The Philomath News launched its online operation this morning to reintroduce a local brand of reporting to the community, Publisher and Editor Brad Fuqua announced.
“I’ve been preparing for this Nov. 30 launch date for several weeks with the design of the website and getting the business end of things all organized and it’s exciting to finally share the work with the public,” Fuqua said. “I hope everyone will enjoy what I’ve put together as we get this thing going.”
Those who have followed local news should be familiar with Fuqua, who served as the Philomath Express editor from November 2014 until this past September when Lee Enterprises chose to shut it down.
“I’ve had a lot of great support from folks in the community and was pleased to see a positive response when I announced my plans to establish this news site,” Fuqua said. “I believe the presence of local news is important to a community of any size but especially in smaller towns that in today’s climate do not receive the same level of attention they once did. The legacy newspapers have seen very depressing levels of newsroom cutbacks because of a broken revenue-generating system and many of the larger media companies have been unable to redefine their business models to benefit the end user — readers.”
Fuqua’s pinning his hopes for success on the premise that local readers will accept the digital delivery of their news and that businesses will want to commit a percentage of their marketing and advertising budgets to support local news and reach their targeted audience.
|“I fell in love with Philomath and just this year, my wife and I were able to buy a house here instead of commuting from 40 minutes away. I’ve always felt like a local and that’s how everyone has always treated me but now I can really say it. I think living in the community will help me do an even better job of providing news and sports coverage.”|
|— Brad Fuqua, Philomath News|
“I’m hoping that local businesses will want to sign up and be in my corner as we grow this,” he said. “I see this local news site as a community service and I’d really like to keep it free for all to read — no paywall. But beyond the news reporting, I want to work hard for our local businesses and I have a lot of ideas on how I can accomplish those goals. I want to think of them as community partners — I help them and in return, they help me provide news to our community.”
Fuqua vows that the Philomath News will not be one of those annoying websites with pop-up ads, survey questions to answer or video ads that automatically start playing.
“I want to help our advertisers with visibility but there is a line that I won’t cross,” he said. “I hate those busy websites with all of those windows you have to close and videos that play and distract from the reading experience. Plus, I will never publish click-bait ads or links as a source of revenue.”
Digital advertising, sponsored features and branding strategies are only one method of monetization for the news site. With no paid subscriptions, Fuqua is also hoping to attract voluntary memberships to bring in revenue.
“I’ve come up with three membership levels — each with certain benefits,” he said. “If I can attract a certain number of people willing to support the Philomath News through memberships, then it will be possible to make this venture sustainable.”
A number of newspapers have covered Philomath through the years. In 1879, W.S. Walker, who was the president of Philomath College, published the Philomath Crucible. The longest-running newspaper operation ran from 1904 to 1964 and was known primarily as the Benton County Review, but also was published under other titles, such as the Philomath Hi-Times.
In more recent years, the Benton Bulletin published from 1976 to 1998. The Philomath Express published from 2015 to 2020. Various other publications have appeared through the years.
Fuqua, 54, has been writing for newspapers since age 17 with a career that has included stops in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon. He’s worn every hat in the newsroom from editor and reporter to photographer and page/web designer.
“When I was younger, I had that desire to see how far I could go in this profession,” Fuqua said. “Right out of college, I got caught up in the exciting world of covering college football at a high level in a sports-crazy state. But over the years, I moved around and discovered what type of journalism truly made me happy while at the same time, settling down into family life.”
In the late 1990s, Fuqua took a job as editor of the Grand Canyon News, living and reporting from a remote office located on the South Rim. The experience was a positive one and ultimately changed his career path.
“In smaller communities, you get to know just about everyone,” he said. “You watch their kids play sports, you visit their businesses, you interact with the newsmakers that include everyone from school board members to the operator of the wastewater treatment plant. Plus, you have a presence at most community events. You begin to really care about people, you earn their trust and they begin to care about you, too. You become a part of their lives and they become a part of mine.”
Life circumstances led to jumping around at a few other jobs and then in 2011, Fuqua moved with his family to Oregon to take a position in the sports department at the Corvallis Gazette-Times.
“I had been trying to figure out a way to move to Oregon for most of my life and the G-T opportunity surfaced,” