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New media are filling Oregon news deserts

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This article is being reprinted with permission from EO Media Group.
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George Custer is a new player in the struggle to keep Oregon news deserts from happening.

Following closure of the Dead Mountain Echo, an Oakridge newspaper of some 50 years standing, a group led by veteran newsman Doug Bates started the Highway 58 Herald, an online newspaper. A former U.S. Marine Corps captain and a businessman, Custer is working on the newspaper’s business side, and he has filled in as an interim editor. Custer and I met at the City Club of Eugene’s July 8 discussion of the topic, “Can local newspapers survive?” In response to that question, I had the easier task, because I could speak about our media company and its survival.

The Highway 58 Herald endeavor is much like the Ashland News, which is powered by retired journalists and business people such as Paul Steinle, who resides in Ashland, as well as on the Long Beach Peninsula. Steinle is a retired executive of King Broadcasting of Seattle.

These two startups and another in Yachats are emblematic of the drive to fill community news voids.

EO Media Group, the parent company of The Astorian, closed its books on June 30, at the end of the fiscal year. I am pleased to report that it was a financially healthy year. During that cycle, our newspapers gained subscribers, to both our print and digital editions.

Talent is the key to our company’s financial health. Talent in the newsrooms of our 15 newspapers, talent among our designers and advertising sales staffs, talent in our one printing site in Astoria and in our call center.

News content is what drives readers to our print and digital editions.

In one of our highest profile news initiatives, The Bulletin in Bend is in the midst of a yearlong series that profiles homeless persons in Deschutes County.

Prior to the U.S. Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade, Katie Frankowicz of KMUN and Nicole Bales of The Astorian took an extensive look at the lack of access to abortion in rural areas of Oregon like the North Coast. The East Oregonian covered a 170-car crash on Interstate 84 in late February that stretched nearly 2 miles long. Nearly 20 patients were taken to area hospitals and stranded motorists were taken to the Pendleton Convention Center, which served as a reunification hub for people involved in the crash.

In the years ahead, our company’s path and the paths of new Oregon news outlets such as in Ashland and Oakridge may intersect. During the fiscal year, EO Media Group launched the Fund for Oregon Rural Journalism (FORJ). This nonprofit venture is seeking philanthropic money that is dedicated to helping newsrooms thrive. FORJ aims to help rural newsrooms around Oregon build sustainable operations. Also we hope to build collaborations with other rural newspapers in shared news initiatives on topics such as water, housing and climate change.

What I like about FORJ is that it is a countervailing force against the national narrative that news deserts must be our future. What America and Oregon need is a new generation of news entrepreneurs. In other words, young people who are equipped with reporting, editing and business skills to start community news organizations. These young talents can emerge from our journalism schools. Our company leaders have had that conversation with the leaders of the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication.

Journalism schools at the University of West Virginia and University of Kentucky are focusing on how to develop new generations of entrepreneurial journalists. Our conversations with UO are heartening.

By telling you that we’ve had a good fiscal year, I do not mean to disguise the challenges we’ve confronted and will confront. The newspaper business has never been easy for papers our size in communities such as we represent.

If you’ve read “Grit and Ink,” the history of our company and family, you know that from the late 19th century into the 21st century, impediments such as the Great Depression, a massive fire in Astoria, pandemics — as well as shifts in the advertising industry — have come our way regularly.

The key to rural and regional newspapers’ survival is resilience and innovation. And that is where you’ll find EO Media Group in the year ahead.

Steve Forrester, the former editor and publisher of The Astorian, is the president and CEO of EO Media Group.

DURING THE FISCAL YEAR, EO MEDIA GROUP LAUNCHED THE FUND FOR OREGON RURAL JOURNALISM (FORJ). THIS NONPROFIT VENTURE IS SEEKING PHILANTHROPIC MONEY THAT IS DEDICATED TO HELPING NEWSROOMS THRIVE. FORJ AIMS TO HELP RURAL NEWSROOMS AROUND OREGON BUILD SUSTAINABLE OPERATIONS.

George Custer is the interim editor of Highway 58 Herald.

STEVE FORRESTER

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PUBLIC NOTICE
Storage Auction
Boxworth Enterprises, LLC
48116 Highway 58
Oakridge, OR 97463
AUCTION AT
Security 58 Storage
48543 Highway 58
Oakridge, OR 97463
July 11th, at 11:00 am
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Unit6-4
$100 cash refundable deposit required Highway 58 Herald 06/20/24 & 06/27/2024

PUBLIC NOTICE
Storage Auction
Boxworth Enterprises, LLC
48116 Highway 58
Oakridge, OR 97463
AUCTION AT
Security 58 Storage
48543 Highway 58
Oakridge, OR 97463
July 11th, at 11:00 am
Ike Smith
Units 1-5 & 4-7
$100 cash refundable deposit required Highway 58 Herald 06/20/24 & 06/27/2024

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