Opinion & Editorial

Dear Grovers: We are here to serve you, too

If you live in Cottage Grove, there’s a chance you received a postcard from The Chronicle this week asking you to subscribe to our newspaper and/or website. I’m taking this opportunity to explain the value proposition, specifically for Grovers, but it applies to all of the communities we cover. 

When my wife and I purchased The Creswell Chronicle in February 2019, the paper covered only the Creswell area. It didn’t take long for us to see that Creswell, Cottage Grove, and Pleasant Hill were interconnected by family, commerce, and culture. 

Don Williams, a key community stakeholder and respected leader in Cottage Grove for many decades, warmly greeted our arrival and sponsored my membership in the Cottage Grove Rotary. At the same time, I joined the Creswell Chamber of Commerce board of directors. The paper covered South Lane County Fire & Rescue, which serves both Cottage Grove and Creswell. And the Creswell High Bulldogs were facing off against Lions to the south in Cottage Grove and Billies to the east in Pleasant Hill.

It seemed only natural to expand our coverage to include all of these areas. By September 2019 we had renamed the paper to The Chronicle, and endeavored to provide coverage of all three of those communities. 

Besides the obvious overlap in regional culture and lifestyle, these communities were “news deserts.” They were exactly the types of communities that provided the motivation to purchase the paper in the first place.

Our North Star is and always has been “to serve readers with hyper-local news and information.” Our goal is to cover news, highlight nonprofits and volunteers, lift up local business owners, report on high school sports and education, and help edify the community. 

We have a symbiotic relationship with our readers, who appreciate credible information and the critical thinking we put behind curated lists and content. No one wants to drink from a fire hose, or spend an hour sifting through thousands of search results online when you just want to know what time the show starts!

We offer hyper-local coverage – from your local government, to schools, public safety, sports and recreation, health care, and more. We offer an Op-Ed page with original perspectives and opinions, and letters from our readers. We do this with a servant mindset. 

None of that was happening in Cottage Grove, Creswell, and Pleasant Hill in 2019 when we arrived – and sadly they were not alone. In short order, we realized that Springfield was in the same boat.

Combine those four communities and we’re talking about nearly 90,000 people living within 20 minutes of Eugene, who had little-to-no credible, local reporting on the people and events in their daily lives.

In only the past few years, The Chronicle – trying to cover four towns on the thinnest of financial margins – was still able to tell important stories in the Grove. Consider just a handful:

  • Dana Merryday, a longtime Chronicle columnist and Cottage Grove resident and historian, recorded many meaningful events over the years. Dana resigned from The Chronicle after winning a seat on the Cottage Grove City Council in November 2022, ensuring both his and our ethics were above reproach. Through the previous years Dana had introduced us to the colorful history of the Grove and many of its most unique and important characters. A longtime Scoutmaster, he was deeply embedded in the community and his storytelling reflected that local knowledge.
  • Our solution-oriented approach to news reporting drove our reporting on the vaccine shots for children in Cottage Grove in a way that didn’t exacerbate tensions. We spoke with local and county leaders on how to make the process safer for children and families.  
  • Sometimes, unpleasant news can help a community, particularly when it involves inappropriate or illegal behavior by the fire and police chiefs. Holding community leaders accountable for their behavior with straight-forward reporting of facts is a bedrock of trusted journalism. The Chronicle utilized Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to acquire documents otherwise kept from the public to let residents know how their community leaders were behaving. 
  • We also utilized FOIA requests in our reporting on Magnolia Gardens and senior living facilities in our area. At one point, state officials had identified “immediate danger” to residents there; ultimately, the facility demonstrated the improvements required by state officials and The Chronicle was widely recognized for covering senior-care issues. 
  • Our election coverage has remained decidedly non-partisan. We’ve offered every candidate who qualified to be on the ballot an opportunity to participate in a Q&A and write a guest column with their platform. We hope that has given residents the information they need to be an informed voter. 

We need informed voters; our democracy depends on it. But credible information, awash in a sea of misinformation and manipulation, is harder than ever to find.

