Layoffs: Are Pamplin’s former Oregon outlets next?

By William MacKenzie,

When Mississippi-based Carpenter Media Group announced its acquisition of Oregon’s Pamplin Media Group earlier this month, Todd Carpenter, the company’s chairman was effusive in his commitment to the continuation of quality journalism at Pamplin’s multiple Oregon new sites.[1]

“We are pleased to join this exceptional team of journalists, marketing and newspaper people in Oregon,” Carpenter said. “We share their high standards and business values, understand the importance of delivering high-quality journalism and marketing services to these communities and will work hard to support them in their efforts.”

That commitment may not hold long based on recent Carpenter actions at its Washington news properties.

According to the Seattle Times, Carpenter has just disclosed that it will lay off 62 people at Sound Publishing newspapers in Washington state, including more than half the unionized newsroom employees at the Daily Herald of Everett, WA.,  that it acquired in January. Sound Publishing operates 43 papers in Washington.

Sound Publishing papers were already thinly staffed, the Seattle Times said, with some employing just a single reporter, so cuts may be into the bone. “To me that doesn’t look like preserving local journalism,” said Kaitlin Gillespie, executive officer of the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild, “but what do I know?”

On June 21, the Columbia Journalism Review reported that the Herald published a story describing the owners as having “gutted” the newsroom—but the story then disappeared from the Web, apparently at Carpenter’s request. After editors threatened to walk out, the story was republished with some modifications.

Next up on the acquisition block could be the EO Media Group, that is known to be looking for a buyer. The EO Media Group, formerly known as the East Oregonian Publishing Company, is a newspaper publishing company based in Oregon that publishes 17 newspapers in Oregon and southwest Washington.

The loss of local news across the country has had far reaching implications. “As everyone knows, the internet knocked the industry off its foundations, ” James Bennet,  former editorial page editor at The New York Times, wrote in The Economist in December 2023. “Local newspapers were the proving ground between college campuses and national newsrooms. As they disintegrated, the national news media lost a source of seasoned reporters and many Americans lost a journalism whose truth they could verify with their own eyes.”

Just since 2005, the country has lost one-third of its newspapers and two-thirds of its newspaper journalists. So far in 2023, an average of 2.5 newspapers have closed each week according to a State of Local News Report by Tim Franklin, Senior Associate Dean and John M. Mutz Chair in Local News and Director of the Medill Local News Initiative at Northwestern University.  Most were weekly publications, in areas with few or no other sources for news.

“The underlying infrastructure for producing local news has been weakened by two decades of losses of newsrooms and reporting jobs,” noted an October 2022 report from the Agora Journalism Center at the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication. “And news organizations today…often sense they are swimming against the tide of economic, technological, political, and cultural changes that threaten the long-term viability of local news production.”

[1] Pamplin news sites include: The Portland Tribune, Lake Oswego Review, West Linn Tidings, Wilsonville Spokesman, The News-Times (Forest Grove and Hillsboro), The Times (Tigard and Tualatin), Beaverton Valley Times, The Outlook (Gresham), Sandy Post, Estacada News, Columbia County Spotlight (Scappoose and St. Helens), The Herald-Pioneer (Canby and Molalla), Woodburn Independent, Newberg Graphic, Madras Pioneer, Central Oregonian (Prineville), Milwaukie Review, Oregon City News, Sherwood Gazette, Southwest Community Connection (Portland), The Bee (Portland), Business Tribune and Your Oregon News.