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Eagle’s 76 Years – our history – first installment

By | Eagle Newspaper, News

by JUDY EDSTROM – Eagle Newsletter editor

What began as an idea to develop a brief history of Eagle Newspapers, Inc., for newsletter readers seemed to be stuck on your editor’s back burner. “Brief” was difficult to be, when you consider the company’s origins go back 76 years.

That’s when Elmo Smith and his wife Dorothy borrowed $25 to establish a mimeographed weekly newspaper in Ontario, and three years later in 1936 founded the Eastern Oregon Observer there. He also served as the city’s mayor.

WWII interrupted Elmo’s newspaper career for a few years, but after serving in the South Pacific, he returned to Ontario,reclaimed his newspaper from a couple he had found to lease it and was elected mayor again. In 1948 he sold the newspaper, and with the proceeds he purchased the Blue Mountain Eagle, moving his family to John Day,where he won election to the Oregon State Senate.

Also in 1948, he and his friend, Bill Robinson, bought the Madras Pioneer, which Bill ran. The family business was incorporated as Blue Mountain Eagle. (BME bought the remaining interest in thePioneer in 1971.)

More than six decades later, Eagle continues to meet the needs of communities in much the same manner as Elmo and his associates did in the 1930s and 1940s. Elmo believed, and often said, “You show me a good newspaper and I’ll show you a good town.” And he was a firm believer in treating employees as partners and colleagues.

He instilled those values in his son while Denny was growing up and learning the business. Those values continue to be guiding factors in the company’s operation today, now that Denny is the owner and CEO of Eagle Newspapers, Inc.

The 1960s – The family business inched its way west of its Eastern Oregon roots when the Hood River News was added in 1961. At this time Elmo was publisher of the Albany Democrat-Herald and he charged his son Denny, fresh out of college, with running the newly-acquired Hood River weekly. But Denny’s tenure was short lived. He was flying the F89 out of Portland with the AirGuard when the threats in Berlin and Cuba were spurring Cold War defense build ups. In the spring of 1962 Denny requested active duty status.

When the Smith family bought the Hood River weekly newspaper, Denny hired Lester Reitan, a high school student at the time, to insert preprints and apprentice as a printer’s devil. Elmo found and hired your newsletter editor to set type. (Lester retired 50 years later after a long career as publisher of theWoodburn Independent and an Eagle board member. I’m still typing.) 

In Denny’s absence, Elmo sent someone to watch over us: the Albany daily’s managing editor, Dick Nafsinger. (Dick retired as publisher 28 years later to devote more time as Eagle’s chief operating officer, a post he held from 1978 to 2001. He remained on the board until he died in 2011.) 

The family business grew again in 1964 with the addition of the Dallas, Ore., weekly newspaper. (The Dallas job openings brought in some other faces still showing up at company meetings—Bill Cassel and Nancy Adams, both currently publishers and board members.)

When his father died in 1968, Denny took the reins of a company that included the weeklies in Madras, Hood River and Dallas. Denny and Dick Nafsinger quickly established a team relationship. Working together, they built the company along with their own stature in the industry, as well as in the realms of community and public service.

During the next 11 years, still operating as Blue Mountain Eagle, there was a steady, prudent investment in new properties and equipment. First came the Central Oregonian in September 1969. That Prineville property lured a young cowboy from Texas—Jim Smith. (Jim remained publisher until leaving that post in 2002 to devote more time as Eagle president and was chief operating officer until he retired in 2007.)

The 1970s – With the 1970s came a new opportunity in the wake of a major disaster.  A gas leak created an explosion that totally destroyed the Dallas building Nov. 11, 1970. Inside was a newspaper office, a News King press and a brand new Goss four-unit press that had run for the first time just the day before . . . and had the first payment due the next day.

Denny saw lemonade in the lemon and his foresight expanded the company’s focus. Rebuilding the newspaper plant and establishing a central printing plant became two separate projects.(The web press project, which began as four press units in 4000 square feet with a trailer for office, grew to today’s 60,000 square feet housing 31 units, quad stack with UV lamps and four folders. Four of the employees at the original central printing plant in the 70s are still with the company: Mike Connor, Sharon Gustafson, Susan Schneider and Paul Wickham.)

A press plant was just the beginning of the 1970 growth pattern that saw the addition of 11 new weekly newspapers to the family business and a crossing of the Columbia into Washington State with the acquisition of the Goldendale Sentinel and the White Salmon Enterprise.

Eventually a young Hood River ad salesman became publisher at Goldendale. (Andy McNab liked it so much he bought it. And owned it until two years ago, but he had come back into the company in 1993 as publisher of the Idaho County Free Press, remains there and sits on the Eagle board.)

Also early in the decade, the Woodburn (Ore.) Independent came into the company and a few months later there was a familiar face in the publisher’s chair: Lester Reitan, that printer’s devil from Hood River.

The acquisition of the Canby Herald followed in 1972, bringing with it a young man named Dave Weston. (During his years with the company, Dave moved into various chairs at the Hood River News, in Goldendale and Dallas and in the Central Office.)

Weeklies in Monmouth and Independence were purchased in the1970s and in 1992 merged into the Dallas operation, the Polk County Itemizer-Observer. Midway through the decade the company acquired the Molalla Pioneer and two other Oregon businesses—North Willamette News and North Willamette Press, both of which were combined with other operations.

The company began 1978 by getting a toe hold in The Dalles,Ore., with acquisition of the Weekly Reminder, which would be folded into The Dalles Daily Chronicle, when it was acquired in1996. The Sheridan (Ore.) Sun also was acquired in 1978. It was sold to the publisher three years later. As the year came to a close, the company expanded nearer metropolitan Portland with acquisition of the suburban Lake Oswego Review and the West Linn Tidings.

Before the decade ended, Eagle acquired the Hermiston (Ore.)Herald. Big changes were ahead…..  To be continued

Denny Smith inducted into Oregon Newspaper Hall of Fame

By | Eagle Newspaper, News

Congressman Denny Smith, chairman of the board of Eagle Newspapers, Inc., was inducted into the prestigious Oregon Newspaper Hall of Fame July 12 at the summer meeting of Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association. The award recognizes “Oregon newspaper people who have been involved in management or leadership in one or more disciplines of the newspaper industry in Oregon, and who have made an outstanding contribution to Oregon newspaper professionalism through community, regional or state service.”

The Oregon Newspaper Hall of Fame Award was first conceived in 1973 by the ONPA board of directors, and the first induction took place in 1979. Among the first inductees was Denny’s father, Elmo Smith, founder of Eagle Newspapers.

In 1968, upon the death of his father, Denny assumed the leadership role for the family’s newspaper company, which is based in Salem. At the time, the family owned or had an interest in the weekly newspapers located in Madras, Hood River and Dallas. Under Denny’s leadership, the company has grown to 25 holdings in Oregon, Washington and Idaho, including two daily newspapers, 12 weekly or twice-a-week newspapers, five niche and free distribution publications, four web press plants, a printshop and a mailing company with printing capabilities.

Denny Smith has had a life-long career in printing and publishing, served 10 years as a Member of Congress and piloted aircraft ranging from Piper Cubs in Eastern Oregon to jet fighters over Vietnam and a Pan Am Boeing 707 around the world.

He literally was born into newspapering, politics and flying. His father had been publishing Eastern Oregon weekly newspapers for half a dozen years when the only son of Elmo and Dorothy Leininger Smith was born Jan. 19, 1938. Denny grew up as a familiar fixture with extra hands at the newspapers until he entered college.

As a teenager he achieved a childhood dream: learning to fly. During college years he was a flight instructor out of the Salem airport and earned his U.S. Air Force pilot’s wings before he earned his college degree in 1962. He was flying out of Portland with the Air Guard when the threats in Berlin and Cuba were spurring Cold War defense build ups and in the spring of 1962 Denny requested active duty status.

He flew out of McDill AFB in Florida as the Cuban Missile Crisis developed. He was in the famed Triple Nickel squadron flying the first USAF F-4Cs in 1965 when the 12th Tactical Fighter Wing and the 57th left for Cam Rahn Bay. During his tour in Vietnam he flew 180 combat missions and received the Air Medal with six oak leaf clusters.

He was inducted into the Oregon Aviation Hall of Honor in 2009. 

It was during his years at Willamette University in Salem that he had his interest in politics fueled as he campaigned with his dad, a former state senator and governor who was making a bid for a U.S. Senate seat.

Nearly two decades later, Denny was a candidate himself for the first time, defeating a 24-year-incumbent in the U.S. House of Representatives who was chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee. Denny won that election and four more, serving in the Congress for 10 years.

What’s Your Hobby?

By | Eagle Newspaper, News

Salesman’s idea for marketing tool earns profit  

Clark Seeley, who sells ad space for NW Boomer & Senior News, used his event planning experience to develop a hobby show as a marketing tool for the monthly publication. The April 28 event is hosted by Center 50+, the City of Salem’s Senior Center, where visitors, many with grandchildren in tow, will find door prizes, food, vendors, presentations and, as the poster promises, “a whole lotta fun.”  Salem-area Eagle employees and their children are invited to attend this free expo called “Hobbies—Punctuate your life!”

Clark says the newspaper and the host Center 50+ have had a good relationship—the Center’s newsletter is published as part of the Boomer & Senior News.  Both are using their print, web and radio connections to advertise during the weeks preceding the hobby show. 

Vendors have bought the available space to show off what they offer hobbyists and those seeking a hobby. Clark says he got a lot of good response from businesses he contacted.  “Some who had scheduling conflicts want to know of other expos that may come up,” he says. Many vendors also bought space in a four-page glossy tab inserted in the April Boomer & Senior News, which brought additional work and revenue to Eagle Web Press, Salem. 

The title and idea were Clark’s.  Publisher David Thouvenel gave him the go-ahead and suggested the glossy tab. They saw it as a marketing tool to build more awareness of the paper and as a money-raising venture, with an added feature of moving the publication in the direction of appealing to the more active boomers. You may see the flyer here.

Two Eagles have seats on ONAC Committee

By | Eagle Newspaper, News

The Dalles Chronicle general manager Chelsea Marr and Teresa Tooley, who holds the same position at the Central Oregonian, have agreed to sit on the Oregon Newspaper Advertising Company’s committee. ONAC is an arm of Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association, the professional organization of the state’s daily and weekly newspapers.

The committee complements the work of ONAC staff promoting newspapers among advertising agencies and advertisers with multiple locations. ONAC’s one-order, one-bill service encourages advertising in multiple newspaper publications and websites.

“I am looking forward to this year’s Publishers Convention/AdCon in July,” Teresa says. “While I enjoy the ad convention each fall, this is the first year that they are combining their efforts and holding one convention. It not only gives us all a chance to interact with others in the newspaper business, but it gives us a chance to ‘steal’ successful marketing ideas by others. 

“It is also a time to recognize those behind the scenes at any newspaper who make us all look good, the graphic designers. I believe that the best ad contest is not recognition of the sales team, but is a celebration of the creative minds behind them. Here at the Central Oregonian that would be Dena Marshall, senior designer and Brent Shields, graphic design.” 

Teresa says Lisa Lawrence from the Southern Oregon Media Group sent out an email to everyone on the committee with a proposed agenda for the first conference call. “I shared it with my sales representatives and asked what they thought would be valuable to them or if there were other areas and topics they thought would help them in this economy. Lynn McCann, our marketing consultant, would like to get ideas on how to generate website revenue by tying it together with ROP. She would also like a refresher course in sales and techniques with emphasis on the challenges that they (sales reps) face each time they meet with clients in a tough economy,” Teresa says. 

Chelsea Marr feels similarly about the opportunity to serve on the ONAC committee. “I always look forward to any training in our industry,” Chelsea says. “I like the idea of both managers and newbies coming toAdCon because regardless of how long we’ve been in the business, we all learn from each other. “ 

Chelsea adds “We have both big newspapers and small newspapers getting together and sharing ideas that we can tailor to work for our business model. The majority of the projects we’ve implemented have all been from other newspapers. I think all of us like hearing what others are doing in their departments, what is working well and what is not.” 

Eagle chief operating officer Tom Lanctot chimed in with praise for those who took time to be involved with ONPA and ONAC. “It’s nice to see our people staying involved with our state press association, and taking extra time to not only learn from the experience, but also add voices to the interests of our industry.”

The ONPA board of directors has often included at least one Eagle publisher. Currently two are on the board—Al Herriges, Newberg Graphic, and Vance Tong, Central Oregonian. Vance is ONPA treasurer and in line to become president.

Denny Smith to enter Newspaper Hall of Fame

By | Eagle Newspaper, News

Denny Smith, chairman of the board of Eagle Newspapers, Inc., received notice in February that he will be inducted into the prestigious Oregon Newspaper Hall of Fame at the summer convention of Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association.

The Oregon Newspaper Hall of Fame Award was first conceived in 1973 by the ONPA board of directors, and the first induction took place in 1979.  Among the first inductees was Denny’s father, Elmo Smith. 

The award recognizes Oregon newspaper people who have been involved in management or leadership in one or more disciplines of the newspaper industry in Oregon, and who have made an outstanding contribution to Oregon newspaper professionalism through community, regional or state service. 

In 1968, upon the death of his father, Denny assumed the leadership role for the family’s newspaper company. The family owned or had an interest in the weekly newspapers located in Madras, Hood River and Dallas. Under Denny’s leadership, the company has grown to 26 holdings in Oregon, Washington and Idaho including two daily newspapers, 12 weekly or twice-a-week newspapers, six niche and free distribution publications, a mailing company and four web press plants. 

Denny, a decorated U.S. Air Force fighter pilot and Vietnam veteran, served in Congress from 1981 to 1991.

The ONPA Honors Committee, which consists of past recipients of the Amos Voorhies and/or Hall of Fame awards, judge all Hall of Fame nominees. Contributions to the Oregon Newspapers Foundation’s Hall of Fame project have enabled creation of a permanent display at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication.

Community Service

By | Eagle Newspaper, News

Chronicle publisher, Roger Harnack, officially took the helm of the Omak (WA) Chamber of Commerce on January 1, 2012.  He has been the publisher of The Chronicle in Omak, Washington for three years and was elected to the chamber post last November.  Harnack’s first duty as president will be to oversee the hiring of a business manager. 

At the annual Woodburn Area Chamber of Commerce meeting in January, Woodburn Independent (Oregon) editor, Jason Horton, received the gavel as board president for 2012.  Horton has been on the board since 2009 and is the founder and co-chair of the Woodburn Area Chamber of Commerce/Woodburn Proud Community Auction.  Woodburn Proud, a non-profit organization, supplements the efforts of the City of Woodburn by funding projects for which tax dollars are not available. 

Congratulations and good luck to both Roger and Jason!

Remembering Deanna Smith

By | Eagle Newspaper, News

Deanna Smith of Salem died Tuesday, Dec. 27, following a massive stroke in Salem. She was 70.

Deanna was the wife of Denny Smith, a former U.S. Congressman (1981-91) who represented Oregon’s 5th District and owner of Eagle Newspapers Inc., a group of community newspapers that includes the Polk County Itemizer-Observer.

Deanna was the first and only woman to lead the Oregon Republican Party. She served as the party’s state chairwoman from 1997- 1999.

Prior to serving as chairwoman, she was the executive director for the Oregon campaign for Bob Dole, the 1996 Republican presidential nominee.

Deanna had owned and operated businesses and was involved in both community and political affairs. Her community involvements included: board member for Family Building Blocks, the Historic Elsinore Theatre and Salem Hospital Auxiliary; member of Salem Assistance League, University of Oregon Museum of Art Council, Eugene Symphony board member and numerous others.

The couple worked as a team during Denny’s political career and she was active in her husband’s campaign for Oregon’s governor in 1994, when he won a tough primary for the Republican nomination but lost to Democrat John Kitzhaber.

