OPINION: Leadership revealed at Pamplin Media Group
Jerry Herrmann is president of Rivers of Life Center, a nonprofit organization that provides training and education for at-risk youth and young adults throughout the Willamette Valley.
Concerns are currently sharpening about the importance of local media and good journalism. The story of community newspapers in Clackamas, Marion, Washington and Multnomah counties flows around the important contributions of a man and his dreams of knitting the regions together.
These dreams fly in the face of simplistic postings, blogs and other narratives conveyed through social media as fact. When professional journalists are not involved, should we trust the results?
I once met the man, who has a different philosophy on how issues and their reporting should be conducted. I met him on the issues of the recovery and reuse of one of his properties, Ross Island. His name is Dr. Robert Pamplin Jr. and his contributions to the Northwest region, if not this country, are vast.
Pamplin came from Georgia to excel in the universities of our area, including Lewis & Clark College, the University of Portland and others. His exceptionalism in business, economics, philosophy and even theology earned him eight advanced degrees, including two doctorates.
At the same time, he was earning national recognition in weightlifting from the American Athletic Union. Equipping himself both mentally and physically, he achieved a deep background in business acumen in the late 1960s. This allowed him, while still in college, to be a stockbroker with earnings approaching a million dollars at that time.
My personal knowledge of Dr. Pamplin and a vision he had of his community came about as Portland was attempting to acquire the island elements and peninsulas of historic Ross Island and gravel deposits that built early Portland.
His acquisition continued to serve our Northwest region's construction economy. I found he was being challenged by Portland-area legislators to cease production activities at the vast historic gravel quarry and consider donating all to Portland.
He saw the ongoing value of the hundreds of jobs associated with the gravel production, processing and concrete production as important to the people and Oregon. In my conversations with him, I felt that the legislators had no idea about what a "final use" for the nearly 200 acres of created small islands and peninsulas could be.
I advised him that before he ceased operations, he should work with those concerned to see how wildlife habitats, fisheries values and final uses and replanting of lands could create a beautiful wildlife legacy area. He started that process but the need for gravel or rock resources to help the company make a transition became problematic.
Ross Island Sand & Gravel has ceased operation after three-quarters of a century, but the opportunities to move a vision forward in cooperation with Dr. Pamplin, are still there.
His simultaneous holdings of other commercial properties includes Columbia Empire Farms in Hillsboro, Newberg, Dundee and Sherwood wherein agricultural products are grown, not just for a profit, but for huge distribution in charitable food programs.
His strong interests in history and interpretation have underpinned great Native American exhibits, efforts of the Oregon Historical Society and even the development of special museums, wherein history would've been forgotten had it not been for his efforts.
Dr. Pamplin and his family have donated over $150 million to many charitable efforts and institutions. Through his benevolent interfaces, he has raised $500 million more for many important causes in the Northwest region.
Importantly now is his dedication and that of Pamplin Media Group professionals to connect the communities of several counties together through over 30 community newspapers, all working together staffed by trained journalists and issues researchers.
I have had experience working with newspapers now owned by USA Today and other national syndicates. We are lucky. We are fortunate. We are blessed to have a diverse organization with primary goals of helping their communities understand community issues and efforts to respond. That is what Pamplin Media Group does. That is not what happens with the syndicated national enterprises.
We are fortunate to have the dreams of a highly educated leader, generous individual and professional staff at all levels, community member and generous individual at the helm of our media coverage and response.
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