Home Archives May 2006 Good news for the little guy

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

OB Video: Oregon MESA

News
Thursday, June 26, 2014

ThumbOregon Business hosts an informal roundtable discussion about the Oregon MESA (Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement) program.


Read more...

Driving green

June 2014
Thursday, May 29, 2014
BY KIM MOORE

Transportation accounts for the second-largest source of greenhouse gases in the U.S. (28% in 2012), and the use of renewable fuels, such as biodiesel and ethanol, is booming in light of state and national programs to make transportation fuels cleaner.


Read more...

Charged ride

June 2014
Thursday, May 29, 2014
0614launchBY JESSICA RIDGWAY

Brad Baker, CEO and co-founder of Works Electric, is a good husband. His wife, an OHSU employee, sought a more efficient way to commute up Marquam “Pill” Hill, so she asked Baker to build a transportation solution.


Read more...

Proceed with caution

June 2014
Thursday, May 29, 2014
0614leadersBY COURTNEY SHERWOOD

Business and civic leaders weigh the risks and rewards of going green.


Read more...

Downtime with Doug Gastich

June 2014
Thursday, May 29, 2014
BY JESSICA RIDGWAY

How the president of BlueVolt spends his free time.


Read more...

South Waterfront's revenge

News
Thursday, July 24, 2014
MoodyAveBY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

Remember the naysayers?  Those who called the South Waterfront aerial tram a boondoggle?  Those who rejoiced at the massive sell off of luxury condos at the John Ross and Atwater Place?


Read more...

Creating a culture of compliance

Business tips
Thursday, June 19, 2014
DataBY MONICA ENAND | GUEST CONTRIBUTOR

Nine tips for building habits among employees to respond when needed.


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