Eugene Weekly lays off staff, stops printing over alleged embezzlement

Native newspaper Eugene Weekly has stopped printing, with managers saying Thursday they’d laid off the publications’s 10-member employees within the wake of an alleged embezzlement scheme.

The paper, which publishes weekly and is offered free of charge round city, is halting its print publication indefinitely. First established in 1982, the paper has been a neighborhood staple, persistently publishing 30,000 copies each Thursday.

Managers introduced the hardship early Thursday, publishing an article on-line titled “The place’s the Rattling Paper?”

“We’re heartbroken to need to inform you that this unbiased voice is at risk of falling silent,” learn the assertion on posted to the EW web site.

What occurred to the EW employees?

The complete EW employees was laid off simply days earlier than Christmas. EW managers acknowledged that it was “by the hands of somebody we as soon as trusted,” however there is no such thing as a title or identification but launched.

EW editor Camilla Mortensen mentioned the offender was somebody who handled EW funds, however wouldn’t disclose extra data, citing an ongoing investigation.

“The response was severe anger (and) betrayal,” mentioned Bob Keefer, arts editor for EW of seven years and former longtime employees member on the Register-Guard. “Newspapers, significantly, run on belief. It’s important to belief one another. We do. And we did.”

Keefer repaid the employees first came upon that there have been monetary troubles for the EW on Dec. 14, however mentioned they’d no thought the extent. On Dec. 21, EW found there was no cash to pay its staff, and layoffs shortly adopted.

Keefer mentioned he’s in a distinct state of affairs than most of the EW employees. He had been planning to retire in January to focus extra on his images. However many EW others depend on their jobs as their sole earnings.

“All of us are switching forwards and backwards from unhappiness to hope… it is sort of quite a lot of shifting feelings,” mentioned Mortensen, who has been with EW since 2007 and has been an editor since 2016. “Realizing how a lot folks love the paper is so heartening and we wish to have the ability to inform them, ‘Sure, we’ll be right here,’ and as a substitute we’re preventing to be right here. We are attempting so laborious to be right here.”

Some EW staffers have been nonetheless working regardless of no promise of when or in the event that they may be compensated for his or her efforts. EW continues to be placing out content material on-line in a restricted capability.

“They only maintain exhibiting up,” mentioned Mortensen, who herself was on the EW workplace Thursday. “It is a testomony to what wonderful folks and journalists they’re and a testomony to how a lot the paper means.”

What’s subsequent for the Weekly?

EW is in deep debt, unable to make use of its employees and unable to proceed to print its paper, in keeping with managers. Though the extent of the alleged embezzlement is unknown, EW acknowledged it’s within the “1000’s upon 1000’s” of {dollars}.

Mortensen mentioned EW had been puzzled why funds weren’t enhancing post-pandemic. When EW possession regarded into their tax filings, they found a multitude, revealing a number of economic points that got here “crashing down like a home of playing cards.”

EW has a crew of personal forensic accountants analyzing their books and accounts, and the Eugene Police Division is conducting an investigation.

In the meantime, Keefer and Mortensen each mentioned their greatest precedence is to get a print product out to the neighborhood as quickly as potential. Mortensen mentioned she hopes to get an version printed throughout the subsequent couple of weeks.

First, EW wants funds to repay the tens of 1000’s of {dollars} it owes to its printer, and lift cash to pay its circulation employees and contract drivers. Nevertheless, Mortensen mentioned it solely prices about $2,500 per week to print and flow into their paper. The large price for the paper is salaries, which might be one other problem for the free publication.

The EW has relied completely on print promoting. Till this week, it had lasted via the a number of financial crises, together with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Eugene neighborhood steps up

Keefer mentioned there was an outpouring of neighborhood help, a lightweight in an in any other case darkish tunnel.

Keefer posted to Fb on Thursday morning, explaining the state of affairs and asking for help. The put up had garnered a whole lot of likes, feedback and shares simply three hours after it was posted.

“I knew there could be some response, however actually, it was fairly emotional to me to learn this morning how many individuals actually help the Weekly on this neighborhood,” Keefer mentioned. “That was the primary time I’ve felt good about this entire episode.”

Keefer added that EW has acquired greater than $3,000 in donations already, however they want extra to get the paper again on monitor.

Mortensen mentioned funds and sharing the phrase are appreciated. She additionally requested the neighborhood to assist the paper suppose outdoors the field for artistic options to the predicament.

“The individuals who have been exhibiting up and providing assist and help have been wonderful in simply the final couple of hours,” Mortensen mentioned. “I am overwhelmed.”

To donate to the EW or discover out extra, go to Managers have been additionally establishing a GoFundMe account for the paper.

Miranda Cyr stories on training for The Register-Guard. You’ll be able to contact her at [email protected] or discover her on Twitter @mirandabcyr.

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