On January 13, 2023, the Medford Mail Tribune ceased operation. Readers received notice at the same time the staff did, Wednesday, January 11, 2023. By Friday, it was over. My hometown paper, the one I once wanted to work for, and did, was gone.
I was not born in Medford, Oregon, but I have spent the better part of my 48 years here. My parents moved to Phoenix when I was 3. The Mail Tribune was like the New York Times for my family. My parents were reared in Southern Oregon, so their ties to the newspaper go back to the 1960s. I came across a paper from the early 1960s with an article about my maternal grandparents.
The Trib has roots in this area that goes back nearly 120 years. That's generations of families who subscribed to the paper.
I still remember my name being in the paper for the first time as a freshman football player. My father was proud that "Steve Bennett" showed up in print. By the time I was midway through high school, I wanted to be a sports writer, and I wanted to be a sports writer for the Trib. When the sports department had an opening for an intern in 1994, I applied and landed the job. I published my first article that year, and seeing my byline was surreal. I was sharing space with reporters Don Hunt, Tim Trower, and Randy Hammericksen, who I admired growing up. After sowing some oats in smaller newsrooms for two years after graduating from Southern Oregon University. I saw an opening for a page designer at the MT.
This was the summer of 2000. My dream job. Randy Hammericksen's untimely death created an opening in the sports department. Randy gave me my initial shot when he hired me as an intern. Now, sports editor Tim Trower was looking for a desk person. I applied and, within two weeks, was hired. For five years, I contributed to the paper I grew up with. I designed the sports section. I was on the staff full-time. But sometimes, the reality of a dream is not what it seems. Five years into my role, I wanted out. I was burned and disgruntled. I loved my co-workers, but I did not love the job.
Following the paper from afar, I saw changes happening that was not positive. I watched the sports department shrink from 10 to under 5. I learned there were just 2 when it was published for the last time. I would tell former co-workers that the paper would not make it another 10 years and was scoffed at. So here we are, 19 days into 2023, and the Mail Tribune is done. Over. The bread an butter for the MT was always local sports, and honestly, no one in the state did it better. We were the pinnacle. We treated local high school athletes like giants, probably more than they deserved. But kids, parents, and fans all loved it and appreciated it. They don't have that now and it's sad. Medford has a population of 80,000. The Trib was the largest newspaper in the region, and it served most of Southern Oregon. As a longtime reader and former employee, it makes me sad.
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