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After 573 chapters, a new one awaits

Like the previous 572 editions of the News-Times, this week’s paper lists my name under the title of publisher.

Next week’s won’t.

I won’t lie. I have mixed feelings about that. The office on 2038 Pacific Ave., where I settled (with a fair amount of trepidation) in February 2005, has been an incredible professional laboratory.

I learned that the art of community journalism is best practiced with a base of deep trust and comes with even deeper responsibilities.

I learned the business end of this business — and did so during a challenging time.

I learned that the best thing a boss can do is hire and retain good people. (While I’m not prone to bragging, I will take credit for having the best newspaper staff in Oregon).

And I learned to love this community, which I will continue to call home as I start a new job.

That last fact is a big reason why this week is more sweet than bitter. I’ll still be around to cycle the back roads around Roy, shop at the farmers market on Main Street, catch the lastest production at Theatre in the Grove, pitch in at the Corn Roast and catch a game or two at FGHS.

Another is that I’m leaving this paper in good shape and even better hands. When Nikki DeBuse, the longtime publisher of the Woodburn Independent, agreed to take the job of publisher, any lingering doubts I had about my decision evaporated.

Like me, Nikki came up through the news side of the business, starting out as a reporter at the Independent and working her way up to the top job. Along the way, she developed a knack for finding ways to serve her community through good journalism, creative partnerships and innovative marketing products.

You’re going like her. A lot.

I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished at the News-Times during my 11 years as publisher. We raised the quality of the journalism. We weathered a recession that put too many other papers out of business. And we had a hell of a lot of fun in the process.

But the transformation of the newspaper industry, sparked by the ascension of digital news platforms, continues to create both new opportunities and new challenges for the News-Times. Nikki is well-suited to handle both — in some ways better than I am.

As for me, I’ve been given the best journalism job in the state.

As executive editor for the Pamplin Media Group, I will head the news operations of the largest locally owned media company in Oregon. I get to work with an amazing collection of editors — people like Nancy Townsley and Jill Smith — who work for 24 papers, ranging from the News-Times and Sandy Post to the Portland Tribune and the Madras Pioneer.

My charge is to build on the great work our company’s 100-plus journalists are already doing in their communities and marshal their forces — as well as those of our media partners — to demonstrate that a robust, independent, professional press is still vital to the democratic process.

We’ll be looking for ways to hold those in power accountable, get to the stories behind the headlines and highlight the people and groups working to strengthen our communities.

If you’ve got ideas about how we can do that, please let me know. I won’t be hard to find.

John Schrag’s new email will be:

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