The Eugene Weekly Halts Publication After Worker’s Embezzlement

A weekly newspaper in Oregon abruptly stopped publishing and laid off all of its staff after an worker embezzled tens of 1000’s of {dollars} and left months of payments unpaid, its editor mentioned.

The newspaper, The Eugene Weekly, introduced on Thursday that it could cease printing after it found monetary issues, together with cash not being paid into worker retirement accounts and $70,000 of unpaid payments to the newspaper’s printer, Camilla Mortensen, the newspaper’s editor, mentioned on Sunday.

Your entire 10-person newspaper workers was laid off three days earlier than Christmas, although some staff, together with Ms. Mortensen, have been nonetheless volunteering to publish articles on-line.

The Eugene Weekly, a free newspaper, was based in 1982 and every week prints 30,000 copies, which could be present in brilliant pink packing containers in and round Eugene, one of the crucial populous cities in Oregon.

Current articles described a New 12 months’s Day hike led by guides at a state park, the efforts of a close-by unincorporated neighborhood, Blue River, to get well from a 2020 wildfire, and a memorial to individuals who had died homeless in 2023.

Leaders of The Eugene Weekly mentioned in a letter to readers that the newspaper’s funds had been left in “shambles,” however they deliberate to struggle to maintain the publication alive.

“The injury is greater than most small companies can bear,” the letter mentioned. “The dimensions of this second is in contrast to something we’ve ever confronted. However we consider on this newspaper’s mission and we stay decided to maintain EW alive.”

Melinda McLaughlin, a spokeswoman for the Eugene Police Division, mentioned that the police have been investigating however couldn’t present extra particulars whereas the inquiry was underway. The now-former worker accused of the embezzlement, who was concerned within the newspaper’s funds, was not publicly recognized.

Ms. Mortensen, who joined the paper in 2007 and have become editor in 2016, mentioned that fees had been filed towards the particular person accused of embezzlement, who had labored there for at the very least 5 years.

The worker was out of the workplace earlier this month when questions arose about closing the monetary data for the 12 months and out of the blue a bunch of issues have been made obvious, Ms. Mortensen mentioned.

“Each time I discover one thing out, I simply get sick to my abdomen,” she mentioned. “And once more, that is somebody we labored with who got here to the workplace daily.”

These issues have been found because the newspaper tried to get well from monetary losses it had earlier in the Covid-19 pandemic, when companies, equivalent to native eating places and occasion organizers, had stopped shopping for advertisements, Ms. Mortensen mentioned.

Lately, as native newspapers have quickly shuttered and drastically decreased workers, The Eugene Weekly had taken steps to curb prices by reducing what number of pages it printed.

Virtually 2,900 newspapers have shut down since 2005, based on a 2023 report by Northwestern College’s Medill Faculty of Journalism, Media, Built-in Advertising and marketing Communications. All however about 100 of the shuttered newspapers have been weeklies. Most communities that lose a newspaper don’t get a substitute.

Earlier than the pandemic, The Eugene Weekly had finished effectively financially, Ms. Mortensen mentioned.

The house owners, Anita Johnson, who Ms. Mortensen mentioned is 94 years outdated and visited the workplace twice every week, and Georga Taylor, have by no means taken the newspaper’s income and all the time put the cash again into the enterprise to pay for bills, equivalent to employee bonuses and new gear. In addition they lined the prices for the final print version of the paper, which got here out on Dec. 21.

Ms. Johnson and her husband, Artwork Johnson, and Ms. Taylor’s husband, Fred Taylor, bought the paper within the Nineteen Nineties. Ms. Johnson had been a reporter at The Washington Publish and Mr. Taylor, who died in 2015, was a former govt editor of The Wall Road Journal.

Ms. Mortensen mentioned that whereas newspapers have centered a variety of consideration on their digital product, in Eugene and the agricultural cities that encompass it, “the print paper continues to be one thing that individuals actually worth.”

The Eugene Weekly is accepting donations to assist it publish once more and created a web-based fund-raiser that had collected greater than $35,000 as of Sunday morning.

Ms. Mortensen mentioned that individuals had additionally stopped by the workplace to make donations. An area bookseller who got here by cried as she described how she had advised guests at her store what occurred to the paper once they requested about getting a replica.

Assist has additionally come from surprising locations, equivalent to retired journalists from The Register-Guard, the town’s day by day newspaper, who volunteered enhancing assist.

Ms. Mortensen mentioned that the assist had given her hope that the newspaper would possibly have the ability to print once more.

“I can consider $150,000 that we have to get to be a viable paper once more,” Ms. Mortensen mentioned. “And I’m a few of the cash and going, ‘Oh my God, can we do that?’”


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