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Klamath Falls Herald and News to lose entire reporting staff

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The Great Resignation has come to the Klamath Falls Herald and News. All members of the four-person newsroom are leaving their jobs this week.

That leaves a newspaper in one of Oregon’s most complicated rural areas, plagued by drought and facing a series of massive dam removal projects, without a reporting staff.

Last month the paper’s editor, Tim Trainor, announced he will be departing Klamath Falls to join the Redmond Spokesman in Central Oregon. After his announcement, the paper’s other three reporters, two of whom are partially funded by the non-profit Report for America, announced they too would leave.

According to Trainor, the paper had struggled to recruit new staff to fill positions in recent years, as the region’s cost of living has increased and pay remained relatively low.

“It’s hard to get good candidates for rural news reporting positions. The jobs are becoming less and less exciting for any journalism student,” Trainor said.

Despite losing the current reporting staff, the paper will not close, according to the Herald and News General Manager Joe Hudon.

“We’re going to continue to put out a newspaper for as long as we can. For years to come,” Hudon said. He declined to comment further on the staffing changes.

The Herald and News is owned by Adams Publishing Group, a Minneapolis-based company that owns 220 “media-related products” in 20 states. Unlike a national trend of hedge funds buying and gutting local newspapers, Adams describes itself as a family-owned company.

But the publishing group came under fire on social media in late February when an editor at The Athens News in Ohio was fired for allegedly violating the publisher’s social media policy for criticizing ads in the paper for supposedly valuable collectible coins.

“You need to invest in the news side of things. If you don’t, you’re doing a disservice to the community ... I know the bottom line is the money, but you also have to invest in your product.”
Joe Siess, former Klamath Falls Herald and News reporter

According to the former editor Corinne Colbert, Adams is also known for underpaying and undervaluing journalists.

“The higher ups at APG talk about maintaining/increasing revenue to protect jobs. But they have cut the editorial and production staff of their SE Ohio papers to the bare minimum. Every issue is a struggle to produce quality journalism with no resources or support,” Colbert wrote in a tweet.

Adams Publishing Group did not respond to a request for comment.

Former Herald and News reporter Joe Siess left his job in January for a position at the Bend Bulletin that would offer better pay at a larger paper.

“You need to invest in the news side of things. If you don’t, you’re doing a disservice to the community,” Siess said. “I know the bottom line is the money, but you also have to invest in your product.”

According to Trainor, most Herald and News reporters start out being paid in the low $30,000 range. A current Herald and News job posting on the website JournalismJobs.com lists compensation for a general assignment reporter at $14 to $20 per hour.

Meanwhile, the City of Klamath Falls and the greater Klamath Basin are areas rich with news. The region along the Oregon-California border continues to struggle under exceptional drought conditions. Residents' domestic wells went dry over the past year because of the drought and tensions over scarce water remain between farmers, Native American tribes, and environmentalists.

Next year could also see the start of the largest dam removal in U.S. history with the deconstruction of four dams on the Klamath River. And in November, more than $160 million was allocated for watershed investments in the Klamath Basin in the coming years through President Biden’s federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

According to managers at the paper, they’ll fall back on a mix of freelancers in the short-term and attempt to fill the open positions going forward.

“We’re here to stay,” said Mark Dobie, the regional president of Adams Publishing Group. “We’re going to continue to publish the Herald and News.”

Erik Neumann is the interim news director at Jefferson Public Radio. He earned a master's degree from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and joined JPR as a reporter in 2019 after working at NPR member station KUER in Salt Lake City.