Canby Herald sportswriter Derek Wiley and reporter Carol Rosen were two of the almost two dozen journalists laid off this week by Pamplin Media Group, which owns the Herald, the Portland Tribune and most of the other local weeklies in the metro area.
According to Willamette Week, the cuts included about 40 of the company’s 200 employees — half of them being newsroom staff.
Our sources tell us virtually all of the layoffs were either sportswriters or ad salespeople. Which does make some brutal sense, at a time when sports are canceled, as are major events and most other things about which you would advertise.
The casualties included veteran sportswriter Kerry Eggers, who covered the Trail Blazers for the Tribune, among other beats, and who had spent almost half of his 45-year career with the paper.
“It’s been another lousy day in newspaper world. To be honest, it’s the worst day I’ve seen in the 33 years that I’ve worked for newspapers,” longtime PMG sports editor Miles Vance said last night on Twitter. “I don’t know the complete total across Pamplin Media Group, but it appears that most (if not all) of PMG’s sports editors and reporters were laid off today.”
Some may have been reassigned to other duties, he said, but “it’s likely that none of PMG’s 14 sports editors/reporters any longer has a job covering sports.”
Wiley, who covered not only all Canby High School sports, but also Molalla, Wilsonville and Colton, confirmed late last night that his job was among those lost. Wiley joined the Herald in July 2019 following the departure of Tanner Russ.
He was an accomplished photographer and feature writer, as well as an active participant in the newspaper’s weekly podcasts, the Canby Vibe and its spin-off, Canby Vibe: Sports Talk, which started during his tenure.
One of his last stories this week highlighted the academic achievements of Canby and Molalla’s winter sports athletes.
Rosen was the lively city government reporter for both the Canby Herald and Molalla Pioneer. Before moving to Oregon, she lived in central California, where she worked for The Mercury News in San Jose and the Santa Cruz Sentinel.
The losses cut the editorial staff of both the Herald and Pioneer effectively in half, with their newsrooms now consisting of only Editor John Baker and Assistant Editor Kristen Wohlers.
In an emotional column posted to the newspaper’s website Friday morning, Baker wrote that his “heart is heavy” from the losses.
“These were good people who did good work in often impossible situations,” he said. “They fought through the tough times and continued to care about the communities they were engaged in – and so often were left unappreciated. As journalists, you get used to people not ‘getting it,’ but as they walk out the door, and I consider the prospect of never seeing them again, I’m torn between anger and lingering despair.
“Good people shouldn’t have bad things happen to them. And yet, as many of you know, in this current climate that’s exactly what’s happening.”
In the column, Baker also announced a fundamental shift to how Pamplin will cover several of its communities, including Canby: starting next week, the cities of Canby, Molalla, Woodburn and Newberg will be served by a single newspaper.
“That’s right, for the foreseeable future until things turn around economically, the Canby Herald, Molalla Pioneer, Woodburn Independent and Newberg Graphic will contribute stories to one print product,” Baker said. “It will have a new name, our logos, and be a compilation of stories from those four communities – and include virtually no sports.”
That change is related to the prohibitive costs of printing, Baker said, and is “one way to help try to keep these community papers alive long enough for things to revive.” Once ad revenue picks up again, the four papers will again go their separate ways — “at least, that’s the plan,” according to Baker.
Though it’s possible that those laid off could return once the pandemic passes and the economic picture normalizes — and that’s certainly what the company is hoping for, according to a leaked memo from Pamplin Media president and publisher Mark Garber — the truth is that we could be seeing the beginnings of a very dramatic (and permanent) shift in how local news is covered in Oregon communities.
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