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Here's a bit of good news about the newspaper group that brings you THE BEE every month....

VERN UYETAKE - Don Atwell, General Manager of Printing Operations for Pamplin Media Group, shows off new equipment at our Gresham print facility that significantly increases efficiency, and the capacity to insert advertising supplements and coupons.All of the 23 local newspapers published in Oregon by locally-owned Community Newspapers, Inc., and Pamplin Media, are flourishing. The mission of our company, which includes THE BEE and the Portland Tribune among many others, is to continue to report local news for you. And, in this "sound bite" and "fake news" world, the printed word prepared by real journalists remains the authority about what is actually going on.

In fact, as you probably are aware, THE BEE recently was upgraded to a full "broadsheet" size from its former tabloid presence, and the ownership of our newspaper has now upgraded its 24/7 press facility in Gresham, and now prints ALL its newspapers in-house, in addition to doing contract printing for clients.

We thought you might like to know a little more about this million-dollar investment by Pamplin Media Group (PMG) – and so here is an article about it by Shannon Wells, which recently appeared in our sister newspaper, the twice-weekly Portland Tribune. . .

It's an increasingly digital world, they say, but the incessant whirring, clicking, and clacking at the Pamplin Media Group printing operations facility, where employees scurry and toil among newly-installed press equipment, suggests words on paper still have a valid place at the morning breakfast table.

An extensive, recently-completed remodeling of the long, low-slung Gresham building at 1190 N.E. Division Street – which has cranked out weekly and twice-weekly editions of The Outlook and Sandy Post since 1972 [and where THE BEE has been printed since 2001] – now accommodates the printing of all 23 Pamplin newspapers in the region.

Also, upgrades to the main press and new inserting machines, installed where Gresham Outlook reporters and advertising staff once worked (they now have a separate building of their own) significantly increase the plant's efficiency, as well as its capacity for outside commercial printing.

For PMG President Mark Garber, this spring's conclusion of the more than $1 million project demonstrates the Community Newspapers Inc. group's ongoing vibrancy, as well as its faith in print media's future.

"This expansion allows us to print all of our newspapers in our own facility," he says. "Previously, we had to outsource a portion of our newspaper printing to another company. This change is good for us, because we save the expense of outsourcing, while preserving and expanding the 35-person workforce at our Gresham printing plant."

The ability to insert more supplemental advertising materials, Garber added, benefits readers of Pamplin publications, as well as customers with printing needs. The remodeling, which began in earnest last fall, created a significant upheaval at the 46-year-old Division Street building, where press operators, assistants and administrative employees continued working during construction.

PMG printing operations General Manager Don Atwell credits his approximately 40 full-time and part-time employees with rolling with the punches through the project's controlled chaos.

"I'm really pleased with how things have gone so far," he remarks. "Our employees have really stepped up to make sure we're able to meet these additional challenges."

Before the major remodel project even began, the addition of inserting equipment already had forced the newsroom and advertising sales departments for The Outlook and Sandy Post to relocate to leased, second-floor office space around the block in the Burnside Plaza building at 1584 N.E. Eighth Street.

Atwell said the project's benefits easily outweigh the inconveniences and displacements it created. "It absolutely makes financial sense," he agrees. "And we now have complete quality control over all our products."

Garber praises Atwell and Printing Operations Manager Blake Jensen with keeping multiple plates spinning amid the swirl of changes.

"[They] did an excellent job of coordinating this project while also keeping the presses running, and making sure our current business operations weren't interrupted," he smiles. "The employees at the press plant had to work around a lot of disruptions inherent in any remodel. Now that it is complete, we have more space for our workflow than we ever have before."

The entire project, including equipment, remodeling, rebuilding of the press, paving, HVAC, and other improvements, represents a more than $1 million capital funding investment. Including the new newsroom/advertising office, and leased warehouse space on East Burnside Street to store inserts – so the project notably expands PMG's footprint in East Multnomah County. "Altogether, we are occupying 20,000 square feet of commercial space in Gresham and employing more than 50 people there," Garber says.

