Change is in the air. It’s not just the falling temperatures or the return of the school year. Within the walls of The Observer and Baker City Herald, the way we do business is being completely turned on its head. I’d forgotten just how hard — and rewarding — change can be. We should know. We’re up to our necks in it.
I wrote a column a few months back describing to you the difficult final months of our newspaper operation under our former owners, Western Communications, and about our bright new future with the EO Media Group. Now, two months into the transition, there’s more good news to share — and some explaining to do.
One of the first key initiatives after our purchase by the EO Media Group was to shepherd our newspapers out of the proverbial media dark ages and convert our operating systems. These changes affect every facet of our operation — and I mean EVERY — from the top down. Circulation and advertising systems, the upcoming launch of a new, easier-to-navigate and more dynamic website and e-edition, improvements to our social media platforms and so much more are all in the works right now.
It’s been an overwhelming and exhausting process for the staff at both newspapers. There have been hours upon hours of training and troubleshooting. In the meantime, be patient with us and accept my advanced apology — if you call into the office and it sounds as though the department you’re speaking with doesn’t have a clue about what’s going on or sounds overly flustered — that may indeed be the case. I’m half kidding of course, but for the next few weeks, the tasks and requests that were second nature to us will likely take us a few extra minutes. Once the dust settles, the end result will be better efficiencies in our office and a better experience for subscribers and advertisers.
It’s not just change for the sake of change. The end goal is ultimately to serve you better.
On top of this chaos, The Observer is in the middle of a nationwide search for a new editor. You may recall the exit of our former editor, Cherise Kaechele, in March. At that time, there was far too much uncertainty and upheaval to bring in a new editor. In the meantime, our busy newsroom has been operating with oversight from our sports editor, Ronald Bond, and the invaluable assistance of Baker City’s editor, Jayson Jacoby, and Andrew Cutler, editor of the East Oregonian and a former editor of The Observer.
Once the purchase of The Observer was finalized, seeking the right editor was one of the first orders of business that I and our regional publisher, Chris Rush, decided to tackle. I understand the importance of this position to any newspaper and the EO Media Group’s commitment to award-winning community journalism. This valuable hire is an important first step to rebuilding our newsroom, improving our news coverage and re-establishing our place as the news leader in our communities.
This is not a hire that I’m willing to rush or that I take lightly. Our hardworking newsroom and our valued readers deserve the best that journalism has to offer, regardless of the size of our newspaper or the community it serves.
As I’m sure you’ve heard through the grapevine, or perhaps straight from the horse’s mouth, The Observer office is going to be moving and we are beginning to explore larger office space options for the Baker City Herald’s operations. On any given day, we field several inquiries from customers who are curious about the progress of our relocations. Allow me to share what I can.
The truth is, The Observer’s current location is just far more space than we need. With the removal of the press and the machinery responsible for inserting preprints, we are living in a quarter of the space available to us, and we’re anxious for a fresh start in a new home. Baker City’s challenge is exactly the opposite — the current office is far too small for its needs and the configuration is less than ideal.
It’s been an exhaustive search looking for potential office spaces for both locations. I went into this believing that finding the “perfect” locations to set up shop would be a pretty easy task. I was sadly mistaken.
Our business model is unique and we have very specific needs. Our functionality is much different than the average business office and I’m constantly looking for efficiencies to make what we do easier on staff and our customers. The way in which an office flows plays a big role in making that goal achievable. As with the hiring of an editor, choosing the next home for The Observer (and the Baker City Herald, in the future) is an important decision for myself and for our new company. There’s a list of things that my employees deserve out of our new spaces and this is a chance to make those a reality. It’s also an opportunity to make a statement to our readership about the health and vitality of our newspapers and the EO Media Group’s commitment to investing in our future and our communities.
The Observer and Baker City Herald are taking full advantage of the new resources and tools being offered to us. I can happily report that — for the most part — you can teach an old dog new tricks. We are still overwhelmed, not with the worry and uncertainty for our future, but by the outpouring of support from you, the readers, and from the EO Media Group.
I’m being reminded daily of the growing pains that naturally come along with progress. And there will be plenty more to come in the next few months as we look ahead to other, exciting changes on the horizon.
Now, does anyone have an aspirin they can spare?