered, the rewards are worth the challenges. When asked what made him stick with a declining job, and what made him want to do it in the first place, Kangarise had a compelling answer.

“I never really wanted to do anything else.”