By Don McIntosh
Eugene’s once-great Register-Guard has seen rapid decline since the newspaper’s longtime local family owners, the Bakers, sold it to GateHouse Media in January 2018 for $14.3 million. Soon after, copy editing, page layout, and ad design were transferred to a centralized operation in Austin, Texas, and local workers were laid off. Reporters—represented by the Eugene Newspaper Guild—have also been let go in waves. In November 2019, GateHouse acquired the Gannett newspaper chain and took the Gannett name. It’s now the largest newspaper publisher in the United States, with 260 daily newspapers in 46 states.
But at the Register-Guard, layoffs continued. Today just seven reporters and one photographer remain, plus six editors and other local staff. Since the sale, as the paper’s quality and size declined, circulation has fallen from over 43,000 to less than 26,000.
Now printing too will be outsourced, and all 49 print shop workers laid off permanently. Starting March 8, the Register-Guard will be printed by the nonunion print department at The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver and trucked two hours south to Eugene. The Register Guard was also printing the Salem Statesman Journal and USA Today.
“This has been in the works for some time, a slow motion tragedy,” says Teamsters Local 206 representative Leonard Stoehr. “For members it’s a pretty dire situation.”
Stoehr said all but a handful of the workers have been at the Register-Guard for 20 to 30 years. They’re entitled to a small severance package under the union contract, and Local 206 is seeking to negotiate funds for retraining.
The closure leaves just two unionized newspaper printing operations in Oregon, at the Grants Pass Courier and the Medford Mail Tribune, both represented by Local 206.