Not all changes are bad.

That’s something I’ve learned in the 11 months (but who’s counting) since COVID became part of my daily routine. And as someone who has previously considered all change as the absolute worst, this has been something of an epiphany.

Which is why I wanted to tackle the topic of the paywall that will be implemented in March for our website and e-Editions at columbiagorgenews.com.

For those of you who are already subscribers, the change will be minimal. Subscribers will automatically receive full access to our website and e-Editions (if you haven’t seen the e-Edition, I highly recommend checking it out — it’s pretty cool). This means if you’re away from home / your print edition, you can go online and read the paper cover to cover, free of charge, whether you are in a local coffee shop or on vacation. Subscribers will also have digital access to our archives as an added bonus.

Subscribers can sign up now for online access by going to columbiagorgenews.com and hitting the “subscribe” tab. From there, click “get started” and follow the prompts for “free access for current print subscribers;” you’ll need your subscription number, which can be found on the top right of your newspaper.

But for those who aren’t subscribers, this will be a big change.

Some stories and sections will continue to be free of charge on the website, such as obituaries, COVID-19 updates and breaking news. However, most stories will be behind the paywall. After a certain number of free clicks, those who wish to continue reading will have a variety of payment options, starting with a one-day access. There is also an online-only subscription option, if print copies aren’t your thing.

We know we are going to get negative feedback from some readers for this — people want the words, but they don’t want to pay for them. However, simply put, we are a business, and there are many costs associated with putting out a newspaper and maintaining our website and social media feeds, ranging from paying employees (like me!) to printing each edition to maintaining office spaces.

Co-editor Kirby Neumann-Rea put it like this: You wouldn’t walk into a store, use all the pens to write a letter, and then walk out without buying anything, right?

The news is those metaphorical pens, and that store our website and social media feeds. I suppose that makes our staff the shopkeepers.

The paywall isn’t the only change we’re making. Subscription rates are also going up, due to increased newsprint and postage costs. Publishing a print edition is the largest bill we face each month, and newsprint rates continue to rise; on the postage front, we’re looking at a potential double-digit increase.

We are committed to bringing the news to all of our Gorge communities, but we need reader support to do so. Since these changes are taking place in March, there’s time to subscribe now at the current rate, which is roughly 76 cents per issue (if my phone is telling me the truth. Like I’m going to do math). Email Subscribe@gorgenews.com for details.

We know these are significant changes, but they must be made if we are to continue bringing the news to the five counties of the Gorge. We truly appreciate all of the support we have received over the past 10 months — we know that we wouldn’t have made it this far without all of you. If you have any questions, comments or concerns, you are welcome to contact us (this is your paper too, after all). You will find all of our contact information on page 4.