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The Jefferson Journal is JPR's members' magazine featuring articles, columns, and reviews about living in Southern Oregon and Northern California, as well as articles from NPR. The magazine also includes program listings for JPR's network of stations.

Regional Voices

Grant Knoll, left, and Dan Nielsen, right, pose for a photo on Monday with the bucket used in a demonstration in 2001, parked next to the "A" Canal headgates in Klamath Falls.
Holly Dillemuth
JPR News
Grant Knoll, left, and Dan Nielsen, right, pose for a photo on Monday with the bucket used in a demonstration in 2001, now parked next to the "A" Canal headgates in Klamath Falls.

As we wrap up another fiscal year here at JPR on June 30th, we’re looking forward to implementing new ways we can improve our service in the year ahead.

One of the initiatives we’ll undertake is the continued growth and expansion of our regional news department.

Events of the past year have driven home the importance of local and regional news coverage in communities across the country and here in Southern Oregon and Northern California. JPR has a huge coverage area, about 60,000 square miles of mountains, valleys and coastline spread over two states, and encompassing at least a dozen counties. As local newspapers, especially in some of the smaller communities we serve, continue to be challenged by the changing economics of print journalism, we believe we must step up to provide as much fact-based, high quality journalism to citizens of our region as our resources allow.

Over the past several years, JPR has deepened its commitment to regional news.

Over the past several years, JPR has deepened its commitment to regional news. We invested in a new, larger facility to support increased newsroom capacity. We hired two full-time reporters and added a full-time news director to manage our expanded vision of serving the region. That investment has already paid off in more and better coverage of the communities we serve, a difference that can be heard on our air and seen online every day. In addition, this work has been recognized by numerous professional news organizations with dozens of regional and national awards for journalistic excellence, including a prestigious national Edward R. Murrow Award from the Radio Television Digital News Association.

JPR’s two full-time reporters are based in Ashland. While they report regularly on major developments in areas outside the Rogue Valley, distance and geography make it hard for them to adequately cover the issues and tell the stories of those communities. To address this challenge, the next phase of the development of our newsroom will be centered around hiring journalists who already live and work in communities outside the Rogue Valley. Specifically, our goal will be to add JPR reporters to our newsroom who are based in the following areas: the Southern Oregon Coast (Coos/Curry Counties), the Klamath Basin (Klamath/Lake Counties), the Umpqua Valley (Roseburg/Douglas County), Northern California (Shasta/Siskiyou Counties) and the North Coast Region (Humboldt/Mendocino Counties).

We see several distinct advantages to this approach:

• We get journalists who are already familiar with the issues and sources in their communities, avoiding the problems of “parachuting” outside reporters into a community when it makes news that attracts larger attention. These reporters are likely already known and respected as credible voices in their communities.

• Listeners will hear voices and stories from a wider, more diverse range of communities.

• Rural issues will be better reflected in JPR’s news coverage.

• Our Rogue Valley based reporters will have more time to focus on enterprise work and in-depth reporting on regional issues.

The first reporter in this initiative joined JPR in June when Holly Dillemuth, a long-time staff reporter for the Klamath Falls Herald and News, became JPR's Klamath Basin regional correspondent. Holly reported for the Herald and News for over 7 years, covering a diverse range of topics, including city government, higher education and business. Originally from Phoenix, Oregon, Holly earned a B.S. in Communications with an emphasis in Journalism from Southern Oregon University and a M.A. in Public Affairs Reporting/Journalism from the University of Illinois/Springfield. In her first weeks reporting for JPR, Holly broke the story that two Klamath Project irrigators with ties to activist Ammon Bundy purchased private property located adjacent to the headgates of the “A” Canal in Klamath Falls in order to setup an “information center” to draw attention to federal water managers’ decision to shut off water from farms and ranches. Later, those same irrigators said that they intend to break into federal property and open the controls that are preventing water from Upper Klamath Lake from being used for agricultural purposes. Holly’s reporting on this issue was later followed by The New York Times, CNN and The Atlantic.

We look forward to strengthening our regional journalism in the year ahead with the goal of bringing you a wider range of voices and issues from a broader sweep of Southern Oregon and Northern California communities. When you hear these stories, you can take satisfaction in knowing that it’s your support that makes them possible.

Paul Westhelle oversees management of JPR's service to the community.  He came to JPR in 1990 as Associate Director of Broadcasting for Marketing and Development after holding jobs in non-profit management and fundraising for a national health agency. He's a graduate of San Jose State University's School of Journalism and Mass Communications.