EO Media joins Grants Pass Daily Courier in rushing to fill void left by Mail Tribune closure
By Damian Mann for Ashland.news
The news vacuum left by the abrupt closure of the Medford Mail Tribune last week is about to be filled by the parent company of The Bulletin in Bend.
Within two weeks, Oregon-based EO Media Group plans to launch “The Tribune,” which will offer Jackson County residents a print newspaper three times a week, curated from postings on its website.
“We’re hoping to have the website and the paper up and running in the next seven to 10 days,” said Heidi Wright, publisher of The Bulletin and chief operating officer of EO Media Group.
Wright said her company has contemplated a move into the Medford market for a while.
“The decision last Friday really got things going,” she said.
Readers of the Mail Tribune received only two-days notice that the online-only paper was going to cease operations on Friday, Jan. 13.
This came after the print edition of the newspaper, one of the oldest in the state and the first to win a Pulitzer Prize in Oregon, stopped in September 2022.
Wright said EO Media would not have any affiliation with the Mail Tribune, though it hopes to attract former subscribers and advertisers.
In the search for a name for the new newspaper, Wright said she was surprised to find “The Tribune” wasn’t taken in Oregon. The new website, which should be operational in about a week, will be roguevalleytribune.com.
Jackson County residents often refer to the Mail Tribune as the Tribune or just the “Trib.”
In its move into Jackson County, EO Media is looking at a collaboration with Ashland.news to help strengthen the coverage of local news in south county.
In a separate bid to fill the news void, The Daily Courier in Grants Pass is also adding staff to expand into Jackson County and has hired several former Mail Tribune employees.
EO Media plans to hire a 14-member newsroom staff for The Tribune, seven of whom would be reporters. Other advertising and publishing staff will also be hired, bringing total staffing to 32.
Wright said she’s currently looking for office space in Medford and has received bids to print the paper. Currently EO Media has a printing press in Astoria, but she said it’s too far from Medford.
The operational costs to run the newspaper are expected to be $3.5 million a year, she said.
An editor hasn’t been selected yet, but Wright said she hopes to find someone who is familiar with Jackson County.
EO Media has had a history of reviving moribund papers, including rescuing the Bend Bulletin from bankruptcy.
Wright said the company took over the Redmond Bulletin, which had no office or staff.
“We’re putting meat back on the bones of a ghost newspaper,” she said.
The family-owned company has publications throughout Oregon and also operates The Capitol Press, a weekly publication covering the agriculture industry in the northwest.
Medford resident Bob Hunter, former editor of the Mail Tribune, is serving as a consultant for EO Media and trying to line up staff for the new newspaper.
He said it was a shock for local residents to learn that their local newspaper was closing, but he thinks EO Media has the expertise to bring a newspaper to life for the county.
“I think it’s exciting that someone wants to bring a newspaper here, and it’s a company that’s focused on local news,” he said.
A local presence, including a physical office in Medford, is important for the community, he said.
Having an Oregon company set up shop in Jackson County after successfully running other newspapers in the state will appeal to local residents, he said.
“They’ve got the right kind of focus and want to be here for the right kind of reasons,” Hunter said.
Bert Etling, executive editor of Ashland.news, said his news organization has tried to fill a critical part of the civic information infrastructure. Etling was formerly editor of the Ashland Tidings before the owner of the Mail Tribune, Steve Saslow, closed it in 2021. Saslow through Rosebud Media LLC bought the Mail Tribune in 2017 for $15 million.
“The closure of the Mail Tribune left a huge hole in our county’s news space,” Etling said. “I welcome EO Media’s opening of a Medford newsroom.”
He said he’s heartened by the EO’s turnaround of both the Bend and Redmond papers.
“Hopefully they can establish a similar operation in Medford,” Etling said. “They’ve also reached out and let us know they see Ashland.news as potential partners in serving the community’s need for news, not as competitors.”
Reach writer Damian Mann at email@example.com.
Jan.21 update: Heidi Wright’s title corrected.