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Jeb Bladine: Pandemic creates partnership needs

Some sentiments deserve repeating; here’s one from 19 weeks ago in this space:

“Today, almost all newspapers have financial challenges. But so do many retail and service providers … so do many private and public institutions … so do many citizens facing high costs of living on limited incomes. In this digital-gone-wild world, we believe the survival of local print media requires partners, not just readers and clients. The same applies to many local business enterprises competing in a marketplace increasingly dominated by online sales giants.”

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Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

> See his column

That commentary introduced the News-Register’s 2020 “Community Partners” project as “a rebranding and expansion of our 30-year Shop Local campaign.”

Who could have imagined, in January, that a horrifying pandemic soon would plunge those prospective partners into a shared struggle for economic survival? Who could have known our long support for Shop Local would become more important in 2020 that ever before?

We acknowledged a transparent element of self-interest in our 2020 project, as described in January: “We find ourselves thinking about ways to help strengthen all kinds of community partnerships — especially those involving local businesses and readers who make it possible to continue a community newspaper.”

The COVID-19 outbreak created a major detour to development of that partnership program. All around us, people, businesses, institutions and organizations were cast into turbulent waters in all manner of revenue-leaking vessels, giving rise to the observation: “We are not all in the same boat; but we are in the same storm.”

Surviving that storm will require community partnerships.

Initially, that means having people, businesses and government share the bedrock ideas of shopping local — with appropriate preferences to local ownership — to ensure continuation of a diverse, vibrant local culture and economy.

Over time, it may require shared commitments to lower the temperature of political debates producing more heat than light. At local, state and national levels, America needs more common ground solutions to complex cultural, social, political and economic needs.

In Yamhill County — and particularly within individual communities — we already have the ingredients for effective community partnerships. The real challenge may be finding the ever-evasive key to expanding those partnerships into common countywide interests.

For our part, as previously written, the newspaper will work “to sustain positive ties between citizens and units of government, even when acting as a critic … to connect local people with important organizations, and consumers with local businesses … to help define and shape the best parts of the local community.”

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.

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