As some readers of this newspaper may already be aware, the Blue Mountain Eagle has a new editor. After nearly five years in the position, Sean Hart has decided to move on to pursue other interests. The staff of the Eagle wishes him the very best in his next endeavor.

The paper’s Sept. 15 edition was the last produced under Sean’s guidance, and the Sept. 22 edition was the first produced under mine.

My name is Bennett Hall, and I’m the new editor of the Blue Mountain Eagle. I’m proud to be taking the reins of Oregon’s oldest weekly newspaper, which has been serving the people of John Day and Grant County in one form or another since 1868.

While I’m not from Oregon originally, I’ve lived more than half my life in this state and consider it my home. This is where I went to college, where I raised my family and where I launched my journalism career. I’ve been working for Oregon newspapers since 1987, first in Portland, then in Eugene and, for the last 25 years, in the Corvallis-Albany area.

You’ll note that my Oregon years have been spent in the Willamette Valley, in the western part of the state. But this is the east side, and things are different here.

That was abundantly clear as I made the drive over here from Corvallis last week, with most of my worldly goods crammed into the back of my Subaru. The minute you cross the Cascade crest, the landscape starts to look quite a bit drier. (You also start to see a lot fewer Subarus and a lot more pickup trucks.)

I’ve traveled to Eastern Oregon plenty of times before — my ex-wife had family ties to Lonerock in Gilliam County, and over the years I’ve enjoyed memorable trips to the Wallowas, Steens Mountain, Hart Mountain, the Alvord Desert, the Deschutes River, Malheur Wildlife Refuge and the Painted Hills.

But those were all short-term visits. This time I’m here to stay.

Driving out here last week, I was struck yet again by the wild and rugged beauty of this part of Oregon. (And to the driver who flashed your brights at me in the Ochocos, thank you. At first I was mad, since I had my low beams on and it wasn’t even full dark yet, but then I rounded a bend and realized you were just trying to warn me about cattle in the highway ahead.)

I can’t wait to start exploring the area and getting to know the mountains and canyons, lakes and streams around here. But more than that, I can’t wait to start getting to know my new neighbors, the people of John Day and the other communities that make up Grant County.

As the Eagle’s new editor, I hope to build on the strong legacy of community journalism established by Sean Hart and his predecessors at this newspaper. That means covering the news fairly, accurately, honestly and ethically, and always keeping the best interests of the community in mind.

It also means listening to what you have to say, whether it’s a story idea, a criticism or even a pat on the back for a job well done. You can reach me at 541-575-0710 or I look forward to hearing from you.

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