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Big changes are coming to the news coverage The Oregonian has provided in recent years in western Washington County.

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.”

The result of that, he reported, is “the Forest Grove Leader, Hillsboro Argus and Beaverton Leader are being rolled into a single operation.” 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.

“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.”

Sources report that at least 13 Oregonian news staffers accepted buyouts, including two with Washington County ties: Wendy Owen, a Beaverton Leader reporter, and Tom Maurer, the former editor of the three papers.

Dillon Pilorget, the main Forest Grove Leader reporter, and Jim Ryan, a Hillsboro Argus reporter, will be assimilated into jobs at The Oregonian’s downtown Portland operation.

Dana Timms will no longer cover Washington County for The Oregonian, sources said.

In addition to the voluntary departures, several employees in the company were laid off, including the full-time news clerk in Forest Grove and an editor in Hillsboro.

Overall, the latest round of staff reductions affected 25 people, Sepulvado reported.

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