There's a new media war opening up on an unlikely front in Washington County. The Oregonian is considering launching a paper in Forest Grove, population 22,000.
John Schrag, publisher of the Forest Grove News-Times, which broke the story, says it's a retaliation against the Pamplin Group, which owns the News-Times and announced last month it's starting a paper in nearby Hillsboro. That's where The O recently took control of the existing paper, The Argus.
"This isn't about serving the community," says Schrag, WW's former news editor. "This is payback publishing. I don't think it will fly in this town."
The squabble between two of the state's biggest media companies comes as The Oregonian's owner, Advance Publications, considers cutting back the daily's printing schedule, a likelihood WW explored last month.
But the fight follows a quickly-emerging national practice by Advance Publications of marking turf even as it shrinks papers.
In Louisiana, Advance launched a Baton Rouge bureau last week when the Baton Rouge Advocate announced it would start a New Orleans edition to compete with the gutted Times-Picayune. ("While this is war," the Columbia Journalism Review noted on Friday, "it's worth pointing out that it's between an empire in decline and a regional power that's also seen better days.")
Though The Oregonian hasn't reduced print days yet, the squabbling is over even smaller territory.
"This town ain't big enough for the both of us," Schrag says. "If they succeed, what are they left with after two to five years of losing money to win the fight? A marginally profitable newspaper in a city that isn't ever going to have more than 30,000 residents in Chris Anderson's lifetime."
Oregonian publisher N. Christian Anderson III told the News-Times he'd issue a press release when it's time to unveil a new Forest Grove paper.
Anderson, known for a tart sense of humor, told WW in an email: "If and when we have anything to announce about a new product for Forest Grove or Gresham or Astoria, I'll let you know."