OK, let's deal with the elephant in the room.
By now, some people have probably noticed that The Estacada News is moving out of its office at 307 S.W. Highway 224. (It's the office right next door to Subway.)
Before anyone jumps on the back of the elephant, and then leaps to a wrong conclusion, we need to be very clear: Your community newspaper is not going anywhere.
Like most news organizations — even small community newspapers like ours — we're in transition. What worked 10 years ago doesn't automatically work today.
As we close our office in Estacada, it's an acknowledgment that it doesn't take a brick-and-mortar building to do what we do anymore.
Our staff — news and sports reporters and sale reps — are mobile with laptop computers, cellphones and digital cameras. WiFi and cellular technology have made it possible to do our work from just about anywhere. In short, office space has become a luxury.
• Our sports reporters work remotely, never venturing into the office. They can usually be found on the sidelines at local athletics events.
• Our advertising sales rep has never stepped foot in the office, opting instead to visit clients at their places of business.
• Our news reporter uses the office primarily as a landing place between story assignments. (Our office is large enough to accommodate five or six people, far more space than is needed by just one person.)
• Our newspaper is printed in Gresham and distributed directly through the U.S. Postal Service.
In addition, we receive few visitors to our Estacada office. It used to be that people routinely came by to pick up a copy of the paper or chat with a reporter, but the number of visitors has diminished as more and more people access our content online. And our availability via cell phone and email has meant that fewer people need to search for us at our office.
In short, our need for office space in Estacada has run its course.
But we know that our news content is important to this community. And our commitment to this coverage is unchanged.
We'll continue to keep the community informed on the happenings in local school and city governments. We'll always preview upcoming events and activities. We'll continue to report and write feature stories on your neighbors and your local school programs.
News Reporter Emily Lindstrand has a desk in The Gresham Outlook's office in Gresham, but you'll still see her routinely sprinting between meetings and events in Estacada.
As was said before, we're an industry in transition.
We're watching as our readership migrates from print to digital options for access to our news, sports and advertising. Our advertisers — the people who form the foundation of our business — also are making the transition to digital advertising, where they can more easily target their audience. We're having to make the transition with them, by putting an emphasis on digital options for marketing their companies.
Recently, we've begun asking our web visitors to log in with an email address. Once you've logged in, you'll resume unrestricted access to our website. But, as most have surmised, these actions are a precursor to flipping the switch on a pay wall.
Interestingly, while fewer people are paying for print subscriptions, our readership is actually growing. That's because more and more people are accessing our content online.
But our fixed costs remain the same whether we're talking about print or digital: We have to pay our reporting staff, editors, tech support and our advertising department. Producing the news costs money, and that's why we've arrived at a place where we're charging for access to our web content.
This will happen sometime in January.
More than likely, you'll be given a menu of online options: A full year online subscription at a cost below a subscription for the print edition; or options of purchasing daily access or individual stories.
What does all of this mean for our readers?
It means for people who already subscribe to our newspaper, you won't see any difference. Your newspaper will continue to arrive in the mail on Thursdays, and your subscription will also guarantee unrestricted access to our website.
For those who prefer to view our content exclusively online, it means there will be a small cost for that access.
That's a lot of change in a small amount of time. And we know that's a lot to digest.
Rest assured, our commitment to coverage of Estacada and surrounding communities is unchanged. And we look forward to keeping this community informed for a long, long time to come.
Steve Brown is publisher/executive editor of The Estacada News, Sandy Post and Gresham Outlook. All three newspapers are part of the Pamplin Media Group, the state's largest source of local news.