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Ted’s Great Adventure

Final observations from a longtime editor-in-chief

This issue begins a new era in Eugene Weekly newsroom management as I turn over the editor’s desk to my able colleague Camilla Mortensen. It should be a smooth transition. Camilla has been on staff since March 2007 and knows the community and region well. She has been invaluable as reporter, news editor and associate editor while writing award-winning investigative stories that have made EW one of the leading environmental voices in the Northwest. She has unique qualifications — a Ph.D. in comparative literature and folklore, an inquiring mind, strength of character, organizational chops, a sharp sense of humor — qualities that will help carry this paper on to the next level.

I arrived at EW in 1998 after 15 years of editing daily and weekly newspapers around Oregon. My wife Julia and I were living and working in the Ashland area and needing to move closer to my aging parents in Yachats. The Weekly was looking for a new editor. I’m an old Duck (1967) and my brother and his wife live in Eugene so it seemed like a good fit. The EW owners took a chance on me and I’m grateful. I’ve been engaged in a nearly 18-year conversation with our community, shedding light on the evolving issues that affect our lives. Quite an adventure!

The conventional newspapers I once edited have all shriveled. But EW since 1998 has gone from printing 30,000 papers a week to 42,500. Revenues have also grown at a similar rate. Our unusual success is due to a collaborative effort by the owners and staff to hire, train and support the most dynamic people we can find in writing, editing, design, photography, website development, sales, financial management, distribution and customer service. The talent pool in this valley is stunning. People who have joined us have, in turn, taught us a lot. Our internship program has expanded our diversity and given dozens of young writers and photographers a big step up in their career paths.

We appreciate The Register-Guard and other local media, but so much content and readership has been lost over the years, and much of the remaining content, with some exceptions, seems superficial and predictable. Our mission has been to fill in the gaps, go deeper on the issues and provide a much-needed progressive voice — and make it all available for free!

Not everything we print is award-worthy, of course. We suffer from the usual human failings. But year after year we have published courageous, relevant, insightful and sometimes outrageous content (such as last week’s satire issue), information that our readers can’t find anywhere else. And our content has been enriched immeasurably by thousands of letters to the editor, commentaries and personal conversations with our readers. 

We admit our biases and that is rare in journalism today. It’s OK to advocate for environmental sanity, visionary urban planning, transparency in government, public engagement, more funding for education, better policing, unfettered artistic expression, housing the homeless and seeking justice for the oppressed. And it’s OK to poke and ridicule the absurdities and hypocrisies that surround us.

I will miss a lot in addition to being surrounded by remarkable people at work and in the community. I will miss knowing about how our content comes to be. Everything you see or read in the Weekly goes through a fascinating process from conception to print. Every photo has a hidden context, every news story or feature has a story behind it. Even the Weekly’s ads and red box locations have back-stories. Sometimes the elements of our paper come together smoothly, other times awkwardly or painfully, and occasionally this work has been downright hilarious.

As the late Molly Ivins once said, Keep fighting for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don’t you forget to have fun doin’ it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be courageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce.