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Big changes are coming to news coverage in western Washington County in the New Year.


John Schrag, publisher of the News-Times in Forest Grove and the Hillsboro Tribune, announced last week he will become executive editor of the Pamplin Media Group in January. In that capacity he will coordinate the newsroom resources of two dozen Pamplin-owned papers in the Portland area, including the Portland Tribune. 

Schrag, 56, left Willamette Week to become editor and publisher of the News-Times in 2005. He became publisher of its sister paper, the Hillsboro Tribune, when that paper debuted in 2012.

Both are weeklies with a combined circulation of more than 13,000.

“John has done an excellent job as publisher in Forest Grove and Hillsboro. Now we want to utilize his talents throughout our 25 newsrooms,” said Mark Garber, president of the Pamplin Media Group. “At this point, our company is the only news-gathering organization providing local news in each community around Portland. We need someone to coordinate our news efforts, so we can give each community the highest quality of coverage.”

Replacing Schrag as publisher is Nikki DeBuse, who is currently publisher of the Woodburn Independent, another Pamplin paper. 

“I’m thrilled that Nikki has agreed to take the job,” Schrag said. “She’s a great fit for the papers and the communities they serve.”   

The changes for Pamplin Media Group come at the same time that a competing news organization — the Oregonian Media Group — has reportedly decided to de-emphasize community coverage. According to John Sepulvado of Oregon Public Broadcasting, The Oregonian will “substantially reduce” its news operation in Washington County in mid-January, consolidating its three county weeklies — the Forest Grove Leader, the Beaverton Leader and the Hillsboro Argus — into one publication.

That paper has been dubbed the Washington County Argus.

In a story published on Wednesday, Dec. 16, Sepulvado wrote that The Oregonian is “moving away from geographic coverage and toward issue-oriented beats for daily news coverage.”

His sources said the change will begin Jan. 13.

Samantha Swindler, editor of the Forest Grove Leader, which debuted in October 2012, will become a county columnist at the new paper. She will be one of the only Washington County writers left at The Oregonian, as most of her local co-workers are either leaving or being transfered to other beats.

“This has been a tough week for the Washington County bureau,” Swindler wrote on Facebook. “We had layoffs affecting three dedicated friends and co-workers.”

The changes in Washington County are part of a downsizing plan at The Oregonian, which is cutting 25 newsroom positions through buyouts or layoffs.

Garber said Pamplin Media Group has been adding positions and will not reduce local news coverage.

“Our readers are most interested in what is happening in their neighborhoods and communities,” Garber said. “We will continue to devote more resources to purely local news than any other media in town.”

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