They were enjoying semiretirement, concentrating on their activities with nonprofit associations and travels before her sudden death.

Deanna was born April 22, 1941, to James Helm Walters and Gertrude Clara Mosebach in Houston. She moved to Eugene in 1976. Deanna and Denny were married in 1989. Their combined family had six children and eight grandchildren.

Survivors include her husband, Denny; children, Mark Koenig of Eugene and Tonja Koenig Bridges of Rockwall, Texas; and three grandchildren.

Private service and interment was held Dec. 29 in Salem.

A public celebration of her life will be scheduled at a later date.

Eagles Soar – – Congratulations!

By | Eagle Newspaper, News

Five Eagle publications were winners in recent contests!

Winners in the Washington Better Newspaper contest are the Daily Sun News in Sunnyside and The Chronicle in Omak.  Advertising design specialist, Aaron Rider and reporter/photographer Jennie McGhan were singled out for their on-the-job expertise at the Washington Newspapers Publishers Association’s annual convention in Everett on October 7th.  The two Daily Sun News employees captured between them, seven awards from the 2011 Washington Better Newspaper Contests.

The Chronicle in Omak led local weekly newspapers in bringing home the bling from the annual convention.  The Chronicle grabbed 17 awards.  A total of 614 awards were presented October 7th.  The Chronicle, competing in Group III (newspapers with circulation between 5,001 and 12,000) brought home four first place awards, seven seconds and five thirds.  Additionally, The Chronicle was named runner-up in the coveted Community Service Award competition.  This award recognized the newspaper’s work with the city of Omak’s centennial celebration, including production of “The Chronicles of Okanogan” history book – a special centennial progress edition of the newspaper and the staff’s involvement in organizing community events.  Reporter Sheila Corson and graphic artist Julie Bock were specifically recognized in the award.

The Moneysaver in Lewiston, Idaho, did well again the in the annual ad contest of the Pacific Northwest Association of Want Ad Newspapers (PNAWAN).  Half of their six awards were for first place; the other three second place.  The advertising contest awards were announced after the PNAWAN fall conference Sept 29-Oct. 1.  The awards included first place for a Valley Car Sales ad in the Best Automotive Ad category, and first place for an ad for Hay’s Produce in the Best Retail Store Ad category.  An ad campaign for Primeland Co-op won a first in that category, and an Owl Drug campaign took second.  Other second place awards were in the categories for Best Process Color Ad and Best Black and White Ad.

The Central Oregonian picked up eight awards and the Madras Pioneer picked up one at AdCon, the annual advertising conference of Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association Sept. 15-16.  They were the only Eagle newspapers in Oregon to enter the contest this year.  Eagles attending the conference included Central Oregonian publisher Vance Tong and general manager Teresa Tooley; Chelsea Marr, The Dalles Chronicle advertising manager, and Wendy Kunkel, who came from Grangeville to pick up ideas to share withothers on the Idaho Country Free Press staff.  Newberg Graphic publisher Al Herriges, a member of the ONPA board of directors, also attended the conference held in Lake Oswego.

Michael Gehring retires – – Mike Connor named new GM

By | Eagle Newspaper, News

Michael Gehring is retiring after 40 years of continuous employment with Eagle Newspapers, Inc., the record among current employees. His responsibilities as Eagle Web Press general manager are transferring to his co-worker of 36 years, Mike Connor, the plant manager since the two earned those titles in 1978.  Michael also is retiring from his position on the Eagle board of directors, a seat he has held since 1992. 

Michael made the announcement he was retiring to his staff Aug. 15. The same day, Eagle president and chief operating officer Tom Lanctot named Mike general manager, effective Sept. 1.  

Retirement for Michael means more time to fish. An avid bass fisherman since 1981, Michael says “I still love it and I plan to get a little more bass fishing in. Bass fishing presents challenges that take my mind off the rest of what’s going on in the world. It is very therapeutic.” He has several favorite spots in the Willamette River, Green Peter Reservoir and lakes on the coast and central Oregon. As far as travel in his retirement plans, previous trips to the Philippines impressed him so much that he hopes to make a return visit in November. “I have been there twice and love how friendly the people are and how inexpensive it is to enjoy many tropical adventures and pleasures.” 

