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Layoffs at Gazette-Times and Democrat-Herald

Friday was bloody for some smaller papers in Oregon last week.

EW hears through the grapevine that Lee Enterprises, owner of the Corvallis Gazette-Times and Albany Democrat-Herald cut City Editor Theresa Novak and Arts Editor Sarah Payne from staff at the Gazette-Times May 29.

Also laid off were Albany Democrat-Herald's sports editor Les Gehrett and two staffers at the Lebanon Express, according to a tip EW recieved. 

Lee also owns Coos Bay's The World, where it recently hired a new publisher.

Earlier in May, Lee reported lower ad revenue but higher digital and subscription revenue. Website Motley Fool reported in 2014 that Lee "has been in downsizing mode since its bankruptcy filing in late 2011."

Lee owns a number of small papers across the country and is located in 50 markets in 22 states, according to a May 7 investor briefing.

In 2012 Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway bought $85 million of loans from Goldman Sachs and 4 percent stake in the company, according to the Wall Street Journal. That gave hope to many that investors would start supporting newspapers.

EW was hearing speculation that Lee plans to merge the G-T and D-H but Jeff Precourt, publisher of the Mid-Valley Media Group, which includes the Democrat-Herald and Gazette-Times, tells us that the D-H and G-T "have been owned by the same parent company, Lee Enterprises, for years. The papers have not merged during that time and there are no plans to do so." He continues, "Regardles of any staffing changes, we remain committed to serving our readers in the Mid-Valley."

So, what's going to happen to Oregon's much-needed daily papers? The R-G's weekend apologia from Tony Baker that kicked off with "When did change become a dirty word?" doesn't fill us with confidence as the paper brings N. Christian Anderson in from The Oregonian, but the need for daily local news isn't going away.

Towns need newsgatherers and watchdogs. Support your local papers.