For the first time in months The Observer’s newsroom is operating with a full staff.

Diligent sports editor Ronald Bond left in October 2020 to take the helm of one of our sister papers, the Wallowa County Chieftain. Soon after, we had Kaleb Lay here and cranking out stories, but he then departed Feb. 5 for other endeavors. We had other changes in between those events.

But we hired Alex Wittwer on Feb. 8. His photography skills made an immediate improvement to the look of the newspaper.

But the rub is, the EO Media Group, our parent company, hired Alex as a multimedia regional journalist who would produce content for all our related publications in Eastern Oregon. We’ve not been able to move him into that role because our newsroom was one reporter shy.

That is changing with the arrival of Davis Carbaugh.

He started working as The Observer’s newest reporter on Friday, May 7, after driving all the way from Virginia Beach, Virginia, for what amounts to his first real newspaper job. Davis has a bachelor of arts in communication from Virginia Tech, where he spent the two years before coming here as the sports editor for the university’s independent, student-run newspaper, the Collegiate Times.

So he has some sports reporting chops.

I know there are readers looking forward to more sports coverage, and now we have a reporter with the ability to deliver that content. You can check out his coverage of the La Grande-Baker baseball game in today’s paper. But Carbaugh is not just going to be a sports reporter. He will cover a variety of topics, from local governments to summer events and whatever else we throw his way.

We however are not going back to the days of lengthy game recaps. We will have some recaps, but they will be shorter and punchier. Our sports reporting will continue to focus on features rather than game play.

Still, we now will have local, fresh content for sports in the paper and the website,

Some of our newsroom members, though, remain constants.

Lisa Lester Kelly continues to be the newsroom clerk, a job title that belies all she does — copyediting, putting in obituaries, handling letters to the editor, providing content for the paper and GO! Magazine.

And of course the venerable Dick Mason still cranks out more news stories than just about any reporter I can think of.

With more than half our newsroom new at this place (I’m still rather new here), we’re taking steps to deliver a more consistent news product. To that end, I’m implementing a fact-checking protocol. You might think those are given in newsrooms today, but they are not.

And we now have our first iteration of a style and format guide for The Observer. We are a member of The Associated Press, and we follow AP style overall. But like community newspapers everywhere, we have a bundle of organizations, local governments, events and more that we need to be consistent with reporting on and identifying. Having and adhering to a style guide is another step to delivering consistency.

That was a major goal of mine when I took this job about 18 months ago. Consistency, however, is not something we just obtain. Rather, it’s a goal we work toward in every edition. With our staff and procedures now, I’m more confident we can up the quality of what we provide to you, our readers.