Working together to be our best

Cottage Grove has always been a special place to me. I got to know one of my close friends while having dinner at the Axe and Fiddle. The public library was the first place I spoke at following the publication of my first book back in 2013. During my 20 years at The Siuslaw News in Florence, I’ve come to know several members of The Sentinel newsroom staff, including Finn John, Matt Treder, Jon Stinnett and others — all  before our two newspapers became part of the same news company family several years ago.

That being said, you’ll notice my name has been added to the staff box on page 4 as the managing editor. I’m glad to say I can add current editor Caitlyn May to the list of Sentinel folks I’ve come to know and, in this case, am looking forward to working with in the weeks and months ahead. 

Cottage Grove’s historic district and diverse mix of both urban and rural communities create a broad tapestry of experiences, perspectives and opportunities for those who live here, as well as the journalists who chronicle it.

Ultimately, a newspaper is a reflection of its community, serving as both a rearview mirror to the past and a look at who we are today — and both of which are necessary for looking ahead as an informed and united community.

Without question, The Sentinel has seen changes over the past year. Some of those changes have come as a result of Caitlyn’s goal, as editor, of providing more relevant and timely coverage of news and events. This can be particularly challenging when faced with the limitations of a weekly publication and a small staff.

Those changes have also helped usher The Sentinel toward a more traditional newsroom structure that utilizes a managing editor, which has become a standard among newspapers, both large and small. 

Through a recent survey, as well as your letters, emails, phone calls and conversations during the past several weeks, we’ve had a chance to hear what many of you like and dislike about the changes.

Some appreciate the longer, more in-depth series examining the impacts of state or national issues on the local level; others feel our scope has broadened too much.

Some readers think we lean too far left, others too far right — and some feel we try too hard to straddle the middle without taking a stance.

Ultimately, our objective is to serve you in the best way we can by providing the kind of news, information and coverage that offers something for each of you — whether it be local politics, sports, business news, the arts, and coverage of special events, organizations or individuals within the six communities The Sentinel has come to serve over the last year.

Like many small newspapers, we are also working to utilize our online presence through The Sentinel website and social media page to close that time gap and improve the relevancy of the news and information we provide. This is particularly true of breaking news situations that involve public safety, as well as important information that can’t wait for several days to see print.

Continuing to achieve these goals takes trust, communication and a strong working relationship with our readers — areas that will continue to be an important focus for us, and my primary focus as managing editor.

Though I remain editor at The Siuslaw News in Florence, I will be in Cottage Grove every Wednesday, all day, so please feel free to stop in; my door is always open. I also welcome you to call or email me any time with questions, complaints, suggestions or concerns. 

In addition, Caitlyn and I will be hosting a free Press Release Writing Workshop at the Cottage Grove Public Library on Wednesday, May 16, from 6 to 7:30 p.m.

I encourage anyone involved in a non-profit group, community organization or local club who wants to learn the ins and outs of writing press releases (and who doesn’t!) to attend this free workshop. As a small newspaper with limited staff, press releases are an important tool in assuring information about your organization or event gets into the community.

As I mentioned at the beginning, Cottage Grove has always been a special place to me. This makes it just one more reason to feel that way.

I hope to see you May 16, or any time.

Ned Hickson

Managing Editor