After announcing its parent company had filed for bankruptcy last week, The Observer suffered another hit Monday when its 1966 Goss Community printing press motor broke down, leading to the layoff of six employees.
On Jan. 22, Western Communications, The Observer and Baker City Herald’s parent company, announced it had filed for Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy code. Through the bankruptcy, the company is required to follow strict guidelines as far as expenses are concerned. As a result, Western Communications has decided not to explore expensive repair options for the machine that prints both The Observer and Baker City Herald. To avoid a lapse in production, the East Oregonian in Pendleton will be printing the La Grande and Baker City papers. Without a functioning press, and due to dramatic funding cuts associated with the bankruptcy, The Observer’s pressroom and mailroom departments were laid off.
Affected employees include the general manager/operations manager, Frank Everidge, who has worked for The Observer since 1978. Everidge accepted a position at the East Oregonian in Pendleton and will officially start in the coming weeks. It is likely other individuals affected by the shuttering of the Observer press will also find employment at the EO due to the new workload.
Subscribers will not see a difference in the newspaper, except for some temporary delivery delays as the staffs at the EO, The Observer and Baker City Herald formulate a workable schedule to print the newspapers.
Regional Publisher Karrine Brogoitti said the news industry as a whole is seeing its share of challenges.
“Our papers are going through hard times, as are many other newspapers right now. This isn’t a unique challenge. It’s industry-wide,” she said.
What sets Northeast Oregon’s papers apart, Brogoitti said, is their staying power.
“The Observer has been in operation for more than 120 years, and the Baker City Herald has been in production for nearly 150 years. We are nothing if not resilient,” she said. “Our newspapers have seen — and navigated our way through — hard times before, and we’ve made it. This situation is no different.”
Western Communications previously filed for Chapter 11 protection in August 2011 following a three-year dispute with the Bank of America, the company’s largest creditor at the time. The company emerged from Chapter 11 protection in April 2012. In addition to The Observer and Herald, Western Communications owns five newspapers in Oregon and two in California, including The Bulletin in Bend.
As reported in a previous Observer article about the bankruptcy, John Costa, president of Western Communications, said this bankruptcy will allow the company to reduce debt and strengthen the newspapers it owns.
“This will give us time to further restructure our organization for a changing media world, a process we have been undergoing, as most newspapers have,” he said. “That restructure is critical to continuing to serve our local communities in California and Oregon.”