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Editor John Baker describes changes to the print-version of the Molalla Pioneer

I'm always amusingly annoyed whenever the cries of "buy local" or "support local business" start to echo throughout the land. Why? Because folks just seem incapable of grasping that we on the community newspaper level are exactly that – a small local business.

In many cases, we are one of the oldest businesses in the community we cover. But supporting us in that way never seems to be something folks think about. There's a certain "public broadcasting" mentality that folks seem to think goes on at their community papers. The papers "exist in perpetuity" is the vibe I get and I can't for the life of me figure out why folks don't really grasp how "local business" we are.

Well, there are consequences to not supporting a local business like the Canby Herald and Molalla Pioneer. One is you get to witness the current company-wide blitz asking that you support us. The other is that financial realities start to take a toll. And that, my dear friends, is where we are now.

The Molalla Pioneer building was sold and the Canby Herald staff, which is also the Pioneer staff, has moved into new digs in Canby.

In 2019, there were some pretty significant changes in community newspapers in this area. They aren't done.

Remember this, the staff we currently have to service two community newspapers is smaller than the staff I had when I first took over just the Canby Herald. The amount of work we do as about half the staff that used to be around for both papers is impressive. If you're not impressed, you're part of the problem. And I can't fix what's wrong with you.

What I can do is tell you that the financial picture in Molalla has been untenable for a long time. The Pioneer has been carried financially for longer than I'd care to say. The community simply doesn't support its community paper financially the way we need it to after so many years of increased costs across the newspaper financial spectrum.

Molalla has growth going on, but not in the realm of potential advertisers and certainly not in advertising dollars, which are a vital part of any community newspaper.

And with that comes some tough decisions. These will mostly affect Molalla, but some will have an impact on Canby as well. So here goes.

Beginning with the Jan. 15, 2020 issue, the Molalla Pioneer will have its own unique front page, page 3, and back page. Everything else it will share with the Canby Herald. Molalla sports will merge with Canby sports for a bigger sports section. The What's Up? section will merge with Canby's Community Bits into something new called "On Tap." The editorial pages will be merged, as will the police and fire logs – which, as it turns out, people really enjoy reading so adding more fuel to that engine has some plusses, I suppose.

For Canby readers, not much will change except the aforementioned merges that will go on. This is the result of the financial reality that Molalla's lack of support for so long has wrought. It's a bit devastating on some levels, yet the commitment to cover Molalla the way we have won't be altered much at all. So basically we'll build one paper and then substitute Molalla-specific pages 1, 3 and the back page for that readership.

And, the likelihood of Molalla stories bleeding onto other pages is very real. I'm a big believer in regional information, so I'm good with that. From week to week, the story count will vary and that now means opportunity on both sides of the spectrum. So that's exciting on some level for us as writers.

The truth is, while this seems drastic, we've been headed this way for a while now.

Molalla and Canby are linked far more than people would want to admit. And we've found that stories from one paper that have been cross-posted onto the other paper's website have gotten very good readership – shockingly so in some cases. Let's face it, people are interested in a variety of things and this concept of communities living in their own insular bubble is done and gone. Pining for the "good old days" is simply futile.

These days are pretty good, so embrace them. The world around both Canby and Molalla is wide, varied and a good bit of what goes on has an impact or interest for one or both readership communities.

For our small staff, the commitment remains the same – tell the stories of these respective communities as well and honestly as we can – far more honestly than those who cry "bias" when their own obvious biases are not reflected the way they want in our stories.

We don't have a skin in the game for just about all of what we cover, so it's fairly easy to figure out who comes at these topices honestly and who does not.

Remember, those who shout the loudest that we're doing a bad job are usually those with a vested interest in their own agenda and ego. Those are people I ignore – and you should too.

But that's another topic I could preach on for days. We're here right now because time has run out in Molalla.

So there you have it, the words I was not looking forward to writing, but had to. Molalla lacks the financial and, quite frankly, emotional commitment to make the Molalla Pioneer stable, so we are taking steps to create a level of stability that makes sense.

That's our commitment to Molalla (and certainly Canby). What's yours?

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