Tillamook County Pioneer Founder Announces New Partnership, Contributors and Updates

Tillamook County Pioneer partners, from right, Laura Swanson, Kelly Benson and Julie Chick. Photo by Don R. Best

Over three years ago Rocky Intertidal partners LeeAnn Neal and Kelly Benson along with partner Will Seymour launched the fledgling, free online news site “Tillamook County Pioneer”.  Online news was just becoming a “big deal” and they recognized the need to provide local news to Tillamook County that was free and accessible.  The Pioneer grew to become one of the most relied upon news source in the County because of LeeAnn’s tireless devotion. With Will’s death from cancer in 2015, and then LeeAnn’s health deteriorating and subsequent death last year, the Pioneer was left without a captain.

“The Pioneer was LeeAnn’s baby,” said Benson.  “We started it together, but the Pioneer was all LeeAnn,” she continued, “I found my niche with fitness training and the YMCA, and provided health and wellness content to the Pioneer.  As she became more ill, and then when we lost her … I felt very strongly compelled to make sure the Pioneer continued and that we honored her legacy. That’s when I reached out to a few key people.”

Laura Swanson has been involved and connected to the community since birth – a “born reporter” – working at local papers and publications for over 30 years.  With LeeAnn’s illness, many community members had approached Swanson, asking “what will happen to the Pioneer? And we need to do something to help keep the Pioneer going.”

“I had worked with LeeAnn throughout the last decade and as local writers, we were always comparing story leads and sharing ideas,” commented Swanson.  “LeeAnn was truly a treasure and I still find myself asking ‘what would LeeAnn do?’ when confronted with various stories.  I’m proud and honored that Kelly asked me to become a partner and editor for the Pioneer,” she continued.  “We are easing into this, and hope to have the website update and more consistent stories and regular posting within the next 60 to 90 days.  We are being very thoughtful and mindful about the Pioneer, as we realize that this was LeeAnn’s baby, but now it is growing up and has become the community’s go-to media.  We want to be the kind of news media that’s missing in most of the rest of the country – first of all, local, and most importantly, providing honest, truthful reporting.”

The Rotarian “4-way test” resonated with all the partners, and is being used as guiding principles:

#1.  Is it the TRUTH?

#2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?

#3.  Will it build GOODWILL and better FRIENDSHIPS?

#4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

Also joining the Tillamook County Pioneer as a partner is Julie Chick.  An outdoors enthusiast, and the developer of the award-winning Tillamook County “water trail” maps, Chick will help update the Pioneer’s graphics and website.  She will provide insightful guidance on outdoor, environmental issues, her work with local nonprofits, families with special needs, and more.

We will utilize many local contributors from north to south to provide complete coverage of Tillamook County. The favorite columns will continue, including Geezer World, and our hope is to publish more from Linda Shaffer as we value her storytelling, advice and input.  We appreciate the patience and support of readers and advertisers.  We will be contacting all our advertisers and expanding opportunities.  The Pioneer continues to be the “most-read” news source in the County and a valuable part of marketing to residents and visitors. “We plan to provide even more ‘bang-for-the-buck’ and look forward to hearing from readers and advertisers about how the Pioneer can best serve their needs,” added Swanson.  “There is so much happening in Tillamook County and we aim to be the trusted, reliable source for news.”