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EO Media Group to start newspaper in Medford

<p>The Bend Bulletin building has been on the market since 2017.</p>

Emily Cureton / OPB 

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The Bend Bulletin building has been on the market since 2017.

EO Media Group has 15 publications around the Pacific Northwest, including the Bend Bulletin. The new print and online outlet will be called The Tribune. The Medford Mail Tribune abruptly closed in mid-January.

“This looked like an opportunity from the standpoint of a business opportunity that we can build a sustainable model there and also serve the community with journalism,” said Heidi Wright, COO and publisher of EO Media Group.

According to Wright, they plan to hire a newsroom of 14 people, including seven reporters. While they plan to eventually have a three day per week print edition, the paper will begin online only, according to Bend Bulletin Editor Gerry O’Brien.

“EO Media Group, being an Oregon-based media group, saw this as a prime opportunity to alleviate what they call the news deserts that are happening around the state. That’s why we’re going into this with both feet,” said O’Brien. “I think you’ll see us try to expand into other news deserts, as they say. Small town operations that don’t have a website or reporters.”

The Medford Mail Tribune was the largest newspaper serving the Rogue Valley. Since the closure of the Mail Tribune, another independent newspaper, the Grants Pass Daily Courier, has also said it will expand into Medford. It has hired several former Mail Tribune reporters.

EO Media Group has also been in talks with Ashland-based online news site Ashland.news about sharing content. According to O’Brien, their partnership will allow Ashland.news to be printed once per week.

EO Media Group purchased the Bend Bulletin in 2019 after its parent company Western Communications filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

“The likelihood was that it would be taken over by one of these venture capital-backed organizations that would strip out all the local reporters, start running wire service stories and turn it into the USA Today of Bend,” said Louis Capozzi, a resident of Bend.

Capozzi and four other Bend residents helped raise $1 million for EO Media Group to outbid competitors and purchase the Bulletin. After that, he said, Wright and O’Brien helped turn the paper around.

“They got it financially stable, they got the editorial content to be way better, they had a much more balanced editorial policy and the news side got stronger and more relevant to our community, so it was a terrific win,” Capozzi said.

Capozzi is also a board member of the nonprofit Fund for Oregon Rural Journalism, which he said was started after the Bulletin was purchased to create priorities for how to strengthen struggling rural newspapers across Oregon, including talent development, monetization, and ways to keep publications relevant.

According to Wright, creating a startup news organization in Medford will be funded by their company and through advertising support.

“From what I’ve observed and have communicated with a number of people, I think we will have the support we need to build a sustainable business model,” she said.

Copyright 2023 Jefferson Public Radio. To see more, visit Jefferson Public Radio.

Erik Neumann is a radio producer and writer. A native of the Pacific Northwest, his work has appeared on public radio stations and in magazines along the West Coast. He received his Bachelor's Degree in geography from the University of Washington and a Master's in Journalism from UC Berkeley. Besides working at KUER, he enjoys being outside in just about every way possible.