In a column last week I teased that exciting new changes are coming for the Hermiston Herald, and this week I’m ready to announce it:

Starting the first full week of May, the Hermiston Herald will transform from a small-circulation paid newspaper to a mass distribution free product mailed to a majority of households (nearly 11,000) in western Umatilla and eastern Morrow counties, and distributed for free at rack locations throughout the area each week.

The new Herald will feature unique local reporting — different from the articles published in our sister paper the East Oregonian — plus the same display and insert advertising that you have come to expect.

Content will include many popular features we have already been offering, ranging from the Hermiston History column to obituaries. A few items, such as local sports coverage, puzzles and the Screen Time section, will migrate to being reserved for paid subscribers of the East Oregonian. But we will also be adding new features, such as a weekly full-page opinion page, and will have an increased focus on coverage of economic development news about business, housing and agriculture.

Our website, social media pages and mobile app will remain active, with the paywall removed (a development that should bring joy to the many people who have expressed their displeasure about said paywall over the years).

In addition, all Hermiston Herald paid subscribers will automatically be converted to East Oregonian customers. There you will continue to find even more breaking news, sports, and features, served up three times a week in print (Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays) and 24/7 across the website, e-edition, email newsletters, social media and more.

If you would like to create an account to access the digital news services included in your new East Oregonian subscription, please call our customer service center at 800-781-3214. Subscribers can also activate their digital subscription via the website at eastoregonian.com, or via e-mail us at circulation@eomediagroup.com.

This transition likely brings up a lot of questions, and we will be attempting to answer all of them over the next month. Feel free to contact me directly at jmcdowell@eastoregonian.com or 541-564-4536 with questions or feedback.

One question I know will likely be on many people’s minds — particularly those who have seen me argue on social media and in these pages about the importance of paying for news — is how we will continue to fund the reporting, editing and production of the Hermiston Herald without paying subscribers.

While those operations will continue to cost us money, tearing down the barriers of cost and internet access to make Hermiston news more accessible than ever before is a gift to the community, but it is also a gift to advertisers, such as candidates for office, local businesses and nonprofits looking for a way to get their message in front of everyone in the greater Hermiston area. We hope they’ll see it that way, and will support this new, much-expanded access to news in the greater Hermiston area and northeastern Morrow County through advertising. Knowing Hermiston’s famed generosity, we have also added a button to our website where people can support local journalism through a direct financial contribution.

Thank you for being a newspaper reader and an informed citizen. We look forward to serving as your local news source for many years to come in both the new Hermiston Herald and the East Oregonian.

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