A week and a half before graduating from Western Washington University in Bellingham in June, Hailey Hoffman saw the ad for the photographer position at The Astorian.
Shortly after finishing college, she interviewed for and was offered her first professional photography job.
Originally from Las Vegas, Hoffman, 22, started taking photos for her middle and high school yearbooks.
“I would take lots of sports photos,” she said. “I was down on the football field in high school on the sidelines, and I really enjoyed that. I was always the kid with the camera on campus running around.”
Hoffman earned dual degrees in visual journalism and Spanish at Western Washington, where she worked for every student publication. She put her Spanish skills to work with the student-run The Planet Magazine, covering the death of a diabetic farm worker during wildfire season in 2017.
Her proudest and most difficult assignment came during two months of reporting for the student-run Klipsun Magazine on the closure of a retirement village inside a historic downtown hotel building that has since been turned into market-rate apartments.
“They were losing money, and there were a lot of issues with management that led to the closure,” she said. “Two weeks before Christmas, they told 100 elderly folk that they had to get out in three months and find new housing, and so that created a whole bunch of issues.”
Hoffman balanced the grief and stress of the residents being affected by the closure with pressure from the building’s owners not to write a negative story.
“There seemed to be a disconnect between them and the owners,” Hoffman said. “So I had these two sides coming at me with very different stories.”
Hoffman said she fell in love with local newspapers while interning as a photographer at the Skagit Valley Herald north of Seattle. She covered everything from sports to a cultural exchange between the Samish Indian Nation and the Nenets, an indigenous group in Russia.
Around the time of her graduation, Hoffman was applying for positions in digital media with a focus on photography. But she said she was amazed by the North Coast while driving across the Astoria Bridge and over the Columbia River from Washington state.
“It’s such a beautiful place, and to be paid to live here and take photos, that was just an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” she said.