The mid-2010s were a hard time, to say the least. While gay marriage was legalized in 2015, the worst mass shooting in U.S. history (later surpassed by the mass shooting on the Las Vegas Strip in 2017) took place at an LGBTQ+ nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The onset of the 2016 presidential election — which the Inlander and every other paper in the nation covered ad nauseam — saw an increase in right-wing extremism throughout the country. Locally, Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich was dealing with this same issue, taking particular aim at former legislator (and current mayoral gadfly/religious extremist) Matt Shea.
IN THE NEWS
Early in 2015, a new newspaper was carving out its own space in Spokane. THE BLACK LENS, led by editor and publisher Sandy Williams, published its first monthly edition in January 2015 and focused on all topics pertaining to the Black community. Staff writer Deanna Pan, who now works for the Boston Globe and was a finalist for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in feature writing, wrote about the newspaper on Jan. 22, 2015, in "A New Voice." Sadly, the publication went on hiatus after it published its January 2022 edition, and Williams, who also founded the Carl Maxey Center, was killed in a plane crash with her partner, Patricia Hicks, later that year.
Staff writer Dan Nailen, who later became Arts and Culture editor and then editor of the Inlander, took us back to the '80s in his exploration of the era's pop culture staples. The homage to the decade, headlined "NEVER GONNA GIVE YOU UP," traverses Nailen's nostalgia from music and media to shopping mall culture. "What I think makes the '80s attractive is that they were already exaggerated," he wrote. "So the nostalgia is on steroids."
ON THE COVER
To pee or not to pee, that is the question. In 2016, Washington politicians were fighting over transgender rights — a fight that often, and still, finds itself in the bathroom for some reason. Initiative 1515 aimed to restrict bathroom and locker room access for transgender people, however, the initiative never made it onto the ballot due to a lack of the necessary signatures. Staff writer Jake Thomas — who currently reports for the nonprofit health care outlet the Lund Report — explored the topic in the June 2, 2016, issue with the headline "DON'T ASK, DON'T PEE." The story centered on the experience of Jamie Breedlove, a transgender woman who didn't transition until her 60s. A photo of Breedlove with her brightly dyed auburn hair, hot pink nails and chic white cardigan spanned almost two pages and emanated a sense of euphoria. "My peace is I'm going to die as Jamie, not Jim," Breedlove said. She died one year later after a battle with cancer.
Inlander readers have always expected to open their paper and find commentary from one of many local columnists. In the 2010s, a common face among the crowd was RACHEL DOLEZAL, the former NAACP Spokane president who presented herself as a Black woman. Unfortunately, as we and the rest of the world found out, the staunch activist and educator was actually a white woman. In the June 18, 2015, issue, then-editor Jacob Fries — who now leads InvestigateWest — wrote about how Dolezal came to write for the paper and that her writing and byline would no longer be in the Inlander. In the same issue, staff writer Daniel Walters, who followed Fries to the nonprofit news outlet, wrote an expansive cover story called "The Real Rachel Dolezal."