Owned by Portland businessman Dr. Robert B. Pamplin Jr., Pamplin Media Group has 230 employees in 13 offices in Western and Central Oregon. Its community-focused papers include THE BEE, The Portland Tribune, The Lake Oswego Review, The Southwest Community Connection, The Beaverton/Tigard/Tualatin Times, Washington County Times, Estacada News, the Sherwood Gazette, and the Hillsboro Tribune, among many others.

For logistical reasons, two PMG newspapers – The Central Oregonian, and the Madras Pioneer – will continue to be printed at PMG's Prineville facility rather than Gresham.

Atwell, a 10-year PMG veteran who has worked in the newspaper business since he was 16, says that, with the project, the company "is doing its part to keep printing services and print news media alive and available amid the encroaching influence of digital platforms.

"Our company certainly doesn't believe the newspaper industry is completely drying up. It's changing significantly. What we're trying to do here is make sure it remains viable," Atwell says. "We recognize that circulation numbers have gone down for some other newspapers in the last several years, but we also know the best place to receive accurate local information is the local newspaper. And we don't see that going away anytime soon."

Also acknowledging the evolving reader preferences that challenge the dominance of print newspapers, Garber sees the PMG expansion as a clear vote of confidence for the community journalism model.

"It's telling that Dr. Pamplin is making this investment in press equipment at a time when other newspapers in the Portland area have decided to outsource their printing, and sell off their press plants and other buildings," he says. "It shows that Pamplin Media is here for the long term. We have that stability because we have always focused on local news. At this point, no one else does what we do, which is to put reporters, photographers, and editors on the ground in each of the communities around Portland."

Long-term viability, he observes, comes from investing in talented, dedicated employees, equipment to meet current and future demands, and a laser focus on each individual community.

"In addition to having our own printing plant, we also employ more journalists than any other news organization in Oregon, producing vastly more local content than any other media," he reflects. "That's why we will be around for many years to come."

We're proud of our ongoing efforts to upgrade our local print and online journalism, and wanted you to know about it.

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And while we're at it….

This seems to be a good spot for your editor to add a personal observation of his own. Recently, we have noticed that quite a few people think newspapers are in a death spiral, if they have not already perished. There are two reasons why some Portlanders feel this way.

One is obvious, for those who love newspapers. The local "daily" newspaper, not long ago, was "the largest-circulation daily newspaper between San Francisco and Minneapolis". That was before it sold its building, sold its press, slashed its staff, and denied its paid subscribers more than four issues a week – even though it still prints seven! This sad turn of events has actually increased the readership of our 23 Oregon newspapers, and here at THE BEE, we have never in our 112 years had more readers for each issue than we do now. But, the decline of the big daily throws shadows on all of us. We actually like daily newspapers, and so we have a bit of unsolicited advice for this one: If you want your subscribers back, either let them receive all seven daily issues again – or stop printing those three which you deny them, which only appear on newsstands! Either way, some subscribers would return; many have canceled simply because they know they are missing out on news three days a week which they won't read about in the four they do get. If you just stop printing those three, there will be reason to believe that what happened on those three days might show up in the next printed issue. You're welcome. The other factor which has led some Portlanders – particularly younger ones – to regard the printed word as no longer relevant is the proliferation of online ways of advertising. (They also think local television and radio are now irrelevant. They're wrong about that, too; they are flourishing.)

What they are overlooking is that ANY advertising medium that draws an audience offers a way to reach people with a message, and many newspapers still do draw an attentive, receptive audience. Our Pamplin Media group, which specializes in hyperlocal news focused on communities, certainly does draw such an audience.

In the case of THE BEE, we still draw the largest audience of any news medium centered on Inner Southeast Portland – and the reason is simple. We have more solid news of this specific area we live in than any other medium. And since we put it on every page, folks read every page. They see the ads, too, and they get to know our advertisers. In placing advertising, don't overlook the newspapers that still have lots of attentive readers. And, folks, those advertisers pay the bills so you can receive THE BEE for free. You might thank them for that once in a while!

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