We’ve added a new feature to our websites across the six eastside newspapers of EO Media Group that I think is needed and, unfortunately, necessary.

On each of our news websites there is a tab where all our fire coverage is collected. Click on the tab and readers will be able to catch up on what is going on across the state and see updates on the progress of blazes.

I think the feature is a good one and will help give our readers a sense of the magnitude of the fires that are scorching huge chunks of forest across Oregon.

While I think the new feature is a great asset, I, of course, wish it wasn’t necessary. The vast size of this summer’s blazes took me by surprise, and when I read our great coverage on the fires I always feel a little sad. That’s because I have spent more than enough time recreating in this great region of ours, and it pains me to see the areas I’ve considered as places of refuge go up in flames.

Yet, part of our job is to ensure our readers are informed. That can be a challenge when we are trying to cover a breaking news story like fires. First, we want to make sure we get the most accurate information available to our readers. Then we want to deliver comprehensive coverage, news stories that provide context and background on how the fires started and the damage each one inflicts upon our fellow Oregonians.

In our modern era we are in many ways more connected to each other than ever before, but in some ways I’d argue we also are further apart.

Social media provides a platform of connectivity unlike anything seen before, but we also live in a secluded region of the state where cities and towns are spaced far apart. Yet, what occurs in say, Baker City, can eventually have an impact on a place like Pendleton. The recent forest fires are a good case in point. While the Bootleg Fire — one of the largest in the U.S. — is burning in Southern Oregon the residual impact of the blaze — smoke — is impacting not only Oregon but most of the nation.

That is a different kind of connectivity but a real one that we all must live with when the sky becomes choked with smoke.

I believe our new forest fire landing page furnishes our readers with an up-to-date resource so they can stay informed and understand what’s happening around them.

So don’t forget to check it out.

Andrew Cutler is the publisher of the Hermiston Herald and the regional editorial director for the EO Media Group, overseeing the Herald, East Oregonian and four more newspapers in Eastern Oregon.


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