Local man Chas Hundley, 22, runs the Banks Post, Gales Creek Journal, will start printing next month

COURTESY PHOTO - Gales Creek native Chas Hundley is leaving his telecommunications job in Beaverton Nov. 1 in order to devote more time to his online -- and soon print -- news products for rural northwestern Washington County.One evening in May 2014, Gales Creek resident Chas Hundley was driving down Highway 8 when he noticed the flashing lights of police cars racing toward his hometown.

At that point, Hundley ran a Gales Creek-centered blog he inherited from his older brother, who'd moved away. He called the Washington County Sheriff's Office and found out deputies were pulling a body from Gales Creek and wrote his first breaking news story in his car on the side of the road.

"Something just clicked," Hundley said. Being in the know and informing his community "was very satisfying."

That feeling has stuck with Hundley over the last three years as he's slowly transitioned into a more serious journalistic role in Gales Creek. The blog evolved into a more formal newswriting space from 2014 to 2016 and earlier this year Hundley started the Banks Post in addition to running the Gales Creek Journal, both web-based newspapers.

He quickly realized how little time he had to dedicate to his papers while working at his day job and tending to family obligations. He'd get frustrated watching stories pass him by. It felt like "another piece of history just fell off the map," Hundley said.

He decided he didn't want that to happen anymore.

On Nov. 1, the Eagle Scout will be leaving his job at a Beaverton telecommunications company to pursue something that's been a hobby until now. He plans to launch a monthly printed publication that will be mailed to every household in and outside of Gales Creek, Banks, Buxton and Manning, as well as rural addresses outside Cornelius and North Plains.

"I want to provide the full newspaper experience" for those small towns, he said. "I also want to get more into heavy investigative journalism in these rural areas. There's a lot going on out here that people should know about."

Hundley, 22, originally started helping his older brother Matt with his goal of bringing local news to the community. Matt thought such a product might help unite the Gales Creek community after the local store, post office and school closed over the past decade. When Matt moved to Nashville, Hundley decided he would take the reins.

"It filled a need I felt wasn't being met in Gales Creek," Hundley said. "And as I got more involved in this, I greatly enjoyed it."

Hundley's ties to the area run deep. His family settled in Gales Creek in 1883 and he and his 10 siblings grew up in the small town. For about eight years, Hundley's parents operated the Gales Creek Country Store. Hundley himself ran the cash register as a child, selling everything but alcohol and stopping to chat with all local residents who stopped in.

He's also president of the county's local Citizen Participation Organization, along with his mother, Sharon Hundley, who serves as vice president.

Melinda Fischer serves as secretary and has gotten to know Hundley in more of an adult role after watching him grow up alongside her own son in Boy Scouts.

"He is a real go-getter and I think he's going to do great," said Fischer, who is also involved in the Gales Creek Chamber of Commerce, where Hundley serves as president. "There's a need even though it's a small community."

Because many Gales Creek residents are older and not as in tune with online mediums, Fischer said, they will likely really appreciate a print product.

"He's a local person who knows the community," she said. "I think he'll bring certain aspects of Gales Creek to light and draw attention to things the community needs."

After graduating with a home-school high school diploma and living in Beaverton for a while, Hundley missed his rural hometown and recently moved back. He now rents a home with his new bride, Shannon.

"I missed working in the community I live and play in," said Hundley, who enjoys music and outdoor pursuits.

In addition to the mailed news product, Hundley will update websites for both publications, along with providing real-time updates on his Facebook and Twitter pages.

So far, the feedback "has been really positive" on his online work, said Hundley, who hopes to bring more local news to outlying towns and maybe even earn a paycheck. While some people have been skeptical of his new venture — "Are you sure you want to quit your job and start a newspaper in 2017?" is a common question — his family, friends and wife are largely supportive.

"Some people doubt, but I don't see any reason why this won't be successful," said Hundley. "It is not going to be easy, I know, but I'm confident in the community and myself."

By Stephanie Haugen
Reporter, Forest Grove News-Times
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