An Oregon city lost its newspaper this week. Why that’s bad news for all of us.

Let’s talk about Medford, Oregon. I’ll tell you why in a minute.

Maybe some of you have been there — and, really, Medford isn’t all that different than Twin Falls.

It gets plenty hot in the summer months. Agriculture is one of the keys to the local economy. There’s a shopping mall with American Eagle, JCPenney, Kohl’s and several other stores. Lots of chain restaurants — from Applebee’s to Olive Garden to Texas Roadhouse.

There are a few more people. Located about 45 miles from the Pacific Ocean and 30 miles from the state’s border with California, Medford has a population of about 86,000 and the metro area, with about 224,000 residents, is the fourth largest in Oregon, according to the U.S. Census.

I don’t like doing math, but that makes Medford’s metro population comparable to the eight counties that comprise the Magic Valley, which, in the latest census, counted just shy of 204,600 people.

People are also reading…

Here’s one thing we have that Medford doesn’t: A newspaper.

The Mail Tribune, the first Oregon newspaper to win a Pulitzer Prize, way back in 1934, is gone after more than a century of serving as the region’s eyes and ears. After discontinuing its print edition last September and moving fully to a digital format, the Mail Tribune abruptly ceased operations Friday.

“The shuttering of this institution is a real loss for all constituents in Southern Oregon,” CEO and Publisher Steven Saslow wrote in announcing the awful news on the Mail Tribune’s website.

The website was still online Saturday. But, now, it’s only a ghost.

The 12 editors, reporters and photographers listed on the latest online staff directory are out of jobs. They all likely worked long hours to put community service ahead of even their own lives at times — because that’s what it takes.

The true losers are the readers. How will they know what the city council is doing? Where will they go for the high school sports scores? How will they educate themselves about critical issues around the economy, education, elections and more? Where will they express their own opinions in a letter to the editor?

I’ve been honest with you that the Times-News has growing to do, and I’ve said the same while speaking to groups around Twin Falls. I’ll talk about it in Jerome next week and when I go to Ketchum and Hailey next month, too.

You’ve already seen some change, and there’s more on the way:

We have an Editorial Board for the first time since at least 2018, and we’ve already broken the silence

  • .
  • The Opinion page in the print edition has a clean redesign.
  • We’ve introduced multiple weekly sports features for
prep sports
the College of Southern Idaho
horse racing
  • . A weekly feature on Idaho’s Division I universities is coming next.
  • A weekly feature spotlighting local business will launch this month.

We’re also in various planning stages for enterprising news reporting around the Lava Ridge Wind Project, the issues of growth from roads and transportation to education and health care, and homelessness.

The Mail Tribune in Medford, undoubtedly, was having similar conversations in its newsroom. I hurt for the community of readers who won’t get the chance to read their reporting.

Local news matters. The CNNs and Washington Posts of the world aren’t likely to cover your city or town unless the worst happens. The daily beat is the job of newspapers, like the Times-News, which, even while not producing to its full potential in recent years, has done work that nobody else would otherwise do.

I was grateful for the chance to sit with Bill Colley on Friday for an hour on his popular KLIX morning show. We talked about both the challenges and importance of local news and took calls from listeners who offered their feedback and ideas.

The common thread across the hour: Informed communities are better communities.

What happened in Medford is bad for this country. We can’t afford for it to happen anywhere else.

Steve Kiggins is editor of the Times-News. Reach him at Steven.Kiggins@magicvalley.com or 208-735-3255. Follow him on Twitter, @scoopskiggy.

Local news matters. The CNNs and Washington Posts of the world aren’t likely to cover your city or town unless the worst happens. 

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