It’s been one year since Ogden Newspapers purchased the Observer-Reporter. While the initial announcement left many in the community and members of the staff unsure about the paper’s future, little has changed in the last 12 months.
In fact, it seems pretty clear that not only is the Observer-Reporter here to stay, but it is also flourishing.
“I believe that there is a lot of opportunity for us now. Much more than previously,” executive editor Liz Rogers said. “The sale has made us stronger. With the number of papers that Ogden owns in the region, we can become a very powerful news organization and actually own the market.”
The sentiment resonates throughout the organization, with many of the paper’s managers looking forward to continued growth and new opportunities.
“There will always be a demographic who wants to hold a paper in their hands and read it,” said Bridget Vilenica, circulation director for the O-R and The Almanac. “With the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette eliminating two more days of print, we’re excited about the opportunity to entice new readers. We’re the only seven-day circulation newspaper left in town.”
Despite the change in ownership, daily operations at the O-R remain unchanged. In circulation, Vilenica said getting the paper to customers promptly and providing a high level of customer service remain her top priorities.
Over in editorial, Rogers said the sale created efficiencies within the department, along with more regional news opportunities.
“We’re now collaborating with the Herald-Standard in Uniontown,” she said. “We share similar demographics. They’ve given us the strength to go after hard-edge stories that we couldn’t do with the previous staff. Plus, we’re offering more features than ever before.”
Above all, Rogers said the O-R is still delivering quality news to the community.
“Despite all that has occurred, we haven’t missed a beat,” she said. “It’s still a quality product that we continue to be proud of.”
Working as a team has made the transition easier.
“We realized that in order to grow, we have to work as one. That is not to say we didn’t work as a team previously, but the lines of communication are constantly open and changing. We brainstorm weekly and try to utilize all of our assets, together,” said Carole DeAngelo, advertising director and event manager.
Grace Dalmolin, digital marketing director for Reimagine Main Street, the O-R’s digital ad agency, said her team remains a vital piece of the puzzle for local and regional advertisers. Dalmolin said Reimagine Main Street continues to educate the community on the numerous benefits of working with RMS and the O-R.
“We are in a unique position,” she said. “You don’t have to go to different agencies to expand your reach. Here at the Observer-Reporter, you have the opportunity to work with us, our advertising department and be a part of our amazing events. We provide sources outside of the traditional media.”
Above all, the paper has maintained its strong community focus and support. In addition to hosting 15 community-centric events each year, including the Corks and Kegs Festival, The Greater Pittsburgh Food Truck Festival and Farm to Fork in Greene County, the O-R also provides sponsorship to organizations within its coverage area. In 2019 alone, the O-R has given over $100,000 in cash and or in-kind sponsorship to promote and support the various businesses and organizations in Washington and Greene counties, the South Hills and surrounding areas.
The leadership staff at the O-R remains actively involved in community organizations like United Way of Washington County, Rotary Club of Washington and Literacy Council of Southwestern Pennsylvania.
“If you’re going to report the news of a community, you should be a part of it,” Rogers said about her long-standing involvement with the Rotary Club of Washington. “We have an up-close and personal view of any shortcomings within the community, and we have the ability to address those shortcomings.”
They hope their passion for giving back sets an example for others.
“It’s important for everyone, in any industry, to volunteer in civic organizations. I believe in our community, and at the end of the day, I want to make a difference,” DeAngelo said. “In order for us to progress as a society, we need to volunteer our time. We need to band together and help one another and our community as a whole. It’s exceedingly rewarding for me, and hopefully, I’m setting an example.”