Christian News Northwest turns 25
John Fortmeyer thinks back to just how fast time can fly.
"It's amazing how fast a quarter of a century can go," the publisher of Newberg-based Christian News Northwest newspaper said. "It's an interesting time to be doing newspapering."
Fortmeyer, who started the monthly publication in 1994, said after decades working for more traditional newspapers, he wanted to start something that could apply his Christian faith background with his passion for journalism.
"I worked for a few years at George Fox University as a news writer," he said. "That's the only non-newspaper job I've ever had."
After working at several papers around the Northwest, the Seattle-native said he met a man from Canada who had started his own Christian newspaper. Fortmeyer was in disbelief.
"I had never heard of that concept before," he said.
But as it turns out, more and more Christian and faith-based newspapers were popping around the county in the 1990s. The man Fortmeyer met from Canada asked if any such papers served the greater Portland area. When he learned there weren't any, he asked if Fortmeyer wanted to start one.
"Not knowing any better I said sure," Fortmeyer said.
The free, monthly paper publishes around 28,000 copies and is distributed at nearly 2,000 different locations from Vancouver, Wash., to Eugene, and from the coast to central Oregon. The paper does offer a home delivery service for $25 a year, but most copies are free, as they are distributed at churches, libraries, bookstores, schools, colleges, seminaries and supporting businesses.
Fortmeyer said his newspaper is very much like any newspaper, set up with a general news section, opinions, national and world news, features and other sections.
"Our news focus is very specialized on the evangelical Christian community," he said. "There are many things going on out there, with debates regarding religious freedom."
He said the paper remains event driven, hosting an "extremely extensive events calendar."
The paper does print hard news in its pages as well. For example, the paper published in its July issue a story about a pastor from Happy Valley, convicted four years ago for sexual abuse, getting a new trial.
"It's pretty much the standard newspaper format," Fortmeyer said.
In its quarter-century of existence, the paper – like newspapers everywhere – has seen its ups and downs. When things began, they saw steady growth. But in the past decade, and especially since the recession of 2008, things have gotten harder.
"Anyone in the newspaper business knows the last decade has been particularly challenging," he said, mentioning newspapers – including the Newberg Graphic and other Pamplin newspapers – reducing multiple issues a week down to once a week. "If there's one thing we've experienced these past 10 years it's we've had to be as lean and mean an organization as possible."
Christian Northwest News formerly had office space in downtown Newberg. Now, the paper is run out of Fortmeyer's home.
"We saw steady growth in the first 15 years, but since then we've had to trim back," he said.
Fortmeyer is the only full-time employee, serving as editor and publisher, with his byline appearing throughout. There is a part-time production assistant, Cristie Ross.
"The most dedicated staff we have are the folks who get out and distribute the paper for us," Fortmeyer said.
But despite the challenges – decreasing advertising and fewer readers – Fortmeyer remains committed to the challenge he took up 25 years ago.
"We obviously still believe there is a world for newspapers today," he said. "A kind of personal philosophy of mine is newspapers provide a sense of community identity."
The Internet made the newspaper industry more challenging, he said, but things can get lost on websites. Newspapers, on the other hand, can still stand out and be convenient, especially one like his, serving a particular niche market.
"Time will tell what the future of newspapers is, but we think there's a good future," Fortmeyer said.
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