One of the great experiences of my professional career has been Leadership Hermiston, a chamber of commerce program intended to give people a crash course on what makes this community tick.

Even as someone who grew up here and has worked at the newspapers (both Hermiston Herald and East Oregonian) since moving back in 2005, there’s a lot happening that’s easy to miss. By the time you’ve toured the farms, factories, city hall, safety center, port and schools, you have a strong sense of the diversity and potential in this area.

It’s also a joy to make connections in the class with people who have come to Hermiston from all over and are interested in making it a better place.

That’s why I’m always glad when Media Day comes around and we at the Herald and EO get to tell the class about what we’re up to and why it’s important.

This year’s class visited a few weeks back, and we started by putting them through the usual test — designing their own front page. We divided the 18 class members into teams of two and gave them all the stories we had at our fingertips the night before with the instruction to put out the most impactful front page they could come up with.

The results are always interesting. Some go with the dramatic — arrests and sentences, car chases and crashes — while others go with the positive — feel-good stories of redemption, awards and scholarships. Sometimes they prefer stories of national significance, other times they opt for small, local events.

Usually, it’s a combination of all of the above. And that’s what we try to deliver.

If you’re reading this, you know what goes into each edition of the Hermiston Herald. And you’ve probably noticed some of the changes we’ve made in recent months.

For one, we’ve emphasized a front page centerpiece with content you can only find here. In today’s paper, it’s a developed follow-up to the highly significant decision by the city and county to turn control of the Eastern Oregon Trade and Event Center over to the city. A shorter, on-deadline version of the story ran in Tuesday’s East Oregonian, but we’ve added context, quotes and fresh photos to help explain what happened and what will happen next.

We’ve also used the front page spot to explore our new cuisine options in Hermiston, tourism potential in the city and celebrate the high school football team’s state championship (with an accompanying five-page spread of photos and stories).

Also on the front page we’ve added a By The Way column, giving an inside look at some of the stories that are developing or tidbits from around town. We hear as much scuttlebutt as you do, and it’s a place where we can address rumors, share kudos and give a brief glimpse at what’s in store in the coming weeks and months.

We’ve also done away with the funny page in favor of a local photo page toward the back of each edition. While newspapers traditionally carry at least a handful of comics, and we realize a good laugh is a gift, we want to emphasize local people and places as much as possible.

We want the Hermiston Herald to be a place of shared experience for the people of Hermiston and the surrounding area. We want to answer your questions, understand your point of view, attend your events and write your stories. Each Wednesday is our chance to do that.

And we’re always up for a helping hand. If you have an idea for a story, a great photo you’ve taken, a piece of writing you’d like to publish or even a comic you’ve drawn, send it to editor@hermistonherald.com, call us at 541-567-6457 or stop by the office at 333 E. Main St.

We’re proud to be your community newspaper, and want to hear from you on what we can do to make it even better.

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Daniel Wattenburger is the managing editor of the East Oregonian and a contributing editor for the Hermiston Herald.

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