Malheur Enterprise launches new website to deliver more news faster, adds digital subscriptions

Reporter John L. Braese works on a story for the Malheur Enterprise.

We have big news of our own this week at the Malheur Enterprise.

We’re rolling out a complete makeover of our online service, our website at malheurenterprise.com.

New designs for websites often represent little more than moving pieces around.

In our case, we junked the pieces and started over. What you see this week is the result of months of work to provide what we think is a revolutionary approach to local news.

For you, that means news easier to read – and more of it.

Since taking over the Enterprise, I’ve considered our Vale operation a journalism laboratory. I have wanted to test ideas about the local appetite for trusted and accurate news. I wanted to test ideas about how to use social media in a rural community. And I wanted to test ways for a news operation to be a successful business in a day when newspapers are folding or cutting back on a regular basis.

The demand for the print edition of the Enterprise continues to grow. Subscribers and advertisers are signing up day by day. They appreciate how much the Enterprise has become, truly, the voice of Malheur County.

But I also know a big segment of our community turns to pixels for their information. That means cruising for news on the cell phone or a laptop. The tremendous activity on our Facebook page shows the power of linking people with local news they want and can trust. Our Facebook pages routinely become a place of conversation. Recent posts about Ontario’s sales tax and labor issues at Treasure Valley Community College, for instance, became forums of debate and sharing. That’s good for all of us.

As I considered changes to make, I reflected on what you get at most news sites. They are a bewildering array of headlines, photos, videos, advertisements – look here! Look there! Readers must wonder at times where they are supposed to start or what’s most important. In my judgment, most people go to a news site to, well, get the news.

Recognizing that, we have opted to slim down. Our new website, the product of a new affiliated company called Mazama Digital LLC, gives you a clean page of local news. You can follow one thread to get the community news that’s important to you. We have advertising, too, but we’re limiting the form and function. You won’t have videos bursting onto your screen with loud music and jarring images.

All this change and improvement also comes with a price tag. From now own, we’re assessing a small monthly fee to get at all that online news.

Until now, anyone could go to our website, browse our work, and read the very best of our stories – all for free. These readers didn’t contribute a nickel to the cost of gathering or delivering that news.

We’re changing that now.

Our staff works hard to deliver news that is first, fair and accurate. They don’t work for free. The phone company doesn’t give us free lines. Insurers won’t protect us without a check. And the power company doesn’t give away the juice that runs our computers, our lights and more.

No business, in other words, can survive by giving away what it makes. Logan’s Market would be a dark hull by now if fruit and bread were free for the taking. Les Schwab Tires wouldn’t have anyone running for your car if Mr. Schwab himself thought it was a good idea to just give away tires. And the Starlite Café wouldn’t need sassy waitresses if it gave away meals until it could buy no more food.

That’s one practical explanation for charging for our news. There is another – fairness.

We charge those who want their news in printed form. More and more, people in Malheur County judge what we do is worth paying for. They help pay for our news operation. We don’t see why those who turn only to our website should get the same information at no cost.

We value our work, and so should consumers who want their news electronically. We’ve made it as easy as possible to get a digital subscription. The steps to do so are simple and the price is a bargain — $5 a month. That’s $5 a month for access to all of our investigative and enterprise work, all of our local sports, and all of our community news.

These changes are made to be sure we get even stronger as the voice of Malheur County.

We invite you to take the new website for a spin. We invite you to break out your $5 a month to support quality local journalism that is disappearing from so many other communities.

And we welcome your thoughts and comments. This is a work in progress, and we’ll listen intently to suggestions of how to make our new delivery vessel even better.