The yearly member feature in AgLink magazine has covered a whole range of Oregon agricultural producers and suppliers. From ranches to dairies and farms to nurseries, our featured members all have interesting stories to tell about their history, products, mission, as well as the teams and technology that keep them running.
Turns out this year’s featured member, the weekly Capital Press newspaper, is not all that different than our other members. Still, as current editor Joseph Beach is quick to point out, the newspaper is more used to covering stories than being at the center of one.
A member of Oregon Aglink since 1970, the Capital Press has a long history dating back to its foundation in 1928 as a community paper called the Hollywood Press. The paper went statewide in 1932 with a rebranding as the Capital Press. Along with changes in ownership, the paper transitioned to agricultural coverage and classified ads for its primary Willamette Valley audience until it grew to cover its current 23,000 subscribers in a distribution area of nearly 400,000 miles from Canada to Mexico.
With a mission of “Empowering Producers of Food and Fiber,” the Capital Press publishes its two sections of original news coverage and classified ads on a weekly basis for an audience of farmers, ranchers, and the natural resource industries more broadly. Reporters and correspondents throughout the region research and compose the stories, says Beach, “but there are quite a few people behind the scenes who keep it going.”
The advertising department produces the robust classified section and industry ads that help fund the paper and its coverage. In order to create the physical product there is an even larger team of people paginating the materials and getting it ready for print and distribution. The location of the printing has shifted over the years as new technologies developed and it made less sense for every individual newspaper to maintain its own expensive press. After time with the new offset-printing press at the Statesman Journal, the region’s premier agricultural newspaper moved to the East Oregonian and now the Gresham Outlook where it comes off the presses every Thursday to be shipped across the West.
For those with a digital subscription, the content is available on their phones or computers on Thursday morning. Not everyone prefers the electronic version though, and not everyone has access to it. “Technology challenges in the rural west where people don’t always have great connectivity make it a little harder for them to access,” says Beach.
For those subscribers who get the paper copy out of preference or necessity might have a little longer to wait, depending on where they land on the map. “An individual paper might go through three or four post offices before it reaches its destination,” says Beach. The cost has risen as the speed has gone down with less mail volume moving through the post offices. Still, the paper copy is important to many readers. He continues: “our challenge is being able to keep producing the print publication while transitioning more and more to a digital distribution.”
So in a fast-paced world of high-stakes decisions made to keep businesses as profitable as possible, why wouldn’t the Capital Press simply decide to go digital?
It’s all about loyalty, trust, and service.
“Here at the Capital Press, you’ll have people who have been with us for fifty years,” says Beach. “They’ll call and they’ll say ‘First thing is that I love the Capital Press and I’ve been getting it X number of years.’ They’ll also tell you where they’re from, because that’s important to us in the whole scheme. If they have a complaint they’ll tell you what it is, they’ll be completely reasonable about it, and then before they sign off, they’ll say “Gosh I really love the Capital Press, keep up what you’re doing.” That’s not the kind of conversations a lot of newspapers are having with their readers.”
While the duty of journalistic integrity isn’t all that different at the Capital Press than any other newspaper, that relationship with readers is a crucial touchstone. As reporters and editors navigating sensitive issues that affect the farming and ranching audience, says Beach, “the most important thing we want to get into a story is how this story impacts our readers.”
“We’re not an echo chamber, and we know that’s not what our readers want,” says Beach. So whether it’s chlorpyrifos, wolves, labor issues, or water rights, the Capital Press will do its best to get the full context from every perspective. “If consumers have a completely different point of view, we want to make sure our readers understand how that point of view differs and why that is.”
All of that is accomplished by good old-fashioned journalism, says Beach. “We want to be factual, we want to be accurate, we want to be sure we’re not skewing the coverage one way or another.”
“We’re about the only place you can come to figure out what farmers are thinking, and we’re the place where farmers come to figure out what everyone else is thinking too.”
By Allison Cloo