Newspaper discussion

Steve Forrester speaks on the topic of community newspapers at the Strand Book Store in New York City. Lisa Gibbs of the Associated Press is at right.

New York City's Strand Book Store was the setting on March 21 for a discussion of the existential challenge facing community newspapers across America. Inspiration for the event came from "Grit and Ink: An Oregon Family’s Adventures in Newspapering: 1908–2018," recently published by EO Media Group.

Steve Forrester and Lisa Gibbs spoke to an audience of Oregonians living in New York and other New Yorkers, including Bill Keller, former executive editor of The New York Times. Forrester is president and CEO of EO Media Group. Gibbs is the Associated Press manager of news partnerships.

Nancy Bass Wyden, proprietor of the venerable New York bookstore, invited Forrester to assemble the evening’s program.

"When we commissioned 'Grit and Ink' some five years ago, we did not foresee a president who would call our profession enemies of the people," Forrester said. "We also did not expect that two of Oregon's prominent family newspaper ownerships (Eugene and Bend) would go away."

Surviving as a family-owned newspaper group "is all about seeing the future coming and adapting in time," Forrester said. "Five years ago we did not anticipate some major changes that we announced this week at our Astoria daily."

Gibbs spoke of news deserts, where there are no local newspapers. She noted that 1,800 American newspapers have vanished since 2004 and that the number of reporters has fallen by half.

She also spoke of cooperative ventures and large grant programs, fueled by philanthropic money, that aim to revive community news organizations. Modeled on Teach for America, Report for America is designed to place reporters in newsrooms across the country and also create news outlets within news deserts.

The Associated Press is discussing a program that is conceptually called 50 Deserts, 50 States, Gibbs said. The idea would be for AP member papers to collaborate with the national organization to develop stories of importance in underserved regions.

As a new mode of reporting, Forrester cited the Oregon Capital Bureau, a statehouse reporting collaboration of EO Media Group, Pamplin Media of Portland and Salem Reporter.

In addition to reports for its newspapers, the bureau generates a weekly newsletter, Oregon Capital Insider. With some 85,000 readers, the newsletter carries advertising, which is an example of traditional print media creating a digital revenue stream.

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