Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

EO Media Group announces changes to newspaper operations

EO Media Group is making substantial changes across the company, including layoffs and reductions in print frequency at several newspapers.

EO Media Group, a fourth-generation, family-held media company, operates 12 newspapers in Oregon and Washington, including the Chinook Observer and the regional agriculture publication Capital Press.

During the past year, advertising revenues have dropped and operating expenses have increased substantially. As a result, the company needs to make these changes to stabilize its operations.

Despite the cuts, the company says daily news coverage will continue online in its existing markets and it will continue to employ journalists at all of its locations.

“As a family and owners of EO Media Group, we are committed to the continuity of our publications within the communities we have served for over a century,” Steve Forrester and Kathryn Brown, majority owners of EO Media Group, said in a statement.

“We have retained a firm to evaluate all options for the company, and our primary goal remains the same: to preserve and strengthen the important connection our newspapers have with the local residents of Oregon and the Long Beach Peninsula. EO Media Group is also considering the nonprofit model of newspaper publishing. Our aim is to ensure that these publications continue to thrive and reflect the voices and stories of the communities they represent.”

The EO Media Group is taking the following steps to move forward:

On Monday, 28 of the company’s employees were notified they are being laid off and their jobs are being eliminated this month. Another 19 employees will have their hours reduced starting in July, corresponding to reduced publishing days. The company currently has 185 employees.

The Chinook Observer's news staffing is unaffected by changes announced Monday.

The frequency of three print publications will be reduced July 1:

• The Bulletin in Bend will combine its Saturday and Sunday print editions, which will be delivered in the Saturday mail. The Bulletin will drop from seven to five e-editions per week.

• The Rogue Valley Times in Medford will drop from three print editions a week to two per week.

• The East Oregonian (EO) in Pendleton will move from two to one print publishing day and will expand coverage to include reporting from its five eastern Oregon sister locations.

The La Grande Observer, Blue Mountain Eagle, Hermiston Herald, Wallowa County Chieftain and the Baker City Herald will suspend print publication July 1. News staff will remain in each area and continue to post news online and contribute to the East Oregonian print publication.

All print subscribers of those newspapers will receive the East Oregonian, and news from these communities will be printed in the EO, which will serve as the regional newspaper for all of northeastern Oregon.

“While I’m encouraged by the philanthropic and legislative support of journalism beginning to take root across the country, they can’t solely be relied on to fix the journalism business model, especially in rural markets,” CEO Heidi Wright said. “Small family-held media companies like EO Media have to adjust operations to the new realities of the industry in order to survive.”

The EO Media Group’s problems are widespread among community newspapers.

John Galer, chairman of the National Newspaper Association’s Board of Directors, said the postal service, which many publications use instead of delivery drivers, has increased rates 50% since 2021.

Another increase is scheduled for this summer that would bump that up to 60%. Meanwhile, mail delivery keeps getting slower.

“Overall, our industry is facing incredible challenges,” said Dean Ridings, CEO of America’s Newspapers Foundation.

Rural newspapers are harder hit as local merchants who support those publications with advertising have difficulty competing with chain stores and online retailers, he added.

That’s resulted in news deserts, and a recent Northwestern University study showed that 2.5 newspapers are closing per week.

“If you go back 10 years, there were probably 30%, 35% more papers across the country,” said Galer, the publisher of the Hillsboro Journal-News in Hillsboro, Ill.

A third of Oregon's newspapers have shuttered in the past 20 years, leading to news deserts in two counties and leaving 16 counties with a single news publication covering hundreds of square miles, according to Jody Lawrence-Turner, executive director of the Fund for Oregon Rural Journalism. Additionally, 68% of Oregon's incorporated cities lack a local news source.

“Democracy is at risk and communities suffer when community-based reporting disappears,” she said.

Even with publications that remain open, thousands of newsroom jobs have been lost, Ridings said.

“Newspapers are often the very fabric of the communities they serve. When a newspaper reduces its capacity, everyone feels it,” he said.

Ridings said that during the pandemic, newspapers saw an encouraging uptick of subscribers.

“Unfortunately, it does not seem there’s been a willingness to continue that level of support,” he added.

The industry still battles the perception that information should be free online.

“There’s a continued lack of understanding of the need to pay for good journalism,” Ridings said.

He said Google uses newspaper content without compensation, but the industry is seeking legislative change to correct that problem.

Galer said he was a “glass half-full kind of guy” despite the challenges because people still want local journalism.

“There are all these issues going on that people relish knowing about,” he said.

“You have to be positive. There’s always struggles, there’s always hardships, but that’s the newspaper business. You have to keep on rolling,” Galer said.

EO Media Group is a family-owned company with roots at the East Oregonian in Pendleton dating back to 1908. In addition to the Chinook Observer and the East Oregonian, it owns The Astorian, in Astoria; the Baker City Herald; the Hermiston Herald; The Observer (La Grande); the Wallowa County Chieftain, in Enterprise; the Blue Mountain Eagle, in John Day; The Bulletin, in Bend; the Rogue Valley Times, in Medford; and Capital Press, a regional agriculture and natural resource publication based in Salem. It also publishes The Other Oregon magazine.


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