A celebration four decades in the making

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Forty years ago this weekend, it was announced that our family had purchased the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin from owner and Publisher Donald Sherwood and his wife, Virginia. It's been a wonderful marriage and something we're excited to celebrate with you, our valued readers.

For these 40 years, we have been the stewards of a precious public trust. Although our business has transformed considerably, our mission has remained the same: to serve the Walla Walla Valley by providing you with the quality news and information you deserve. That was true when my cousin Frank Blethen was publisher in the 1970s, through a distinguished list of publishers since, and remains our primary focus today.

In the coming weeks, you will see a series of ads celebrating this 40-year anniversary. The first set highlights how, in each decade, our journalism helped Walla Walla move forward on an important issue. The spotlighted issues are prison reform in the 1970s, an expanded world view in the 1980s, migrant workers in the 1990s, the VA hospital in the 2000s and suicide in the 2010s. You can also see a sampling of this coverage on Union-Bulletin.com.

Other ads will highlight familiar faces who are loyal readers, with each explaining what they like in the U-B and why they read it. I thank Anne-Marie Schwerin, Mariela Rosas, Megan Clubb, Bob Zagelow, Justin Wylie, Lawson Knight, Pedrito Maynard-Reid and Steve VanAusdle for helping us celebrate.

When the Sherwoods, still well known around town for their generous trust, sold the paper to the Blethen family, Don Sherwood stated, "We have every assurance the Union-Bulletin will maintain its status as an independent editorial and news entity dedicated to serving our area of interest in Southeast Washington and Northeast Oregon. "

I am pleased to say that independence and autonomy remain core values of our company. One hundred percent of our editorial decisions are made by people who live, work and send their children to schools in the Walla Walla Valley. My wife, Catherine, our children and I are in our fourth year here, still basking in all the wonderful people, culture and vistas the Valley has to offer.

At its best, journalism helps readers navigate the opportunities and challenges of an ever-changing world. Through the years, we have used our news pages and now our website to enlighten, challenge, find and report the truth, entertain, foster community dialogue, give voice to the voiceless, hold government accountable and more. You are the ultimate judge of how we're doing, but we want you to know we take our role very seriously.

I'm often asked what the future looks like for the Union-Bulletin. Thanks to you, our dedicated employees and the many local businesses that advertise with us, it is bright. We're having success transforming the U-B into a multimedia company. Our print audience remains loyal, and we have a growing online audience on Union-Bulletin.com. We have also created successful niche products such as Lifestyles, Business Monthly and Family Forum and even have a new smartphone app for local deals that helps users save money. Look for more exciting new products in the future, and for the printed newspaper to remain a focus for years to come.

There truly is not a better place in the country to be newspapering right now than Walla Walla, with our strong sense of community and diverse economy.

Thanks, Walla Walla, for a wonderful 40 years. Here's to many more decades together.

Rob Blethen can be reached at robblethen@wwub.com or 526-8331.

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