Home Business Oregon Newspaper to Resume Printing After Embezzlement Forced Layoffs

Oregon Newspaper to Resume Printing After Embezzlement Forced Layoffs

Oregon Newspaper to Resume Printing After Embezzlement Forced Layoffs

A weekly newspaper in Oregon that laid off all of its workers in December after an employee embezzled tens of thousands of dollars will resume its print edition on Feb. 8 after raising enough money through donations, its editor said on Sunday.

The newspaper, The Eugene Weekly, abruptly stopped printing after it discovered financial problems, including money not being paid into employee retirement accounts and $70,000 in unpaid bills to the newspaper’s printer, leading it to lay off all 10 of its staff members just days before Christmas, its editor, Camilla Mortensen, said at the time.

Over the past month, however, Ms. Mortensen has continued publishing articles online with the help of interns, freelancers and retired reporters and editors — many of whom were willing to work without pay to keep the paper afloat — she said on Sunday.

As of this week, Ms. Mortensen and three other staff members will be brought back onto the payroll in preparation for the Feb. 8 edition, she said, noting that the return to print was made possible by readers and members of the public who raised at least $150,000 after the financial problems were reported.

“With all this support from people, there’s just no way we can’t try — we have to try printing,” Ms. Mortensen said.

The theft, leaders of the newspaper said in a Dec. 28 letter to readers, had been hidden for years and left its finances “in shambles.” The paper has hired a forensic accountant to investigate.

Leaders of the paper said that while the situation was unprecedented, they believed in the newspaper’s mission, and were “determined to keep EW alive.”

The Eugene Police Department could not be immediately reached on Sunday evening for comment about the embezzlement but said previously that it was investigating. The now-former employee accused of stealing, who was involved in the newspaper’s finances, has not been publicly identified.

The free paper, founded in 1982, previously printed 30,000 copies each week. Copies could be found in bright red boxes in and around Eugene, Oregon’s third-largest city.

Ms. Mortensen, who became editor in 2016 after nearly a decade at the paper, said Sunday that the closure had been painful.

“Every time I walk by one of our little red boxes, there’s no paper in it, it stabs me in the heart,” she said, noting that the plan was to print 5,000 fewer copies so that the paper could remain sustainable.

“Obviously, this outpouring has been amazing,” she said, “but we also want to go back to being this free weekly paper that pays for itself.”

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