Good news for the little guy

| Print |  Email
Monday, May 01, 2006

s_Robin

When five employees of the Burns Times-Herald bought their weekly newspaper a few weeks ago, it wasn’t big enough news to rate much coverage. In fact, the only paper to cover the story was, well, the Times-Herald.

But there’s a lot that’s newsworthy in this quiet little staff buyout. Things like optimism, commitment and independence. 

There are only about 3,000 hardy souls in this high-desert town hard hit in the ’90s by the collapse of timber. It was job security pure and simple that made buying the Times-Herald from its Idaho owners an easy decision for editor Debbie Raney, manager Sue Pedersen, reporter Randy Parks, ad salesperson Donna Clark and bookkeeper Linda Baker, who own equal shares in the paper. (The other two employees of the paper have an option to buy in when they can.)

“It wasn’t scary at all. Scary would have been doing nothing,” says Pedersen. “Buying the paper was simply the best investment any of us could have made for our futures.”

Job security isn’t easy to find in remote Harney County, or in a lot of rural Oregon communities that have lost traditional industries and struggle with the economic blow. The workforce in Harney earns a living in a smattering of ways: agriculture, forestry, recreation, manufacturing, retail, education, health. More than half of the households earn less than $35,000 a year. Even when you have one job, it might not be enough. Everyone at the Times-Herald does something else: Raney, Clark and Baker are from ranching families; Pedersen owns the only movie theater in town; and Parks has held a number of community positions.

So when the new owners, who purchased the paper in November, said they planned job cuts, these longtime locals quickly formed a partnership, aptly named Survival Media. With the help of a $35,000 grant from the Southeast Regional Alliance, each employee ponied up and an offer was made. They became the official owners on April 1.

The weekly, with a countywide circulation of 3,900, has had several out-of-town owners, some with news judgment that Raney found boneheaded. With relish, she describes her full-page coverage of the local elementary school’s carnival. “That would have been deemed as not ‘newsworthy’ under the corporate owners,” says Raney, who has been at the paper for eight years. “Well, we sell a lot of papers to moms and grandmas when we cover things like that.”

By buying the paper, the staff also made sure the local integrity of the Times-Herald would remain intact.

The Times-Herald folks join an increasing number of workers in industries, most famously airlines and the steel sector, who have taken an ownership interest in their companies, often jumping in during failing times. In the newspaper world, it’s been miserable for a while: declining circulation, sagging stock prices, pressure on revenues. Huge staff cuts have become common. Just recently, newspaper chain Knight-Ridder was sold despite its
aggressive cost-cutting, and the Newspaper Guild, which represents newsroom employees, has bid to buy 12 of the papers.

Then along comes a recent report by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, which states that the war in newsrooms between journalism idealists and accountants has ended. “The idealists have lost,” the report concludes. 

Well, not so in Burns.

Says Pedersen: “The significance of our buyout is to let people know they can do these things. When people pool their thoughts, energy and desires, mountains can be moved.”

No offense to accountants, but at the Times-Herald, at least, the idealists have won this round.

— Robin Doussard
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

More Articles

Oregon needs a Grand Bargain energy plan

Linda Baker
Monday, June 22, 2015
0622-gastaxblogthumbBY LINDA BAKER

The Clean Fuels/gas tax trade off will go down in history as another disjointed, on-again off-again approach to city and state lawmaking.


Read more...

Efficiency Boost

June 2015
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY JOE CORTRIGHT

How conservation stimulates the local economy.


Read more...

Sun set

June 2015
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY CHRIS NOBLE

The right sunglasses can protect your eyes and look cool at the same time. This being the 21st century, select shades are socially conscious, too. Portland brand Shwood uses wood and other natural materials and manufactures locally. Founded by Ann Sacks, the brand Fetch dedicates a portion of its profits to animal welfare. But whether you choose classic tortiseshell or aviator chic, please, shed the sunglasses when you walk in the door — and, of course, at night. 


Read more...

The ancient fish that stops bullets

The Latest
Friday, May 08, 2015
hagfishthumbBY CHRIS NOBLE | PHOTOS BY JASON E. KAPLAN

Hagfish may not have evolved much over the last 300 million years, but their protein-heavy slime promises advances in super-materials.


Read more...

Urban renewer

Linda Baker
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
UnknownBY LINDA BAKER   

One year after he was appointed chair of the Portland Development Commission, Tom Kelly talks about PDC's longevity, Neil Kelly's comeback and his new role as Portlandia's landlord.


Read more...

5 stats about Oregon fireworks

The Latest
Thursday, June 18, 2015
fireworksthumb001BY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

Fireworks are a booming industry, even if the pyrotechnics have turned July 4th into a day fire marshals, and many residents, love to hate.


Read more...

Photo Log: The 2015 100 Best Green Workplaces in Oregon

The Latest
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
greenthumbPHOTOS BY JASON E. KAPLAN

Oregon Business celebrated the 100 Best Green Workplaces with an awards luncheon yesterday at the Nines Hotel in downtown Portland.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS