Back taxes threaten to bury Bend Bulletin owners
Call all seven newspapers owned by Western Communications and you'll hear a slice of personality from each town the company covers: the voices of Geoff at the Redmond Spokesman, Patty at the Baker City Herald, Judi with the Bend Bulletin, Karen from the La Grande Observer, Jessica at the Del Norte Triplicate, Lyn at the Union Democrat, or maybe Jane with the Curry Coastal Pilot.
These papers serve communities where no one else consistently reports the news. Meanwhile, their parent company has been existing on the brink of foreclosure. Western Communications hasn't paid nearly $1 million owed in local property taxes and interest. The company is between three and five years behind on taxes in five different counties across Oregon and California.
"We're not in default with anybody, yet. We talk with the tax office regularly," said Western Communications president John Costa, who also serves as publisher of the Bend Bulletin.
But the company is delinquent. State laws give a three-year grace period in Oregon, and five in California. For years now, the newspaper chain has scraped by using these windows, paying the minimum amount of back taxes it must to stave off foreclosure proceedings, while the interest and current taxes continued to accrue.
Still, Costa remained optimistic.
"We are within the allowable time period to pay those taxes and we fully intend to pay them … We're working our darndest to move over into the new world of digital reporting and editing and digital revenue particularly," he said.
You can read the full story by Oregon Public Broadcast — a media partner of the Portland Tribune — here.
Editor's Note: OPB reporter Emily Cureton worked for a newspaper owned by Western Communications between 2011 and 2015.