Readers of the Hood River News and The Dalles Chronicle alike will have received this combined edition of their twice-weekly community newspaper with surprise. The Dalles and Hood River? Together? What is going on?

Why? We are working to survive as community newspapers during these troubled times.

Newspapers are a bellwether of the general economy — when the local economy suffers, newspapers quickly feel their pain. The same is true regionally and the nationally as well. The potential of a combined publication has been around for years, and we’ve long shared selected content between the Chronicle and the News, a reflection of the communities’ shared concern for issues and events all around the Mid-Columbia.

Now, this joint publication will draw on the strength of both papers and offer a unique service to residents of the Gorge.

The logistics were considered, and cooperation increased between staffs. Many of our special sections were combined.

And it was working. And along came COVID-19 and an instant recession. The bellwether went off, loudly.

Two weeks ago, as staff considered the possibility of quarantine and working from home, combining our weekend editions was one of the many ideas floated to cut costs in these challenging times. Last Thursday, even as  local alerts and governmental directives regarding COVID-19 flooded both newsrooms, a flood of advertisers were canceling their ads in upcoming editions, including this one.

By the time we went to press Monday with the midweek edition, we were in crisis.

On Tuesday, decisions were made that resulted in today’s combined issue — hopefully the first of many.

It is, and isn’t, your familiar newspaper.

Chronicle readers will see some of the biggest changes, foremost among them being the end of the comics page. From a business perspective, comics were doubly expensive: The monthly bill was significant, and an entire page was dedicated to them. Comics made sense when the Chronicle was a daily, and they were popular among many readers. But they had been on the chopping block for years, and we regret the fall of the axe.

History Mystery will continue, but will run in the weekly edition — those editions will not be combined, but will continue to publish in our local communities.

For Hood River News readers, one of the biggest changes is that Kaleidoscope is on hiatus, for now. The long-read photo feature always found on B1 is something we will continue, though compressed and in varying locations. Happenings (What’s Happening in the Chronicle) will resume as events resume, as will the Entertainment Update that both papers have shared for the last few years.

The readers of both papers will see additional changes as well.

The weekend Opinion page of both papers will be combined, and editorial cartoon choices have been reduced, as have purchased guest columns. Many of the guides and directories we offer will be combined as well.

As the reader might imagine, creating a new publication in three days is something of a challenge — we will be revising today’s result as we strive to survive, and serve, in our communities.

There are many unknowns in the days ahead and we hope we can continue.

— Mark Gibson, editor, The Dalles Chronicle

— Kirby Neumann-Rea, editor, Hood River News

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