​​More than 1,800 communities have no local news source, and thousands more have “ghost newspapers” that barely cover them. In fact, more than 2,100 newspapers have folded since 2004; the number of newsroom employees has dropped 57% from 2004-21. Numerous studies have shown that the contraction of local reporting threatens democracy, leading to less civic involvement and lower voting rates, increased corruption and abuses of power, higher borrowing costs, and more polarized communities, according to RebuildLocalNews.com.

Digital start-ups have tried to fill the gap in only 10% of those communities. And those Facebook “community” pages? You’re constantly in danger of reading hate speech, seeing inappropriate ads, or sifting through flotsam for credible information. 

My wife and I regularly sit at our dining room table – OK, we sit in the living room in front of the TV – discussing the hard decisions about how to pay our bills at home, reward our employees, and keep the business going. We talk with, partner with, and do business with people all over this area who are having the same conversations. Like us, they’ve spent their life savings to keep their business open during the pandemic. 

Ideally, we’d like to have an office with on-site staffing in every community we cover. We were in the Bank Building for more than a year, and enjoyed being around Len Blackstone, Darla Avery, Tiffany Williams, River Molyneaux, and others on a daily basis. Right now, we can’t afford to do that, but our commitment and presence remain strong. We have partnered with the Chamber of Commerce to produce its annual Newscomers & Visitors Guide the past two years; we’ve covered events such as the Ore Cart Races, the Slabtown and Lemati feud, and Bohemia Mining Days; and we’ve been at city council meetings covering Cottage Grove’s version of citizen government.

With four years under our belts, we’ve never been better-positioned to serve readers in the Grove and beyond.

Our new sales and marketing director, Rachael Landi, operates with professionalism, treats local business owners as partners, and has a Rolodex (ask your parents what this is, kids) as thick as a New York City phone book (ask your parents what this is, kids). 

Erin Tierney-Heggenstaller is nearing a decade of leading local news coverage here. She provides stability, demonstrated integrity, and a record of investing in the communities she covers. Our combination of storytelling and utility is done under her direction of full-time staffers as well as nearly a dozen correspondents, part-timers, and student interns.

Denise Nash, my partner and spouse, is a familiar sight in Cottage Grove. She delivers the paper weekly to our single-copy outlets, including the Flower Basket, Bookmine, Chamber of Commerce office, Covered Bridge Brewing, and Dari Mart. She was at our booth during the Concert in the Park series each week in 2022. Among many other duties, she runs our coloring contests, working with schools and local businesses on the initiative. 

That’s our senior leadership team. We all live in the southern Willamette Valley, and spend considerable time at Cottage Grove events and enjoy its natural wonders. 

Pierre Weil, a UO grad, is our sports reporter, and covers the Lions among four other high schools in our area – Springfield, Thurston, Creswell, and Pleasant Hill. Every week, he ensured we had recap and preview capsules for every team, every sport, every season. Boys and girls. He was there when two-time player of the year Danaeja Romero-Ah Sam led the Millers to the 5A girls basketball state title, when freshman Grady Saunders hit an inside-the-park home run to help lead the Thurston Colts to the 5A state baseball title, and when Cottage Grove sophomore Allison Palluck won the girls 115-pound wrestling championship in the 1A-4A competition and finished 26-0 on the season.

This is what hyper-local news looks like. And this is what you remember great newspapers of the past doing – serving readers, providing the connective tissue for the community, and doing so with integrity and adherence to a code of ethics.

We hope you’ll give The Chronicle a chance, or continue to support us. Our peers have recognized our efforts, too. We’ve been awarded more than 40 Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association awards in the past three years of competition for editorial and advertising excellence. 

It’s only $40 for a subscription – only $32 if you’re a military veteran or over 62 years old. Either way you slice it, it’s less than $1 a week. You can also find our content – including video – on chronicle1909.com and our social media pages on Facebook and Instagram.

We look forward to serving and growing with all of you.

Noel Nash is the owner and publisher of The Chronicle. He can be reached at [email protected].



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