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Another bastion of Oregon newspapers falls on difficult times

By GEORGE CUSTER/Editor/The Herald  —  The news I received, first from my good friend and mentor Doug Bates, and then within minutes seeing it online struck me hard. Probably more so because I personally know some of those involved.

EO Media Group, an Oregon newspaper company comprised of fifteen newspapers printed across much of Oregon, is cutting back, or ceasing to print, several of its newspapers as well as reducing hours to many of its employees. They are seeking a purchaser for the media organization to hopefully bolster its flagging financials.

I first met Steve Forester, retired CEO of EO Media, at a discussion panel held by the City Club of Eugene about two years ago. We are both former Marines. So, we immediately had a bit of kinship between us. No war stories, just the camaraderie that goes along with having earned the title of “marine”. Steve struck me as a no-nonsense, yet warmhearted individual.

He spoke to the audience on the many pitfalls that are challenging today’s forms of media. I, being “Mr. Optimistic”, spoke proudly and glowingly of the nonprofit model that The Herald had chosen. I assured those present that philanthropic foundations would come to understand the growing emergence of news deserts being created around the country and its consequences to journalism as we know it. They would surely come to our rescue. Not as easy a road as I had hoped.

I was in awe of Mr. Forester’s accomplishments of providing news to so many medium-to-small cities that would otherwise be without. Upon his invitation, I later visited him at his Astoria office; met a number of his employees and toured the Astoria plant. I felt honored.

The heartbreak is that many of the newspapers the EO Media owns are in rural communities, not unlike Oakridge and Westfir.

I’d like to believe that things will turn around for EO Media. It will be hard, though. Very hard. As the group’s current CEO, Heidi Wright explained, “We’ve hit some headwinds. We’re doing what we need to do to get financially stable and sustain the journalism,”

Earlier Monday, Pamplin Media Group announced it has sold the Portland Tribune and two-dozen other Oregon publications to a Mississippi publisher called Carpenter Media.

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