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RANGE Media offer investigative journalism

Luke Baumgarten started RANGE Media to offer new voice.

By Mary Stamp

For three-and-a-half years, RANGE Media—a newsletter, website, email stories and social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Reddit)—have been doing investigative reporting in Spokane and the greater Inland Northwest with three to five news stories a week.

The full-time team of four plus several freelance writers own RANGE Media as part of the Spokane Workers Cooperative, which assures them a living wage and democratic control of their workplace.

RANGE founder, writer, editor and organizer Luke Baumgarten said the publication seeks to tell stories that build community and civic involvement. He wants writers to have a long-term commitment to Spokane because RANGE is "a media organization for people who love the Inland Northwest and want to make it better."

RANGE provides coverage that spotlights perspectives of people in marginalized communities.

Luke believes news and access to information are vital for civic engagement and complex conversations needed to move people from disempowerment to hold the powerful accountable.

"RANGE is action-oriented journalism that serves people where they are and gives everyone the tools to demand better," he said.

Luke's ideas today about the role of media are a shift from his early years.

He grew up in a working-class family in the country—Chattaroy—and in a culture of not reading newspapers, not being informed about the issues that shaped his community.

"I did not understand the importance of journalism," he commented.

After graduating from Riverside High School and completing a degree in English in 2003 at Gonzaga University, he did what he called the "rite of passage" of moving to Seattle for a year and then returning to Chattaroy, where he started a blog on arts, culture and music, unsure what was next.

Luke began freelancing for several local newspapers, including the Sandpoint Reader and The Inlander. In 2005, The Inlander hired him to cover music.

In 2008, Luke was editor of The Inlander's arts and culture section. That same year, he joined Ginger Ewing and some friends to co-found Terrain, which began as a one-night only art event has grown into a major nonprofit consisting of an art gallery, retail store and many events around Spokane. He is still on the board.

Later in his tenure at the Inlander, he also wrote features on justice issues, including a series on race and ethnicity and an article on smart justice.

In 2012, Luke left The Inlander to join a marketing firm for two years, followed by six months as interim director at Spokane Arts. In 2015, he co-founded Treatment Creative, a marketing company working with businesses, nonprofits and municipalities—people who love Spokane.

"Eventually, I realized I had left a piece of my soul behind when I left journalism," said Luke, aware that many young journalists leave Spokane. "Working with Terrain, I realized how important community building is and how important Spokane is.

"I wanted to be a journalist, but I also wanted to pay the bills. I needed to figure out a structure so journalists could thrive working in Spokane," Luke said.

He believed Spokane needed investigative journalism, but that requires journalists to stay in a community long enough to know it.

Luke set out to create an equitable workplace where journalists could spend their careers.

When the pandemic came and everything shut down, Luke, who was approaching 40, had time on his hands and decided it was a good time to start something.

He borrowed audio equipment to do a podcast and did the first episode in April 2020, a month after things shut down. He interviewed people every two weeks and taught himself the tech to do it.

With the unrest after George Floyd's killing in Minneapolis, he realized many voices related to Black Lives Matter were not heard in Spokane media. About that time, several national organizations were trying to help build local journalism. So, he decided to turn his hobby into a business. In September 2020, he went to "boot camp for starting local media" and soon started a newsroom.

The second year, Luke wrote a grant and hired Valerie Osier in January 2022 as audience editor and made RANGE a part of the fledgling Spokane Worker's Cooperative to ensure journalists like Valarie could control their own work lives. By June, they had hired their first full-time reporter, Carl Segerstrom.

"While I report less than I would like, building RANGE is fulfilling," Luke said. "My days involve editing stories and writing grants, while I work to build support for staff with membership funding. Like National Public Radio, RANGE makes news accessible widely for free and invites readers to support it.

"As of October, one of our team member is funded by readers," said Luke.

Two other full-time staff (team members), Alyssa Baheza and Erin Sellers, started in July 2023 to head the civics desk and documenters program.

Much of the 2022 content focused on housing, homelessness and Camp Hope.

"We talk with those closest to the need, like the folks at Camp Hope, asking them what led to their being houseless and why they went to Camp Hope. We also talked with service providers and leaders, but usually, those closest to the need are the last ones interviewed. For us, they are the first ones. Media usually quote the mayor, but we start with those with the least power," Luke said.

In June 2022, RANGE covered the dangers of the 10-day heat wave for homeless people.

Carl spent much time at Camp Hope, focusing on gaps in resources. Because RANGE is a digital publication, the team had flexibility to cover different aspects about Camp Hope, presenting pictures of why some people there had lost housing recently and why some were homeless for decades.

After Luke and Carl collaborated on a story about embezzlement at a service provider, Luke realized RANGE had already moved into investigative reporting.

Another focus of coverage has been on far right and Christian nationalist movements in Spokane and North Idaho. He forwards articles to media doing national coverage.

Luke said RANGE covers people who do not see themselves in stories about issues that affect their lives. He wants citizens to pay attention to city council, county commission, school board and Homeless Coalition meetings.

RANGE informs people of what will be discussed at meetings and how they can make public comments. They have "documenters" as eyes and ears present at many public meetings.

"We seek to give people the tools to advocate for themselves," Luke said. "A community culture is made when people are active in the community. We want Spokane to represent all people here—those who read news and those who don't, the movers and shakers, and people who are poor, people of color and immigrants."

"RANGE explains issues to create pathways for people to participate in action and in society so the community will be one where people want to live," Luke said.

RANGE's coverage provides "fact-based reporting, going back to sources multiple times," he said, pleased that Christian nationalists have not called their coverage fake news. "Our work is documentable and shares different points of view."

Instead of covering an election like a horse race as other media do, "RANGE wrote about the impact of special interest money in elections, helping readers understand how to spot the difference between a candidate's ad campaign and ads from private interests," he said.

"I believe objectivity is impossible. People are subjective, so we try to be as fair as we can to all sides," he said. "We seek to do tough-minded journalism fairly to bridge the divides."

The website menu reveals the scope of RANGE's coverage: housing, education, environment, criminal and legal news.

For information, email


Copyright@ The Fig Tree, December 2023