It’s been a tough year.

From my standpoint as the publisher of the Hermiston Herald I can’t think of any other time in my career where the challenges seemed so great and the future so stark as it was in the spring when COVID-19 was escalating.

Matters grew worse as the year wore on and as COVID-19 cases climbed locally.

Yet, through it all, I was able to see many different things that enhanced my already strong faith in our local communities and in our newspaper.

Crisis often brings out the very worst or best in people and from my experience I saw far more outstanding actions and words from people than the reverse.

Our newspaper staff performed during extremely trying circumstances. We were helped in that endeavor by our readers and others who, instead of falling into a river of fear, decided to be proactive and to work the problems one by one as they came up.

A few examples that come to mind include the 2nd Congressional District candidate forum in May hosted by EO Media Group and streamed online by La Grande-based Eastern Oregon Alive TV. That partnership brought the candidates together virtually so Eastern Oregon voters could get a sense of where candidates were at on important issues, something that can often be challenging — even during the best of times.

Another example is the August partnership between the Hermiston Herald, East Oregonian and Umatilla County Commissioners to distribute 25,000 masks throughout the county during the height of the outbreak. Joining forces with the county to provide masks and much-needed information shows the important role this newspaper plays.

The local newspaper is a key institution in any community. I have always felt that a community is what helps make a newspaper good in the first place. Our readers and advertisers are paramount to our success.

That is why I want to thank our advertisers, our readers and all the staff at the Hermiston Herald. Our readers deserve praise for remaining loyal and giving us the benefit of the doubt when the darkest days of the pandemic descended upon us. Our readers are the lifeblood of our organization, for without them, there would be no paper.

We are grateful for our advertisers because in a year unlike any other in our lifetimes, it would have been easy for advertisers to save every penny. Instead, when it was more important than ever for them to get their message out, they trusted the Hermiston Herald to deliver that message and for that I am thankful.

Our staff here at the Hermiston Herald and East Oregonian also deserve to be lauded. From our advertising representatives to our reporters and editors, each person contributed to our success this year despite monumental challenges.

Some may not believe that. Some may think, “what I do isn’t that big a deal for the newspaper,” but they would be wrong.

Every employee makes a difference every day here at the Hermiston Herald, whether they realize it or not. Without their dedication we would not be the great organization we are today.

The proof is in the pudding, as they say. While there were many challenges in 2020 — for all of us — one thing the Hermiston Herald continued to do without fail was ensure that critical information went out to readers in print and online at hermistonherald.com. And because of that commitment from the newsroom, the Hermiston Herald, was named the No. 1 paper in its circulation class in the ONPA General Excellence category. That’s something everyone here at the paper and the community should take pride in.

We — the Hermiston Herald, residents and our readers — have been bloodied but we are unbowed. That’s because of the unique kind of Eastern Oregon grit that is hard to define but crucial during tough times.

So, as the new year looms just a few days away, I want to thank everyone for allowing us to fill our vital role in Eastern Oregon and continue our mission to keep the public informed.

———

Andrew Cutler is the publisher of the Hermiston Herald.

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