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Nikki DeBuse comes from long career at Woodburn Independent



Nikki DeBuseNikki DeBuse (rhymes with goose) officially became publisher of the Hillsboro Tribune and News-Times Monday, Feb. 1, replacing John Schrag, who left to become executive editor for the Pamplin Media Group, the papers’ parent company.

She will work with an office manager, advertising sales representatives, editors, reporters, photographers and production staffers to produce two community papers each week on Wednesday (News-Times) and Friday (Tribune).

DeBuse took time to tell our readers a bit more about herself and her career:

Q. Where did you grow up? What did your parents do for a living — was anyone in the newspaper/publishing business?

A. I was born in Portland and grew up in Vancouver, Wash. Sorry, my parents worked in a garment factory … no newsies in the family.

Q. When/how did you decide you wanted to become a reporter?

A. Well, there were a lot of early role models. Sesame Street News Reporter Kermit the Frog. And Polly Purebred. Clark Kent. Lois Lane. Peter Parker. More recently, J. Jonah Jameson and Perry White. I had wanted to be a doctor, but in middle school I discovered that I loved newspapers. I sat down with my family every night with our daily paper (The Columbian), and was able to shadow one of their reporters on her police beat. I was impressed with the way reporters engaged in the community. Writing was satisfying and I loved interviewing people and taking pictures and assembling all of the pieces on the pages. I edited my high school and college newspapers and landed my first job at the age of 20, before I’d even finished college.

Q. How long were you a reporter? What was the one story you covered that sticks out in your mind?

A. I was a reporter and/or editor for 10 years. I once wrote a story about a 5-year-old boy with terminal cancer. Dad was gone, mom couldn’t work because she needed to be home taking care of her son, and there were two other children at home. Christmas was coming. The electricity was off. The house was cold. The cupboards were bare. There was no Christmas tree. There were no presents. The day the story broke, the mayor arrived with a Christmas tree. The Elks Lodge paid her electric bill and the Eagles filled her cupboards. I don’t think those little boys had ever had such a wonderful Christmas. I’d like to tell you that my story is all about the power of storytelling and how we connect people. But it’s not. That was their last Christmas together. I kept in touch with mom over the months, as her son grew sicker and sicker. One morning, I was at home with my own sick little boy, feeling kind of put upon because he was sick and it was a huge inconvenience to have to take care of him while I tried to write a story from home. My phone rang and it was the little boy’s mother. Her son had just died in her arms. She didn’t know who to call, so she called me because she thought I’d want to know. I sat down by the phone and listened to her tell me about their last hours together while I watched my own son sleep peacefully on the couch. It really made me think about my own priorities. In this business, we touch people in ways we don’t always recognize or understand. It puts our own lives in a new perspective.

Q. How old were you when you became an editor at the Woodburn Independent?

A. I was 26 when I was named editor.

Q. Which job did you enjoy more: reporting or editing? Why?

A. I loved being a reporter. I loved meeting new people and learning new things. This is a job where you can never grow old. You’re always learning.

Q. How many years were you publisher at the Independent before taking the News-Times/Hillsboro Tribune job? What initiatives did you bring to the table?

A. I became publisher in 2009 and saw the newspaper through the Great Recession. We hunkered down and produced a solid newspaper during some tough economic times, and I am going to brag a little that we carried the best net operating percentage in the company for two of my four years. But readers don’t care about that. I think the biggest thing is that we dug in. We refocused on hyper-local reporting and commentary. We reached out to community organizations.

Q. In a couple sentences, say why you believe the future for community newspapers is bright, despite all the industry layoffs and shutdowns.

A. No one does what we do. We provide credible local news coverage and a forum for intelligent discussion of local issues. We help make businesses successful with valuable advertising and marketing services. I know the pundits predict doom and gloom for the newspaper industry. But there’s something special about sitting down at the kitchen table with a newspaper and a cup of coffee.

Q. What attracted you to this new position with the News-Times and the Hillsboro Tribune? What plans do you have for the papers right off the bat?

A. I had just flown in from visiting my son in Florida and drove out to Forest Grove to meet with John Schrag. We met for a couple of hours and went over all of the numbers and paperwork and all of that. And then I got back into my car and drove around town. I wasn’t two blocks down the street before I realized I was stumbling onto something special. First I saw Theatre in the Grove. And then I saw the Forest Theater. It says a lot about the vitality of a community that it supports a small, local theater and has such an active performing arts base. Main Street is alive and well. That was all I needed to see. I knew this was going to be a great place for my family.

Q. Say a little bit about your family and what you like to do when you’re not working.

A. I have two children: Alex, 24, works in operations at a financial services company, and lives in Florida; my daughter Trinity, 16, is a sophomore and will be moving with me to Forest Grove. We have two dogs and two cats. We love walking the dogs, hiking in the Willamette Valley, unplanned road trips, old monster movies and reading. My mother was a sewing instructor for the Jantzen mill in Vancouver, so I sew and I have four sewing machines. I love thrift stores and junk shops. I am really good at starting home improvement projects that I never finish.

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