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Sources say the longtime Hillsboro newspaper will print its last issue one day after its 123rd anniversary.

The Washington County Argus, formerly the Hillsboro Argus, plans to cease publication in late March, sources tell Pamplin Media Group.The Washington County Argus newspaper plans to cease production next month, bringing an end to a newspaper that served Hillsboro for more than 120 years.

The Argus — formerly the Hillsboro Argus — will print its last issue on March 29, multiple sources within the organization have confirmed to The Tribune.

Also ending is The Oregonian's This Week newsmagazine, which will print its last issue March 28, according to sources.

"It's like losing a member of the family," said Walter McKinney Jr., 89, the Argus' former owner and publisher, who ran the newspaper from 1976 until 1999. That year, McKinney sold the Argus to Advance Publications Inc., a New Jersey-based company which also owns The Oregonian newspaper.

An early copy of The Hillsboro Argus, published in 1895.The Argus' last day of production will be one day after the newspaper's 123rd anniversary. The newspaper published its first issue March 28, 1894.

Editors at The Oregonian did not respond to requests for comment by The Tribune's press deadline.

Generations of the McKinney family owned or worked for the newspaper over the last century. McKinney's grandmother, Emma C. McKinney, purchased a half interest in the then-fledgling Hillsboro Argus in 1904. She gained full ownership five years later and served as publisher until her death in 1964.

Walter McKinney's father, W. Verne McKinney, joined the newspaper after fighting in World War I. He served as co-publisher with his mother from 1923 until his death in 1976. McKinney's brother, Richard, was a longtime sports writer. His daughters both worked at the paper, as did his nephew.

In its heyday the Argus was a powerhouse in Washington County, publishing twice a week for 60 years until 2015.

The paper was lauded as the best newspaper in the country twice, the first time in 1940 when it was named the best weekly newspaper for its size by the National Editorial Association and the second time in 1989, when the National Newspaper Association dubbed it the best non-daily newspaper with a circulation of more than 10,000 subscribers.

What made the Argus successful for more than a century was its devotion to community news, McKinney said.

"We were a mirror of the community and we were the history of the community," he said. "We chronicled the births, the deaths, the athletic history. We used to print the names of everyone on the sports teams. We wrote about the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts and ran the honor rolls for the elementary, mid-high and high school."

Longtime Argus employee Virginia Roberts, 83, said the newspaper was woven into the fabric of the Hillsboro and Washington County.

"It carried the news that people were interested in, and readers knew when it was printed that it would be the truth," said Roberts, who worked at the Argus for 62 years before leaving the paper in 2013. "It was something that they relied on and if people didn't get their paper, boy, they let you know … It was a newspaper that everybody loved. It was something people could count on every week."

Schools, parks named after Argus staffers

McKinney said he lost track of the honors bestowed on the paper and the McKinney family over the years.

McKinney Park in downtown Hillsboro is named after Emma McKinney, as is the Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce's Distinguished Citizen award and the National Newspaper Association's award for distinguished service in community journalism by female journalists.

The Hillsboro School District named one of its elementary schools after W. Verne McKinney in 1970 and all three McKinney publishers have been inducted into the Oregon Newspaper Hall of Fame and received Oregon's highest journalism award, the Amos E. Voorhies Award by the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association.

The decision to shut down the Argus is the latest in a series of changes that Advance Publications has made since taking over the newspaper in 1999.

The company merged the Argus' operations with The Oregonian in 2012, laying off staff and closing the newspaper's longtime office on Third Street in downtown Hillsboro in 2014. By 2015, the newspaper had discontinued its Friday edition and the paper had been merged with The Oregonian's other community newspapers, the Beaverton Leader and Forest Grove Leader.

The paper was rebranded the Washington County Argus less than a year ago.

McKinney said he wasn't surprised to hear that the Argus would cease publication, saying that the newspaper he grew up with hadn't felt like the same newspaper for several years.

"I'd watched the paper go downhill almost since the day we sold it," he said. "When it became the Washington County Argus, I knew [this] day was rapidly coming."

McKinney said that his family-owned newspaper reached beyond the McKinney family to the staff, who still regularly get together nearly a decade after the paper changed ownership.

"We considered ourselves a family," he said. "We still do."

Former Argus staffers have regularly held reunions since 2013, with the most recent one occurring last year.

"We've had as many as 65 people get together to talk about the old days," McKinney said.

Nikki DeBuse, publisher of the Hillsboro Tribune, said that her newspaper has a responsibility to the community to carry on the McKinney family's legacy of community journalism.

"The Argus has chronicled life in Washington County for generations and is one of Oregon's oldest and most esteemed community newspapers. It will be sorely missed," DeBuse said in a written statement. "We will do our best to follow in their footsteps and be of service to our community."

By Geoff Pursinger
Associate Editor, Hillsboro Tribune
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