My name is Dorothy Swart Fleshman and I write Dory’s Diary for The Observer and the Baker City Herald on the B Section of Home and Living on Mondays.
I am not on either of the newspaper staffs nor am I paid for my 10 years of their publishing my column. I also pay for my own annual subscription, so I believe I can speak freely in response to John Milbert’s letter in Monday’s paper berating The Observer for things presently out of its control.
The news media means a lot to me because it keeps me in touch with the world as well as my neighbors. There has always been newsprint on my doorstep for my perusal in making up my own mind regarding world and current events as well as enjoy the extras it provides.
That introduction out of the way, I would like to thank Mr. Milbert for whatever led to his expressing his thoughts so violently. Words are better than actual action in getting a point across. It must have been festering for a long time to come out so vehemently at this time, but it now opens an opportunity to discuss what seems to be currently wrong with the situation.
The problem, as closely as I can ascertain, is that The Observer, just as does the Baker City Herald and others, face not just the content that appears in the paper on their publishing days, but that their problems are so much greater than they appear on the surface—primarily, their existence.
There is so much going on behind the scenes for these two newspapers, among others involved in the bankruptcy of the parent company out of our area, that it is surprising that our newspapers have existed as long as they have.
Much of their hanging on is by the dedication of the folks who have stayed loyal to the world of printed media and our area.
Because I am closer than most of the general public to our local newspaper, I have been able to observe the newsroom that is being so viciously criticized at the moment without just cause, and I see how hard they work with inadequate pay, equipment, or public acclaim. They don’t even have an authorized editor right now but the four of them keep working together to see that their part of the paper comes out on schedule.
They need accolades not upbraiding at this point. Hurray for Dick, Ron, Amanda, and Lisa in the newsroom to start with! Likewise praises for the rest of the staff in their many responsibilities of each section of the newspaper that runs three times a week.
Mr. Milbert may not realize the constraints under which the employees labor or even that their press broke down and can not be officially repaired so that now the copy goes to the helpful East Oregonian in Pendleton to be printed before it can be returned over the mountain (even in winter) to be delivered to the customers here.
I am not angry at Mr. Milbert, just the situation in which the electronic industry has affected the printed page. There is room for both but it will take time, effort, financing, and those who care about the local newspaper’s existence. Without their belief and support, we won’t have to worry about receiving the newspaper on our doorstep. It will just be added to things of the past as a memory.
Mr. Milbert’s letter brings up some very viable points, and when the bankruptcy decisions are finalized and determined regarding our local paper in a couple of months or so, with The Observer and the Baker City Herald continuing on... or not... the content should then be re-evaluated for the generation they serve. Then opinions, like Mr. Milbert’s, should be viable and noted.
It is our paper; we are responsible for its welfare if we want it to survive. All the bad words and anger in the dictionary directed in what we have now won’t change it. Now is not the time to criticize but to support it. Those are young folks working down there facing their loss of livelihood through no fault of their own. They live in our community where we want them to stay. Don’t kick them while they’re down. Give them a helping hand if only with kind words. Pay it forward.
Dorothy Swart Fleshman is the author of Dory’s Diary published in The Observer and Baker City Herald Home and Living Section. She is a resident of La Grande.