A recent study by Pew Research shows that Oregon, in comparison with most other states, has very few news reporters focused on state government.

Two Oregon newspaper companies — the Pamplin Media Group and the EO Media Group, which together own 35 newspapers — are launching a joint venture to improve the level of coverage in Salem. The two companies have combined their resources to create a Salem bureau that will offer timely and in-depth news about state agencies, the governor’s office and the Oregon Legislature.

The Salem bureau will house three full-time reporters. The Oregon Capital InsEOMG Logo colorider bureau will be located at the Capital Press newspaper in Salem. To launch the bureau, the two companies have hired two veteran journalists who are familiar with the state and its politics — Peter Wong and Alan Gustafson, both formerly with the Salem Statesman Journal. They will be joined by Mateusz Perkowski, a veteran reporter at the Capital Press who will provide coverage of water and other natural resource issues.

This new venture comes at a time when coverage of state capitols has declined significantly. The Pew Research study found that the number of newspaper reporters assigned full time to state capitols nationwide had declined 35 percent in the past 11 years. The ranks of capitol reporters are even thinner in Oregon, which, according to Pew, has one of the smallest statehouse reporting contingents when compared with the state’s population. (http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/07/21/how-statehouse-reporting-power-compares-with-a-states-population/)

Pamplin Media GroupThe Oregon Capital Insider bureau brings together two companies with a wide geographic footprint in Oregon. Pamplin Media Group owns 25 twice-weekly, weekly and monthly newspapers covering Portland and its suburbs, as well as communities in the Willamette Valley and Central Oregon. The EO Media Group includes 10 daily, weekly, bi-weekly and monthly publications serving communities in Eastern Oregon and the Oregon Coast. It also owns the Capital Press, which covers agricultural issues in the Northwest, and the Chinook Observer on the southern Washington coast.

Through their printed and online publications, the two companies reach about 1.5 million Oregonians each week — a number equivalent to roughly half of the state’s adult population.

“While statehouse news coverage is diminishing in Oregon and across the nation, our media groups have chosen to invest in increased scrutiny of state government,” said Steve Forrester, president of the EO Media Group.

Mark Garber, president of the newspaper division for Pamplin Media Group, added: “The Pamplin Media Group and EO Media Group are quite different in many respects, including the markets they serve, but they have several strengths in common. Both companies are owned by long-time Oregonians who care very deeply about this state. That’s why they are willing to invest in better coverage of state government even while other news organizations are cutting back. Both companies also have a strong tradition of balanced and responsible journalism. Together, we expect to offer the very best coverage available about issues in Salem that affect all Oregon residents.”

Adam Davis, founder of DHM Research in Portland, says his firm’s research over a period of many years has shown that Oregon residents want and need more information about how state government operates.

“By almost a four to one margin, Oregonians feel more negative than positive about state government compared to two years ago,” Davis said. “Exacerbating the situation is low public awareness of how state government works and how it positively contributes to people’s quality of life.”

Davis hopes the joint venture between the Pamplin Media and EO Media groups will result in better information for the public.

“The Oregon Capital Insider bureau represents an opportunity to start turning the tide of this negativity and low awareness with more coverage of the legislative, administrative, and judicial branches of our state government. This is so important considering Oregon is at a crossroads in so many ways and needs all three sectors of our economy — private, non-profit and public — working together with good information.”

In addition to writing newspaper articles about state government, the reporters in the Salem bureau also will produce a subscription-based electronic newsletter that will keep its readers up to date on the latest trends and activities in state agencies and the Legislature. The newsletter, which will be launched in the late fall, will be available for an annual fee.

“Our new bureau will deliver coverage to our newspaper readers and — in more in-depth and specialized fashion — to a new subscription-based online newsletter,” Forrester explained.

Publications and associated websites in the Pamplin Media Group include: the Portland Tribune, the Beaverton Valley Times, Canby Herald, Central Oregonian in Prineville, Clackamas Review, Estacada News, Forest Grove News-Times, Gresham Outlook, Hillsboro Tribune, King City Regal Courier, Lake Oswego Review, Madras Pioneer, Molalla Pioneer, Newberg Graphic, Nickel Ads of Portland, Oregon City News, Sherwood Gazette, Southwest Community Connection, South County Spotlight in Columbia County, the Bee serving the Sellwood and Eastmoreland areas, Sandy Post, Tigard-Tualatin Times, Woodburn Independent, West Linn Tidings and Wilsonville Spokesman.

Publications and associated websites in the EO Media Group include: The Blue Mountain Eagle of John Day, Cannon Beach Gazette, Capital Press, Chinook Observer on the Washington Coast, Coast River Business Journal, The Daily Astorian, East Oregonian of Pendleton, The Hermiston Herald, Oregon Coast Today, Seaside Signal and Wallowa County Chieftain.