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Convicted Medford Editor Avoids New Libel Trial


Crusading editor George Putnam found himself in jail shortly after taking over direction of the Medford Tribune in 1907.

Putnam had published an article criticizing a jury and the prosecuting attorney for their handling of an assault case accusing the president of the Rogue River Valley Railroad, W.S. Barnum, of attacking Medford Mayor J.F. Reddy with an axe.  Putnam had witnessed the incident and sided with the mayor. 

Later, Putnam was headed north by train for the Christmas holidays when he was pulled from his Pullman sleeper and thrown in jail. Tried and convicted of libeling the prosecutor and jury in the Barnum assault case, Putnam appealed all the way to the Oregon Supreme Court, which reversed his conviction and granted a new trial.

Three years after his arrest, the case was dropped in 1910 for lack of prosecution.

Newspaper historian George D. Turnbull wrote, “This was a complete vindication of Putnam’s conduct as an editor. As long as he remained in Medford … he continued to criticize freely whenever he thought public interest demanded.”

Putnam left Medford in 1919 to become the longtime publisher of the Salem Capital Journal in Salem.


Source: Turnbull, George S. History of Oregon Newspapers. Portland, Ore.: Binfords & Mort, Publishers, 1939. 250-51. Print.

Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.