R-G Editor Departs, Leaving Questions

N. Christian Anderson III was listed as the editor and publisher of The Register-Guard on the paper’s masthead Thursday, Dec. 17, but by the next day, his name was gone.

Sources at the R-G tell EW that an email went out on Dec. 17 informing staffers that Anderson is no longer editor and publisher of the paper. Anderson started at the R-G June 1 after leaving The Oregonian, which he had led for the past five years. The O is Oregon’s largest daily paper, and the R-G is the third largest daily in the state by print circulation.

EW emailed Wendy Baker, director of human resources and general counsel at the R-G, to confirm and ask for the reason for the change.

In response, Baker wrote, “I would consider giving you a quote if you would share the source of your information.”

EW does not reveal the identity of sources to whom it has promised confidentiality.

Baker then wrote, “I’m sorry, but our policy is not to discuss personnel matters.”

When Anderson left the Orange County Register in 2009 to head up The Oregonian, the move was covered by The O and other papers. The OC Register had garnered two Pulitzer Prizes under Anderson. However, an article in the LA Times describes Anderson’s 2007 departure from the OC Register and its owner, Freedom Orange County Information, as being “squeezed out” after “major setbacks,” such as tabloid papers that flopped.

When Anderson left The O for the R-G, the move again made headlines. While Anderson was at the Portland-based paper, its editorial board won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing and the media group more than doubled its total audience, according to an article on his departure. The paper had also announced a decision to not write editorials on climate change in 2015, deeming it not a local issue.

However, as of Dec. 22, neither The O nor the R-G had covered Anderson’s departure.

Longtime R-G arts and features reporter Randi Bjornstad, who is also with the Eugene Newspaper Guild, representing the paper’s employees, says she was surprised to receive the email saying Anderson had been let go from The Register-Guard. She was not one of EW’s original sources. Bjornstad says, “I thought he was doing everything the company said it wanted, in terms of digital coverage.”

Although the R-G appears to have stepped up its local coverage — including daily online weather updates — and altered its digital coverage, Anderson didn’t implement some of the more dramatic changes at the locally owned paper that he did at The O, which is owned by Advance Publications. The R-G is owned by the Baker family.

Under Anderson, The O laid off staff, switched from a broadsheet to a tabloid format, went to four-day instead of seven-day home delivery to “reorganize operations” and “emphasize online news.” It also became two organizations, Oregon Media Group (OMG) and Advance Central Services Oregon.

The email to R-G staff from the paper’s chairman Tony Baker, who is the husband of Wendy Baker, said that Tony Baker, who had been editor before Anderson, “will step back in and assume the responsibilities of president of Guard Publishing Company” for the immediate future.

Tony Baker writes, “I will be in the office building for a couple of hours each weekday to consult with department managers and others as needed.” The email says “a search for new media company leadership” will begin in January.

While Anderson was the first non-Baker to be the editor of the R-G, another outsider, David Pero, was the paper’s chief operating officer from 2007 to 2012, overseeing day-to-day operations of the paper, including “direct oversight of the newsroom.” Pero swiftly departed the paper in 2012 after five years, under rumors he had been fired.

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