Editor's note: This column originally published in The Observer on July 3.
Al most 22 years to the day of my hire, I’ve been laid off by Western Communications, Inc. in order to accept my position as publisher with the new owners of our newspapers, the EO Media Group. As a staff, we’ve celebrated. And we’ve cried. It’s the end of an era and the beginning of an exciting new chapter for The Observer and Baker City Herald.
The purchase of The Observer and Baker City Herald from our former owners has been bittersweet. While we are excited about our future, it doesn’t make our past any easier to accept, nor does it round off the sharp edges of the last two years. To say that it’s been a challenging and difficult road would be a tremendous understatement. We have been navigating unprecedented and uncharted territory.
Regretfully, there were casualties along the way. There were good employees who left because the stress and uncertainty were just too much. There were management, press and mailroom staff who were laid off after the catastrophic motor failure of our Goss Community press and others whose hours were drastically reduced in an attempt to get us out from under the corporate debt that was crippling us. In the end, there was nothing more that could be done.
Collectively, Western Communications as a whole couldn’t sell ourselves out of the situation or make the expense saving cuts necessary to get us on the right track. Our company was out of options and time. Breaking up the company to sell off our newspapers was the only option remaining on the table. It wasn’t something that any of us wanted. But it was everything that we needed to ensure the survival of our institution. And that was a scary realization — especially for myself.
My career began here. The Observer is the first and only job I’ve ever had. It’s all I’ve ever known. But what I’d very quickly come to realize and accept in the last few months under WesCom’s umbrella, was that the company that I’d loved wasn’t going to be any longer. There was no way to get us back there. We needed a miracle. And a miracle was what we got.
The purchase of our newspapers by the EO Media Group was the answer to a lot of prayers. This outcome was an ideal solution made possible by an amazing company. EOMG sees the newspapers that we produce for our communities as a worthwhile investment. They didn’t meet a broken, bitter staff. They inherited a loyal, resilient, hard-working crew that have weathered the unimaginable and come out on the other side stronger and more dedicated. It’s the small things that have made the biggest impact on us. They’ve embraced us like family, with open arms.
They’ve showered us with knowledge, resources, tools and support to ensure that we can continue to be the community cornerstone that you’ve relied on for more than a century.
It’s knowing that others took notice of our challenges and struggles and, despite all of that, are willing to invest in our future. The future of your newspaper is now bright and full of possibilities and unending potential. New life and energy have been infused onto our pages and into the souls of our staff. We are ready for this fresh start and are diving in head first, eyes wide open, instead of cautiously slipping a toe into the shallow end to gauge the temperature. We are no longer scared of the water because our ship isn’t sinking.
Thank you to Western Communications and the Chandler family for the last 22 years with their company. Through them, I’ve experienced the most rewarding and most challenging days of my career. They afforded me the amazing opportunity to lead these two award-winning organizations and set me up to take on anything that the crazy world of newspapers can throw my direction. And, a thank you to the EO Media Group and the Aldrich/Forrester/Bedford/Brown family for the chance to further prove that The Observer and Baker City Herald, with deep roots planted in our supportive rural communities, are a solid, strong investment.
Beginning today, you’ll see us rise from the ashes, dust ourselves off, exhale a long-held breath and begin rebuilding — and it’s thanks to our former company, our new company and the unwavering support of our readers and advertisers.
This is what a happy ending looks like.