On this first day of our family’s ownership of The Bulletin, I am remembering the Chandler family, which owned the newspaper from 1953 until now. We have known the Chandlers for more than 50 years. My first memory of Bob and Nancy Chandler is of them standing in the sunlight on the patio of my aunt Amy Bedford’s Pendleton home. It was in the early 1960s, and Amy was hosting a lunch preceding the final competition of the Pendleton Round-Up.
In The East Oregonian’s box at the Round-Up or in the living room of our home, Bob Chandler was an acerbic persona whom I found fascinating. Nancy was ever gracious.
In those decades, the editorial writers of Oregon’s family-owned newspapers in Salem, Eugene, Pendleton and Bend got together periodically at each other’s homes. In my father’s anecdotes about those late-night conversations, Bob Chandler was a central figure.
Oregon in those decades was home to a number of outsized personalities such as Tom McCall, Wayne Morse, Becky Johnson, and Angus Bowmer. Bob Chandler held his own in that lineup.
When Heidi Wright, chief operating officer, called me on June 3 to say that she and our chief financial officer believed we should look at bidding on The Bulletin, I was alternately intrigued and skeptical. We had already bid on and acquired the La Grande Observer and the Baker City Herald, two other papers owned by the Chandler family. This would be a much bigger proposition.
Four days later, while driving north from seeing relatives in Coos Bay, my wife and I stopped in Salem for me to visit at length with Heidi and Chief Financial Officer Rick Hansen. Competing for Bend made sense.
July 11 became an especially significant day. As my wife and I drove to Portland, I received an email from a Bend man asking whether we would bid on The Bulletin. I forwarded the email to Heidi, who spoke to the man, and he offered to become an investor. On the next day, Heidi connected with three more Bend investors.
Over the next eight weeks, we would convene two impromptu board meetings at the Portland Airport Sheraton Hotel — the first to decide whether to bid on The Bulletin, the second to set a top limit for our bid.
In taking ownership of The Bulletin today, our company is not simply buying another property. It is taking hold of a journalistic opportunity that will become immensely significant to all of Oregon. With the decline of formerly influential Oregon daily newspapers such as The Register-Guard of Eugene and others, The Bulletin will become a beacon in a part of Oregon that is gaining economic, cultural and political significance. The Bulletin will become a heavyweight partner for our Eastern Oregon newspapers in Umatilla, Union, Baker, Wallowa and Grant counties — and for our papers on the Oregon and Washington coast and the Capital Press as well.
Our newspaper group fosters a culture of collaboration. That has allowed us to punch well above our weight. In collaboration with the Pamplin Media Group, we have formed a statehouse bureau that reverses the decline in coverage of the Oregon Legislature and state agencies. In 2006, our papers collaborated on a series of articles about climate change. In addition to pieces that were informed by science, each newspaper produced cameos of scientists, naturalists, farmers and fishers who spoke about what they were noticing in their region’s natural environment. That series won an award of Special Merit in the national Grantham Prize competition.
The environment and climate change are the primary issues of the 21st century. Our series — 12 years old — is ripe for an update. And The Bulletin’s participation in such a venture would give a new series even greater impact.
— Steve Forrester is the president and CEO of EO Media Group. Central Oregon Media Group, owner of The Bulletin and the Redmond Spokesman as of Sept. 1, is a wholly owned subsidiary of EO Media Group.