By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Tag: Eugene Weekly

Eugene Weekly to resume print publication after raising $150,000

Eugene Weekly photo via The Oregonian

Eugene Weekly, which shut down in late December after an ex-employee was charged with embezzling tens of thousands of dollars, is back. Oddly, there doesn’t seem to be anything about it on the paper’s website, which continues to lead with a story that was posted a month ago about the crisis. But Livia Albeck-Ripka reports in The New York Times (free link) that the free print paper will resume publication on Feb. 8 after raising “at least $150,000” in donations.

“Every time I walk by one of our little red boxes, there’s no paper in it, it stabs me in the heart,” editor Camilla Mortensen is quoted as saying. The previous weekly press run had been 30,000, but she said that would be cut to 25,000 so that it can remain financially sustainable.

The alt-weekly, founded in 1982, is an important source of local news in Eugene. EW has continued to post stories on its website with what the Times describes as donated labor. The homepage currently includes new and recent articles about a school superintendent who’s being investigated on allegations of discriminating and retaliating against an employee; how animals were affected by a January ice storm; and a fundraising concert for EW starring “the self proclaimed scream queens of Eugene.”

If you’d like to donate to keep EW alive, just click here.

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How Norma Rodriguez-Reyes became one of New Haven’s leading media executives

Norma Rodriguez-Reyes. Photo (cc) 2021 by Dan Kennedy.

On the latest “What Works” podcast, Ellen Clegg and I talk with Norma Rodriguez-Reyes, the president of  La Voz Hispana de Connecticut. La Voz started circulating in New Haven in 1993, but fell on hard times. Norma helped take charge of the paper in 1998 when it verged on bankruptcy. Under her direction, the for-profit newspaper has grown into the state’s most-read free Spanish-language weekly. It reaches more than 125,000 Spanish speakers across Connecticut.

Norma is among the entrepreneurs highlighted in our new book, “What Works in Community News.” In addition to her work at La Voz, Norma is the board chair of the Online Journalism Project, the nonprofit umbrella that includes the New Haven Independent, the Valley Independent Sentinel, and WNHH community radio. The New Haven Indy and the radio station both work out of La Voz’s offices in downtown New Haven.

I’ll be in New Haven next Tuesday, Jan. 16 (details here), to talk about our book in a conversation with Paul Bass, the founder of the New Haven Indy and now the executive director of the Online Journalism Project. Paul is also in charge of yet another nonprofit media project, the Independent Review Crew, which produces arts and culture reviews in cities across the country, including Boston. He talked about the project on our podcast last September.

Ellen has a Quick Take on a surprising development in local news on Martha’s Vineyard. The ownership of the weekly Martha’s Vineyard Times has changed hands. Longtime publishers and owners Peter and Barbara Oberfest sold the Island news organization to Steve Bernier, a West Tisbury resident and longtime owner of Cronig’s Market.  And the acting publisher is Charles Sennott, a highly decorated journalist and founder and editor of The GroundTruth Project. He also helped launch Report for America.

I discuss a hard situation at Eugene Weekly, an alternative weekly in Oregon that’s been around for four decades. EW has shut down and laid off its 10-person staff after learning that the paper was the victim of embezzlement. Although the folks at EW are optimistic that a fundraising campaign will get them back on their feet, the closure has had a devastating effect on Eugene’s local news scene.

You can listen to our conversation here and subscribe through your favorite podcast app.

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An Oregon alt-weekly is fighting for survival after falling victim to alleged embezzlement

I had hoped there would be good news this morning about Eugene Weekly, a free alternative paper in Oregon that abruptly shut down last week and announced that a former employee had embezzled tens of thousands of dollars. Instead, we’re still waiting to see if EW, as it’s called, will be able to raise enough money from its readers to get back on its feet.

The story began to unfold when people encountered a poster inside the bright red boxes that normally hold copies of the paper. The message: “Where’s the Damn Paper? Eugene Weekly is fighting to come back after a massive financial blow.” According to a letter to readers posted online, EW said it had been victimized by someone inside the company. Some $70,000 in printing bills hadn’t been paid. Money that was supposed to have been transferred into employees’ retirement accounts wasn’t. And on and on. The paper stopped print production and laid off its entire 10-employee staff.

EW, founded in 1982, distributes about 30,000 free copies of the paper each week, and is a vital source of news and information. Like most alt-weeklies, it offers a mix of arts and culture, investigative reporting, and entertainment listings. The homepage currently highlights a story about the local performing arts center, which is leasing security scanners for $170,000 a year from a company that is under investigation for letting weapons slip by at schools. Now all of that is in danger. Here’s part of the letter to readers:

Shortly before Christmas, we discovered that EW had been the victim of embezzlement at the hands of someone we once trusted. We are still counting up the damage, but it’s thousands upon thousands. The theft of EW’s funds remained hidden for years and has left our finances in shambles. A team of private forensic accountants is analyzing our books and accounts. We’ve reported the thefts to the Eugene Police Department, which is conducting an investigation.

The Associated Press interviewed Brent Walth, a journalism professor at the University of Oregon, who said EW has had “an outsized impact in filling the widening gaps in news coverage.” Among other things, Walth said the paper runs obituaries of homeless people, a real service at a time when many papers have gotten rid of free obits and instead charge high fees to bereaved families. EW has also played an important role in launching the careers of young journalists, Walth said.

The paper is in the midst of a fundraising campaign, and, according to The New York Times, had received $42,000 in donations as of Monday. Camilla Mortensen, the editor, said the paper needs about $150,000, so it sounds like they’re on their way. If you’d like to help, just click here. My suggestion is that you give directly to the paper rather than to its affiliated nonprofit, which supports public interest reporting. EW itself is for-profit, so your donation will not be tax-deductible. But this is an emergency.

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