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News-Times Memories: a new century

Years at the News-Times helped bring understanding of the real meaning of community journalism.

Until I started working at the newspaper office at 2038 Pacific Avenue, I had never lived or worked in a place that was a real community.

Forest Grove residents, and their love (and sometimes hatred) of the News-Times, helped me understand the value and importance of a small town newspaper and the difference it can make in a community.

I'm proud to say that my tenure at the paper marked both some professional and personal milestones for me.

I arrived at the News-Times in 1988 young and single. I left in 2000 married and with 5 children.

Professionally, I started in the summer of 1988 as a salesperson. My first assigned duty by then-publisher Jackie Agee was to oversee the Big Wheel Races held on Main Street for the annual Strawberry and Slug Festival. (I think we still have two gigantic slugs hiding in the basement of the News-Times office). About a year later I was named advertising director and in 1991 I was named publisher.

Good staff

At the time I was the youngest newspaper publisher in the state. I was lucky to have a good staff led by local newspaper legend Pat Wagler, a strong and committed newspaper editor, Jim Hart, and a great boss in Steve Clark, to help guide me along the way.

I was also working in the shadow of one of the state's true newspaper legends, Hugh McGilvra, who was the owner and publisher of the News-Times for almost 50 years. Mr. McGilvra sold the newspaper to the Eugene Register Guard in the late 1970s and focused on another business that had found itself originally as part of the newspaper operation, the now defunct Times-Litho printing plant.

Mr. McGilvra only visited me once while I was the publisher. He was in declining health at the time and his only words to me were, 'I won't tell you how to run the newspaper.' At the time I wish he would have shared his years of knowledge, but his assistant only allowed him about a minute to look around the News-Times office and then ushered him away. Mr. McGilvra passed away just a few months later.

Fortunately, many others did pass along their knowledge and opinions as to what they expected from their community newspaper.

People like Jerry Frye of Frye's Action Athletics, Gib Paterson of Paterson Furniture, former Pacific University President Dr. Faith Gabelnick, Forest Grove High School Principal Bob Schlegel, Glen Van Dyke of Van Dyke Appliance, Ken Gratteri from Gratteri's Les Schwab, Duane French of French's Men's Wear and Bob Brown from JC Penneys all were very helpful in shaping my understanding of how to run the newspaper as a business while also serving the community.

Through their inspiration and advice, the News-Times changed both our news and advertising focus.

We started to focus our news more on local people with a significant emphasis on local schools. Hard news stories always seem to come up and I recall the News-Times staff devoting significant coverage to several natural disasters like the great floods in 1995, and several significant windstorms including one that rivaled the great Columbus Day Storm and knocked the power out at our press, the only time we missed our delivery day in my 10 years as publisher.

Big stories

Besides natural disasters, the News-Times worked hard to cover key stories in not just Forest Grove but also Banks, Gaston and Cornelius. Important stories that I recall included Cornelius being the first city in the state to ratify a law against gay rights, Gaston's state title in softball - the only state title that any of our high schools won in the 1990s - and the sudden housing boom that the city of Banks struggled with when Arbor Homes was given the right to build a 400 home housing development within the city limits.

In Forest Grove, after the death of four high school students in a tragic car accident, the News-Times helped lead the community effort to rally parents to understand the importance of talking to their children about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. The News-Times also devoted a lot of attention to educating the community about the need for a new fire station, which at the time was falling apart to such a great extent that you could see outside of the building through gaps in the walls.

One of the worst parts of running a newspaper in a small town is covering the tragedies that befall a community. Unfortunately, our staff dealt with more then our fair share of these kinds of stories in my short tenure. These tragedies brought home the meaning of community because with each tragedy you realized how everyone in the community was affected. Everyone in town seemed to know the child, the mother, or the father.

The death of every young person from Forest Grove, Cornelius, Gaston or Banks, I took personally. That was one of my own and the newspaper needed to help the community heal from those tragedies and hopefully gain some understanding of why and how we can prevent it from happening in the future.

Advertising support

Besides our news coverage, the News-Times embarked on new advertising programs that ended up being big hits with both readers and advertisers alike. Advertising features like Athletes of the Week and Student All-Stars were mainstays of our weekly product for many years.

Advertising sections like High School Graduation, Closer Look, Forest Grove Rotary's Concours d'Elegance, and the Founders Day Corn Roast helped drive the community to support local community events while also helping the News-Times pay the bills.

Surprising to some, advertising is what keeps the doors open at any newspaper. It's also an important service the newspaper offers to help local businesses keep their doors open. I'm proud to say that during my tenure, the advertising team of Ellen Sadler, Sheila Ryan and I helped numerous local businesses grow and prosper.

Forest Grove and its surrounding communities are very fortunate to have had the News-Times covering and serving each for 125 years. Strong communities always have strong newspapers and the News-Times is the glue that keeps the community a community.

Happy birthday News-Times! Congratulations on 125 years of tremendous public service.

- J. Brian Monihan served as the News-Times publisher from 1991 to 2000. He currently serves as Vice President of the Pamplin Media Group.

When I worked at the News-Times, reporting was a thing we did on paper.

It poured out of a fax machine, spitting press releases and police news. I sat at an editing desk, measuring obituaries with a pica pole, planning the next week's layout.

We had a website we barely controlled, and new digital tools no one knew how to use. We worked hard. Meanwhile, the newsroom was a place of daily hilarity. There was a practical joke involving a fake lottery ticket and a gambler and once, for a shoot, we talked the cops into arresting the sports reporter. Somehow I managed to learn things: about land, religion, people, writing.

There was a lot of color on the job, like the clanking of the conveyor belt at the mill and the water buckets that sat under roof leaks at Gaston City Hall. I was glad to start there, because such communities teach you hard lessons about important stories.

- Lee (Douglas) Van der Voo was a reporter and editor for the News-Times from 2003 to 2005. She now writes investigative pieces for InvestigateWest

What I liked most about the News-Times was the paychecks.

But it was also fun and rewarding working with great people like Maureen Zoebelein, Olivia Passiuex and Jason Applegate and Kyle Mallory.

There were also many great people in the community. If I had to do it again, I would work at the News-Times. Congratulations on your 125th anniversary. I am glad I shared part of your history.

- Cliff Newell was a reporter for the News-Times from 1999 to 2006. He now writes for the Lake Oswego Review.

One of the first things budding reporters learn in journalism school is 'the five Ws and the H.'

Now that the News-Times has reached its 125th anniversary as a newspaper 'making a difference in western Washington County,' I have a few observations about how working here has made me a better journalist - and a better person. Using the Ws and H formula, here is a short story befitting the occasion.

Five years ago (WHEN), I left the Beaverton Valley Times to join that publication's sister newspaper, the News-Times in Forest Grove (WHAT). My decision was based partly on a need to live closer to our home in Forest Grove (WHY) - but mostly on a gut feeling I had about the paper's new publisher, John Schrag (WHO).

My intuitions were correct. As a boss, John is fun but not frivolous. He sets high, but not impossible, expectations for his staff and creates a work environment that keeps me wanting to come back (HOW).

Happy anniversary to a newspaper that tries hard each week to reflect what people living in the communities it covers care about. Let's hear it for 125 more years.

- Nancy Townsley is the News-Times' associate editor.