A smooth transition at Eagle Web Press is a given with the close working relationship the two men have enjoyed for nearly four decades. Mike and Michael have worked side-by-side shepherding the plant’s growth from six employees and four units of press on what had been a used car lot with a trailer for an office in West Salem. It blossomed into the 65,000 sq. ft. plant at Eagle Industrial Park in north Salem, with more than 60 employees and a 10-fold increase in press units. The duo also entered the high-tech stage together, guiding the company to today’s state-of-the-art electronic prepress department. Mike, who started out as a cameraman jokes “I guess I am the camera man who has outlived the cameras.” 

Adding to the smooth managerial transition is the stable workforce and the longevity of other key employees. Sales manager Sharon Gustafson will begin her 38th year in September.  Six others have been with the company more than 25 years—Paul Wickham, since 1977; Brad Standing and Susan Schneider, 1979; Gene Bangert, 1982; Gary Ramsey, 1984, and Phil Murphy, 1985.   

Looking back at his accomplishments, Michael narrows it down to a personal favorite: his push to add UV printing to the press line. It has proved to be an added source of revenue since 2004. The most challenging times, Michael say, “have come in the past 10 years and brought on by the declining demand for printed products, the economic downturn and the changes that have come about in the work environment that have only served to hinder the effectiveness of management.”

The son of a web printer, Michael’s printing career began during his school days when he was a paper boy for the Oregonian. His father was a pressman, his mother was the bookkeeper, his brother had a paper route and his sister performed in the PR department as a baton twirler in parades and Oregonian-sponsored events. From delivering newspapers Michael moved to hand inserting sections of the Hillsboro Argus, did pressroom cleanup at the Santa Maria Times and worked as a press jogger at the Folsom River Telegraph. By the time he was approaching 20 he was working as a jogger and learning the entire press operation at the Community Press in Portland, advancing to top pressman on a Goss Urbanite, then moving over to Tualatin Yamhill Press and from there to Eagle Web Press at the age of 24. 

As he gets ready to do more bass fishing, Michael reflected on his 40 years and gave credit to the owner and CEO of the company. “It has been a pleasure to work for Eagle Newspapers and Denny Smith. Denny has been much more than an employer. He has become a good friend as well and I hope we will always be in touch. I have made many friends associated with my employment at Eagle, but none of us would have ever met without the main catalyst, Denny Smith.”

National Newspaper Assocation recognizes the Itemizer-Observer

By | Eagle Newspaper, News

Congratulations, to the Itemzier-Observer on more accolades received for the 2010 calendar year – – this time on a national level.

The crew of the I-O received notice from the National Newspaper Association of three awards coming their way at NNA’s national convention in September in New Mexico.

The 2010 edition of “Explore Polk County” has won First Place in its division, Pete Strong has won another First Place award for his photo of Marine Sgt. Ian Tawney’s casket arrival back home from Afghanistan, and Jolene Guzman and Adam Korst received Third Place for their series of stories on Ben Casalegno and his surgical procedure allowing him to hear.

Only five total entries were submitted, so to have three earn awards and two place first at a national level is a significant accomplishment.

Congratulations to the winners!

Judges comments are below:

Best Breaking News Photo, Non-daily Division, circulation less than 6,000 1st place A U.S. Marine Corps Honor Guard carries the casket… 10/27/10 Pete Strong This was a difficult choice. However, the depth of field made this photo tops. The Patriot Guard, the Marines, the casket – very powerful!

Best Feature Series, Non-daily Division, circulation 4,500 – 5,999 3rd place Ben Casalegno: Moving past the sounds of silence 1/13/10 Jolene Guzman & Adam Korst Well-done account of a medical procedure.

Best Special News, Sports or Feature Section or Edition, Non-daily Division, circ. 3,000 – 5,999 1st place Explore Polk County 5/26/10 Wonderful community guide! Great photos and articles! Really reflects Polk County!