By Jim Heffernan
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about “The Rocky Mountain News”, the newspaper of my youth. It was printed in a tabloid style that seemed the ideal format to spread out and read while I ate my shredded wheat. It was the morning paper delivered to our house each morning by a “paperboy” who usually delivered them from a fat-tired bike with “paper bags” mounted to the handlebars. It could be 20-below, the mail might not get through, but the paperboys would. Actually, some of the paperboys were girls.
I never delivered papers, but I did manage to obtain a set of “paper bags”, which I treasured. They were made of heavy canvas and when empty rolled around the handlebars. Unrolled, they held essentially 5-7 gallons of newspapers or a giant snapping turtle on either side of the front wheel. I’ve searched for images, but come up empty. Maybe it looks too much like child abuse to record for history.
Sadly, the Rocky Mountain News is gone now, along with thousands of other newspapers across the country. Thomas Jefferson, when asked whether he would prefer a government without newspapers or newspapers without government, came down on the side of newspapers. If that’s not a true story, it should be.
Many of us now devour the content of cable news as replacement for the newspapers we had in earlier days. Cable news does not exist to inform, cable news exists to generate advertising revenue. Worrying and inflaming is dandy way to make us glue ourselves to the screen and make their advertising more valuable. They carefully calculate what we want to hear and supply it to us 24/7. Chah-ching!
We are supremely lucky that, in Tillamook County, local journalism is still alive. We have the Headlight Herald that comes to us weekly, in the mail or at the market and we have the Tillamook County Pioneer that comes to us daily, without the suffering of paperboys. Many, many counties in the country are not so lucky.
I am blissfully unaware of what it takes to keep local journalism alive here in county. I’ll do what I always do, ask somebody. I’ve reached out Joe Warren, editor of the Headlight Herald and Laura Swanson, editor of the Pioneer for their story. Oddly enough, they seem busy at the moment but promise to get back to me.
Laura granted me a generous 1 hour interview which I found fascinating.
Laura was born and raised in North Tillamook County. When she was 16 her first job was with the now defunct newspaper, “The Fishrapper” that operated out of Wheeler, OR. Her editor/boss there had spent a career at big metropolitan newspapers like the San Francisco Chronicle. She learned so much about journalism from him that college journalism classes bored her. She reminisced that in those days “cut and paste” was not a matter of a few keystrokes but was actually using scissors to cut layouts apart and pasting them onto boards that the paper would be printed from.
Bored by college journalism classes, Laura dropped out and worked for a year in marketing and then went back to school and got a degree in marketing. Then she spent 25 years working for marketing/advertising firms in Portland before moving back to Tillamook County. She became editor at the North Coast Citizen (and contributor to the Headlight-Herald) for a year and then moved on to become editor of Tillamook County Pioneer after the death of LeeAnn Neal. She also works with local clients to provide marketing and advertising for their businesses. She has been editor of the Pioneer for 5 of its 10 years of existence.
Publishing the Pioneer 7 days a week isn’t easy. At least 20 people are involved in the various aspects of putting the Pioneer on our computer screens and phones each day. Expenses total in the thousands each month and it’s a “labor of love”, not profit with everything being put back into the multi-media resource – did you know the Pioneer has a YouTube channel?? During an average week, Laura spends about 30-35 hours on the Pioneer. Busy weeks keep her at it for much longer hours.
She explains her editorial policy as following three tenets borrowed from the Rotary Club: 1. Is it true? 2. Is it kind?, and 3. Does it benefit the community?
She does what she does, not for the money, but to satisfy a crucial need for the community. We are lucky to have her and the Pioneer.
Joe Warren, the Headlight Herald editor, was born into the newspaper business. His father was editor of the local paper in Kalispell, Montana. Throughout his teenage years his summer/weekend jobs were at the newspaper. He entered college as chemical engineering major, but didn’t like it and switched to communications and found a home.
He returned to Kalispell in 1988 and has been in the newspaper business ever since. In Kalispell, the editorship of the paper was some years away and when the opportunity to be an editor in Texas came up he took it. He stayed in Texas until 2012, when he became editor of the Headlight Herald.
There was a time when the production of the newspaper all happened in Tillamook, but now it’s part of Country Media which includes papers in Clatskanie, St. Helens, Manzanita, Tillamook, Lincoln City, Coos Bay, Brookings and Crescent City. All the printing is done in Astoria, but some functions are spread out across the different papers.
Joe’s and his staff’s weekly quandary is filling 2016 column inches with the proper mix of advertising and news to ensure profitability and fulfill the need for local news. Advertising takes up about 1000 column inches.
Newsprint and labor are his major expenses and advertising is his revenue. Joe has an accountant, a graphic artist, a sales agent, and a reporter on his staff. He’s pleased to report always making a profit and 2022 being their best year ever. He feels the future of small town newspapers is bright, unlike the picture for large metropolitan dailies.
Joe and the Headlight are committed to providing us with our local news and doing what they can to bolster the well-being of the community. We’re lucky to have Joe and the Headlight also.