Changes for Lebanon Local as challenges continue for newspapers

If you got the feeling, as you opened this newspaper, that it is a little smaller than last week, you’re correct.
This is a new chapter in the history of Lebanon Local, in which a lot of recent adjustments have been forced upon us by circumstances beyond our immediate control.
Faithful readers will likely recall how, last summer, we had to find a new printer after the Albany-based firm that had printed our newspapers for many years announced it was not going to do that any more. The resulting scramble (by a number of local newspapers) to find a new printer left us with a best option of the Herald and News newspaper in Klamath Falls. They’ve printed us since July, and it’s been a process as we’ve worked out some bugs.
One of the those has been the size of Lebanon Local. The H&R told us up front that they might have some challenges printing the size newspaper we have been publishing since we founded Lebanon Local in 2016.
The H&R’s presses are set up to print a slightly smaller “short tab” size page, which is what you’re looking at now. But since we plan to bind each year’s newspapers each year for archival purposes (and use them frequently), it was difficult to make a switch mid-year.
As regular readers have likely noticed, we’ve had challenges with print quality and it hasn’t been fun. Now that we’re in the new year, we’re making that switch, which will mean smaller pages and, at times, thicker newspapers when advertising or the volume of local news (which are the primary factors that determine how thick your newspaper is each week) warrant it.
So, we’re optimistic. We already made the switch with our newspaper in Sweet Home, The New Era, and the quality has definitely improved.
We pledge to do everything we can to maintain good quality because we don’t like it any more than you do – actually, we’re probably more unhappy since our staff puts significant effort into producing that news and those photos and advertisements.
You may also notice a few other tweaks. We’ve made some changes that we think will brighten up the front page and make it more user-friendly.
Our goal has always been, and continues to be, to serve you with a quality local newspaper. That’s particularly important in light of the wave of bad news concerning newspapers we’ve been hearing.
The news last week that the Medford Mail Tribune, once one of Oregon’s largest and strongest newspapers, was closing was a shocker, but it highlights the fact that newspapers, as a whole, are under duress.
That should come as no surprise to Lebanon residents, who have watched their longtime weekly paper, the Lebanon Express, shrivel from the vibrant community newspaper many remember. It published its last edition Jan. 18, after 135 years in the community.
Some of newspapers’ problems stem from flawed business models and, perhaps, unreasonable expectations from owner s (often not local) for whom profit margins trump all other considerations, such as service to their readers and their community.
But a lot of the challenges have come from cost increases (particularly printing), increased competition from social media, the internet (Google), and even lawmakers. In recent years, our own legislature has repeatedly considered proposals to remove legal advertising, a traditional and vital source of revenue for many community newspapers.
Just by way of clarification on that last one, since Lebanon Local is a monthly, we don’t qualify to publish public notices, though the Lebanon Fire District has opted to run them with us just to inform the local citizenry (which is the purpose of public notices).
Weekly and daily newspapers in Oregon have long been the designated publishers of public notices because we are purveyors of information – independent of the government – who have, for decades, ensured that what the public is reading is what your local city or school district or fire district or any other entity that must inform you of its financial situation and important public hearings, is intact. We certify that, legally.
There have been ongoing efforts in the legislature to move public notices to government websites or to allow others, such as the bar association, to publish them. (Ask yourself how long you think those notices will stay intact, should an error occur, on your local city or district website.) As I recently heard it described by another publisher, “that would be like having the foxes watching the henhouse.”
Despite the challenges, many newspaper in Oregon are solidly situated and continue to serve their communities faithfully. Another reality: The closure of a newspaper like the Medford Mail Tribune, whose owner had already closed the Ashland Daily Tidings, almost guarantees that someone will fill that void. Jackson County is a giant population that must have a local newspaper. I feel safe in predicting that, one way or another, it will happen.
Fact is, Lebanon has supported this newspaper, both with local advertising (one of our important revenue sources) and with subscriptions. We appreciate that and our aim is to increase, not diminish, what you see in this newspaper as time progresses. Ten years from now we hope this newspaper fills news vacancies that exist right now.