Ashland.news: ‘The goal is to be the glue that holds Ashland together’

January 14, 2022

Ashland.news announced it will launch a local news site focused on Ashland, Oregon, at a news conference on Dec. 16, 2021, at Peace House in Ashland.

Ashland.news board President Herbert Rothschild introduced members of the new, independent, nonprofit organization’s board of directors, followed by the announcement by Ashland.news Executive Editor Bert Etling of the January 14 launch date, and remarks by Etling and invited guests.

Check out the complete, lightly edited video, which runs 32 minutes, 33 seconds. Following the remarks, Etling answers questions from the audience, including Jefferson Public Radio.

Here are excerpts from the remarks:

Bert Etling, executive editor, Ashland.news:

… To thrive in the world we live in, we need to know what’s going on around us, from where our feet are planted to the horizon and beyond, because it all affects us where we live.

The part of the world we ought to know best is right here, where we live, our neighborhood, our town, our region. We have lots of ways of knowing what’s going on in the nation and the world, but evolving technologies and changing economic conditions have left us with seemingly ever-dwindling access to reliable, comprehensive information about what’s closest to us — not just in Ashland, but across the country, where 2,000 local news outlets have closed since the century started.

Local people here in Ashland have been saying, something needs to be done — we’ve decided now is the time to do it, and we can do this together.

That’s why we’re starting Ashland.news, and why we’re starting it as a nonprofit — it’s sole purpose is to gather and share the kind of local information that helps a community make itself better. Everyone has a need to know, everyone can know better, and we’re here to try and help with that. Informed decisions are better decisions, whether it’s how the city spends its money or how you spend your time.

We’ll launch our website Friday, Jan. 14, along with a regular newsletter to push out links to new content on our site, Ashland.news.

The free site will include reports about all things local, including city government, schools, business and labor, housing, the environment, sports, arts and entertainment, letters to the editor and viewpoints on local issues.

Our basic website is up and running now. Visitors to the site can sign up for emails, fill out a survey letting us know what they want us to find out for them, and a way to make one-time or ongoing donations.

Ongoing donations will be the key to making Ashland.news sustainable, and we believe reliable local news is essential to keeping our community sustainable. Ashland is a vital, engaged, caring, innovative, accomplished community, and it needs a vital, engaged, caring local news source. Together we can build a better news source that makes this a better community.

John Stromberg, former Ashland mayor:

… Sixteen years as a public official taught me it’s all about the art of living together in community, for which you need an accurate, comprehensive, insightful, objective, real-time source of information: the Ashland.news.

Pam Marsh, Oregon state representative:

… This is a wonderful undertaking, a valiant endeavor and I am here to support you in any way possible. Certainly if there is anything we have learned over the last couple of years — and we have learned a lot over the last couple of years — it is how difficult it is sometimes for us to agree on the facts of a situation and it is, additionally, how destructive it is, for our communities when we don’t agree on the facts or we don’t understand those facts together.

This is an effort to make sure that our community of Ashland has a solid, dependable, trustworthy, source of news. We may still disagree — we will disagree, I can guarantee that — but if we start from the same place of understanding the situation that we’re confronted with, then we are miles ahead in trying to bring differing views together. So I applaud you, I am totally grateful for you, and I am very excited to collaborate with you in any way possible.

Alan DeBoer, former Ashland mayor, former state senator:

… Thanks for doing this. It’s certainly critical. … I hope you engage the middle school, the high school, and Southern Oregon University’s journalism people. Great resource. And we need to hear. Local news is great, so thanks for doing it.

Jeff Golden, Oregon state senator:

I’m struck by the people on (the Zoom) screen and in this room and the collective investment they’ve made in this community, thousands and thousands of hours altogether, into making a better community. 

… Ashland is full of people who have an interest in being involved in their community; are curious, intellectually curious; and are really kind of interested in solid information more than they are kind of click-bait news. What better small community to support a venture like this …

People are so tired of having media so influenced by objectives different from why a free press was established in the first place. So I really hope people support this, try it and support it.

I want to reinforce what Pam said: I think at the root of our challenges, in a community and a state and a nation, is the absence of a foundation of shared information. Everybody I know is asking, “What am I supposed to believe right now?” 

I think what Bert and Herb are bringing together — a qualified professional corps of people who clearly have no agenda other than to put out good, important information — I think they have a chance of achieving a certain level of credibility that’s unusual these days. All the pieces line up here to have a really promising and important new enterprise that can help us answer the question, “Who are we supposed to believe?”

And Bert, one thing I really hope happens is that you continue what you brought to the Tidings in terms of inclusion of community members with different contributions to make. That made all the difference and I’m hoping it’s a cornerstone of this venture as well. Congratulations, let’s all do what we can to support this going forward and see what we can do.

Christopher Lucas, faculty member, SOU Communication, Media and Cinema program:

I’m really glad to be here to support this project. As you might imagine, I spend a lot of time talking to my students about the power but also the limitations of commercial media for producing journalism. We also talk about the long history of nonprofit journalism. Some our most trusted sources, globally, nationally, are nonprofit outlets. Over the last 10 years, some of the most promising developments have been extending that model down to the local news level. So, this is fantastic, forward-thinking project. 

I’m really excited to see what we can do at the university to support this. …I think we’re going to see a lot of interest from the university and our student body for this. So, bottom line, we’re very, very excited to this get this off the ground and we’ll do everything we can to make sure it’s a success. 

Jim Risser, former director, John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships program at Stanford University:

… I’ve always loved local news and I think it’s crucial that this town have a good source of news that’s regular, comes out every day in some way, not just occasionally, so I’m looking forward very much to this new adventure. Bert Etling was a terrific editor of the Tidings …. He made the paper a lot better while he was there and I know that he’s the right guy to run a new news source for Ashland such as this one, so I’m looking forward to it.

Paul Steinle, former broadcast journalist and journalism professor:

…We did a big project in 2010, visiting 50 newspapers across the United States. And the first one we went to, in Sallisaw, Oklahoma, which is a weekly, the editor gave us an incredible metaphor for what this is all about. He said, “We are the glue that holds the community together.” And that is what this is. This is local news, getting this fact base, which we’ve learned over the last decade is so important for us as citizens. To live in a world of reality, rather than in a world of supposition and speculations. 

I think this is going to start off modestly, but I think the goal is so important, I think when the community realizes what the opportunity is here support will flow to it. The goal is to be the glue that holds Ashland together.

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Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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