Turning the Page

Readers may have noticed some new names in The Sentinel’s staff box and story bylines lately. It’s something of an open secret by now that, after three-and-a-half years of working at the paper, I’ll be moving on to another city and handing the editor baton to a successor.

I began as a reporter at The Sentinel in January 2019, stepping into a position I was equally excited and nervous to take on.

Though a School of Journalism graduate from the University of Oregon, my relationship with journalism was patchy at best. I’d just spent a decade teaching English in South Korea and, feeling a need to find a more meaningful direction in my life, took the leap of moving back to the United States for a career change.

I was lucky enough to land an internship in my hometown of Florence with the Siuslaw News and, after a year there, had the opportunity to fill an open spot as a reporter at The Sentinel.

My aim was always to leave the paper better than I found it. Then-Managing Editor Ned Hickson and I hit the ground running, re-establishing and building connections with local groups, businesses and public entities. Over the years, we solidified our position as not just a reliable source of information, but a publication that interacted with its community in a meaningful way. It’s during this time that I can honestly say I’ve been part of a project that I will always look back on with pride and gratitude.

The Sentinel has not been not immune to the economic turbulence of the past couple years, though. Along with staff rotations, readers will notice a new format starting this week as the paper transitions to a 16-page, one-section publication.

The decision to make this change came as paper, ink and labor costs continue to rise and producing a newspaper in one instead of two sections will help The Sentinel continue to hit its targets. Editorially, content will remain the same and reporters will continue their commitment as a comprehensive news source for the community.

The Sentinel’s new editor, Sarah Glass, is an experienced reporter and editor who is entering the role with connections already established in the community.

Kyle McGowen, who is now an intern but will join The Sentinel with full-time status next month as the sports and education reporter, has lived in Cottage Grove for 15 years and is eager to expand on his passion for local sports and stories of the youth in this community.

I feel I’m leaving the paper in good hands, not only because of the staff, but the community serves.

One of the most impressive characteristics of Cottage Grove is its tendency to deliver returns to those who invest in it. When someone puts their shoulder to the wheel, people take notice.

For a newspaper, this rings true as well. A community newspaper survives not just on the journalistic currency of being informative, relevant and trustworthy — it finds its place through its relationship with its community members.

Journalists face a daunting task of framing what we think the public needs to know — and unfortunately, we are neither omniscient nor omnipresent. We are fallible humans with our own blind spots, biases and an ever-present subjective lens through which we interpret the world. Though our charge is to mitigate these as best we can, it’s through a healthy back-and-forth with the community that a good journalist can find their place and establish best practice.

And that’s what community affords us. It’s a chance to navigate our differences and obstacles without falling into the kind of division that’s currently so prevalent in our society at large. We can aid each other in course correction or even just come to an understanding that rational people can disagree. It’s honing this toolkit which, I would say without hyperbole, that is of existential importance for any society and we overlook it at our peril.

It’s for this reason I’ve come to appreciate this community deeply. The direction, feedback and suggestions I’ve received have overwhelmingly been in good faith and this has contributed greatly to the quality of the paper. The desire to put the community first has been thematic to my experiences with this town and this engagement has not only improved my sense of what good journalism looks like, but how I’ll continue to live as a person — and it’s because of this Cottage Grove has left an indelible imprint on my life for which I’ll always be thankful.

The community showed great support in my own journey to the role of editor here at The Sentinel. I’m encouraged by the thought that this will continue as Sarah and Kyle carve their own paths in this community.

So keep the community spirit alive. Keep loving each other. Keep being Cottage Grove.