The Oregonian plans to stop printing a newspaper three days a week, reducing its editions to Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays—and leaving Portland without a daily paper for the first time in more than a century.
The shrinking newspaper—which has run in print daily since 1881—will scrap its Monday, Tuesday and Thursday print editions beginning next year, according to a memo sent to staffers Monday evening.
“As The Oregonian / OregonLive continues to press ahead, we will offer The Oregonian exclusively online to subscribers Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays next year. The change will become effective January 1, 2024,” John Maher, president of the Oregonian Media Group, announced in the July 31 email.
“The change is made possible by our excellent online newspaper product, produced each day and read by thousands of subscribers,” he wrote in the memo, sent at 6:52 pm.
The paper has long struggled to make money on its print product, but has done well online in recent years.
In 2013, the paper began largely delivering to homes only on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
The publication was, however, still printed every day and available, primarily in stores, seven days a week. Some die-hard readers also opted to have it delivered to their homes every day via an independent distributor.
The choice to scale back printing to four days a week simply makes sense businesswise, Maher tells WW.
“Our industry continues to work through a period of dynamic change, and we have made significant investments in our digital offerings to ensure that we meet the needs of our readers and subscribers and invest in local journalism,” Maher wrote via email Tuesday morning.
“We’ve invested heavily in The Oregonian online newspaper, an important part of our portfolio,” he wrote, adding the paper’s website rakes in 7 million unique visitors a month.
“As readers and subscribers dive deeper into our digital offerings, there has been declining demand for single copy,” he wrote. “The online, digital replica of The Oregonian is very popular with our subscribers.”
In his memo to staffers, Maher said only about 2,000 Portland-area customers received seven-day print delivery.
It wasn’t immediately clear how many papers would be axed from retail shops or from daily deliveries statewide.
Therese Bottomly, The Oregonian’s editor and vice president of content, directed questions to Maher.
Some of the paper’s subscribers were notified about the decision before the paper’s own employees, rattling reporters who learned the news from social media earlier that morning.
Les Zaitz—a former editor and reporter at the paper—posted text from an email that subscribers received on Facebook at around 9:15 am Monday.
Addressed to “Valued Subscriber,” the email explained the choice to scale back printing was made “after careful consideration of impact and costs.”
Some staffers considered it yet another bleak development in the lifespan of the ever-thinning publication, and said it hurt morale to learn the news secondhand.
“It feels like even as this ship is sinking, the crew holds unity and [bosses] not telling us shook our confidence,” said one reporter, who asked to remain anonymous to avoid workplace distraction.
He stressed that it’s “a big deal” to halt the daily publication of Oregon’s oldest and largest newspaper. “It’s just sad,” the reporter said. “Not being told about it ahead of time minimizes the importance, in terms of morale.”
Asked why readers were informed about the decision to stop printing daily before The Oregonian’s own employees, Maher chalked it up to bad timing.
“We strive to make our entire staff aware of operational changes well in advance. We also endeavor to provide ample notification for our customers,” he wrote.
“Regrettably, our organization’s zeal to ensure that customers were notified of a change for next year had us in the marketplace before we were able to share our planning with all internal departments.”