In the community

Malheur Enterprise web site design a ‘labor of love’ for Oregon native

A year’s worth of work went into creating and presenting the new website for the Malheur Enterprise. (The Enterprise/File).

VALE – Andy Rossback believes local journalism is important.

That’s one of the main reasons the Coos Bay native stepped up to help create the Malheur Enterprise’s new website that went live two weeks ago.  

“I care a lot about local news. I think local journalism in Oregon and everywhere has taken such a tremendous hit in the past few years. I thought what you guys were doing in Vale is pretty stellar and unique,” said Rossback.

Rossback, 27, knows quite a bit about web design and the news industry. As a member of the web design team at The New York Times, Rossback deals with how best to present high-profile stories online every day. Rossback is also an adjunct professor at the Arthur L. Carter Institute at New York University. He said he realized he wanted to become a journalist when he was 16 and has since worked at newspapers in Virginia and Alabama before he joined the Times.

Rossback said he became interested in helping the Enterprise redesign its website when he read a column by publisher Les Zaitz last year about turning the Vale paper into a journalism laboratory. So, he reached out to Zaitz.

 “I said, ‘Hey, I know you want to redesign your website and I am from Coos Bay and I work at the New York Times and I specialize in design development in journalism and I think what you are doing is cool,” said Rossback.

Rossback said Zaitz quickly answered his query.

“Unbelievably he said ‘I will be in New York next week,’” said Rossback.

The two men met for breakfast “in a little diner uptown” and laid the groundwork for the new site.

From the beginning, Rossback said, he and Zaitz both wanted to create a web platform new but simple to use.

“Something that has a focus on engagement and user experience. So we chatted there a long time,” said Rossback.

From there the two exchanged emails and phone calls and Rossback went to work.

The goal of creating a website based on simplicity has been achieved, said Rossback.

 “It is really easy to use,” said Rossback.

The site also showcases other important elements.

“We have a set of features here that are encouraging users to be more engaged with the site. That means we have the ability to email them with breaking news alerts,” said Rossback. “We are starting with a limited set of features but we hope, over time, that that will grow.”

Rossback also said the new site will be easier for subscribers to use on their phones.

“The design is cleaner. And it is geared for mobile,” said Rossback. “This website makes it easier for people in rural areas to access the news they need, to go about their lives and make the community better.”

Another essential part of the new site, Rossback said, is its treatment of advertising.

“There is an intent to bring utility through the design of those ads. They are meant to be clean and to stand out,” said Rossback.

Rossback said that is important.

“I hope they (readers) are connected to advertising that is relevant to them because it is local advertising,” said Rossback.

Rossback said rural areas like Malheur County deserve a first-class news website.

“This is a great thing for your readers, a great thing for Eastern Oregon,” said Rossback.

While Rossback agreed that journalism is in peril, he also said there is a solution.

“I think the answer is that publishers have to start being very focused on the quality of their product and they have to ask readers to pay, to support the product. But it starts with having a product worth paying for and part of that is doing good journalism,” said Rossback.

Rossback spent about a year creating the website in his off time but said the effort was worth it.

“This has all been a lot of work for sure but, yeah, I liked doing it,” said Rossback.

Reporter Pat Caldwell: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.