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Oct-21-2020 00:47printcomments

Tim King: Boldly Leading Where Others Wouldn't Dare

How do you come to terms with the unexpected and tragic death of a real-life superhero?

Tim King in Afghanistan
Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski stands with Tim King in Afghanistan, 2007

(SEATTLE, WA) - I first met Tim while working at KATU News in Portland, OR in the mid 2000’s. Being a journalist meant something different then, although Tim’s reports never wavered from what were basic tenets at the time: fairness, accuracy, impartiality, objectivity, accountability, truthfulness and justice. This was the ethos of Tim.

Tim was the Salem photographer for KATU. I occasionally filled in as a producer of the “Salem Segment,” which was a five-minute portion of the primetime news that was broadcast specifically to homes in Oregon’s Capitol City.

I had moved to Portland from the booming metropolis of Billings, MT, where I was born and raised. I literally didn’t know the difference between blue and red then, so Tim’s missives on politics were WAY above my head. I just remember thinking, “Dang, this dude is really smart!” Then, trying my best to keep up.

The Salem Segment was sort of the red-headed stepchild of the KATU Newsroom. New producers would cut their teeth and move on as quickly as possible.

I can recall at least four Salem Segment producers in my three years at KATU and the grumbling that accompanied the position. Then, there was Tim. HE LOVED SALEM! Keeping his community up to date was a job that Tim prided himself on.

When Tim and Bonnie launched Salem-News, I remember the eruption in the newsroom. Some felt that it was a conflict of interest for Tim to run his own newspaper while being employed by KATU. Don’t believe for one second that this hindered our friend, Tim. He was a bold leader in places where others wouldn’t dare to venture.

Tim was a staunch advocate for legalization of marijuana. I wholeheartedly agreed with Tim on this issue, but was far less outspoken and likely even fed into the stigma. I didn’t know any better, but that doesn’t make it okay.

Acknowledging the truth, even when it includes wrongdoing, takes humility and courage. I like to believe Tim would be proud of me for taking this step now, even if it’s 15 years too late.

I moved on to KOMO in Seattle and eventually took a job working for the Washington State Legislature. My first assignment in Olympia was coordinating logistics for the prime sponsor of what became Initiative 502, which made Washington one of the first two states in history to allow marijuana to be sold, taxed and regulated for adult use.

This is when began to re-enter my orbit. After I-502’s passage in 2012, I began transitioning to full-time marijuana reform and prisoner advocacy. The first registered medical marijuana caregiver in Montana was prosecuted by the Feds and wound up dying from medical neglect while serving a 5-year mandatory minimum prison sentence. This, despite following all state laws.

The cognitive dissonance spurred me to take action and I set out to ensure that Richard Flor’s business partner did not suffer the same fate. When I met Chris Williams, his federal trial was exactly three weeks away. Salem-News was one of several media outlets who helped me elevate Chris’s story at a time when medical marijuana prisoners and defendants were still a taboo topic.

Tim and his wife, Bonnie, proved integral to my success in prison outreach and criminal justice reform at a pivotal time when not many others were stepping up. Yet again, Tim was boldly leading where others wouldn’t dare.

And he didn’t just dip his toes in the water, he dove in head first. That’s just how Tim lived life. It was all in or nothing at all.

Like many others, I was stunned to hear the news of Tim’s accident. Surely, a U.S. Marine and journalist who was embedded with troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, and reported the wrongdoings of foreign locales Palestine and Sri Lanka and Myanmar, would survive something as common as a motorcycle crash, right? Wrong.

Tim’s life was cut short by the simplest of everyday occurrences. Maybe that’s what hurts the most.

How do you come to terms with the unexpected and tragic death of a real-life superhero? You write... even if the tears stream down your cheeks and onto your keyboard. You share the stories that wouldn’t be told any other way. You tell the truth and nothing but the truth. You stand up for what’s right, even when it’s not popular.

These are some of the values that I will remember Tim for and some of the ways in which I will honor his memory.

~ Kari Boiter ~

SEE ALSO: Oregon Reporter Dies After Motorcycle Crash

GoFundMe: Tim King Memorial Fund


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