On the heels of the closure of the century-old Medford Mail Tribune, EO Media Group announced the company’s plans to open a new publication in the city on Friday, Jan. 20.
The paper, which will be called The Tribune, will focus on publishing news online that will be curated for print editions three times a week. EO Media Group COO Heidi Wright said the company plans to launch the publication in the next two weeks.
“I know that the market is vibrant; it is a community; it is a strong community, and I think it fits very well with the purpose that EO Media has with community journalism,” Wright said Friday.
The Mail Tribune, one of the state’s oldest newspapers and the state’s first to win a Pulitzer Prize, ceased online publication permanently on Jan. 13 after ending its print edition in the fall. The closure left the Medford area without a local news outlet.
An editor has yet to be identified for the new publication, though Wright said the company hopes to bring someone on board to lead the team who is familiar with the Medford and Jackson County communities.
In addition to core advertising and publishing staff, the company plans to hire a newsroom of 14 people to start the newspaper, including seven reporters.
“That’s what it means to be a community newspaper,” Wright said.
EO made a similar move into a new community in 2019 when the company purchased The Bulletin in a bankruptcy auction with the help of $1.4 million from local investors. Plans for opening The Tribune don’t currently involve outside investors, according to Wright, who is also the publisher of The Bulletin.
“We’ve done it. We know how to do it, and the family is in this for the right reasons,” Wright said of expanding into new communities, referring to the Forrester-Brown family that owns the company.
EO Media Group is a fourth-generation family-owned company based in Oregon with publications in several communities, including Pendleton, Bend, Astoria, Baker City, Enterprise, La Grande, Hermiston and John Day. The company also operates The Capital Press, a weekly publication covering the agriculture industry in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and California.
EO Media is also a news partner of the Pamplin Media Group, sharing stories and co-sponsoring the Oregon Capital Bureau that covers state government from Salem.
Though EO Media isn’t purchasing or taking over the now-closed Mail Tribune, Wright said the company hopes to attract subscribers who are now without a local newspaper. Subscriptions will be available in two ways, with a base fee covering the cost of newsgathering and content production, and an additional fee for printing and delivery for subscribers who wish to receive printed editions.
EO Media’s expansion into Southern Oregon could also include a partnership with Ashland News, a nonprofit news organization that launched last year to cover the Ashland and Talent communities.
“Medford will have a distribution and support network on the business side that would improve our distribution and logistical support,” said Bert Etling, executive editor of Ashland News. “It could be a good compliment, and I look forward to having further discussions.”
Etling said the Mail Tribune’s closure was a surprise to many in Southern Oregon.
“When that announcement went out (last week), it was kind of like all the air went out of the room,” Etling told The Bulletin. “It was kind of breathtaking, literally.”
He said Ashland News has seen a 10% increase in newsletter subscribers in the days since the paper’s closure.
“People are hungry for news, and people are hungry for nonpartisan, well-reported, contextual journalism,” Etling said.
Bob Hunter, a former editor of the Mail Tribune, has agreed to consult with the company to help build out the newsroom, Wright said.
Hunter said many in the Medford community have expressed concern since the Mail Tribune’s closure, and he’s hoping that concern will drive community members to support the new venture.
“Sometimes you don’t miss things until they’re gone, and now that the paper is gone, they’re looking around and saying, ‘Well, how did this happen?” Hunter said.
Hunter emphasized his hope that the paper will focus on reporting the major news events that are often missed by other outlets.
“But also, there’s just a lot of the little pieces that a newspaper provides: High school sports, community events, things like weddings and anniversaries,” Hunter said. “There’s all these things going into a newspaper that really aren’t replicated anywhere else.”
EO Media CEO Steve Forrester said the company is financially well-positioned to make the move, despite local newspapers across the country closing rapidly in recent years.
“The national narrative is that we’re all dying,” Forrester said. “It’s true that some papers are dying, but they’re not dying for the same reasons.”
He said the expansion to Medford won’t be as costly as the purchase of The Bulletin, though he declined to say how much the company expected to spend to open the Medford paper.
“One of the great benefits that we have is that this is not an acquisition, like when we bought (The Bulletin). This is a startup,” Forrester said. “That lowers the financial threshold, and, suffice it to say, we have the money to do it.”
The new venture’s success will be dependent on its reception by Medford’s readers, Forrester said., EO Media’s audience development director and a company board member, said, “We are excited to continue our commitment of providing coverage of local news from local journalists.”
The Bulletin is a news partner of the Pamplin Media Group.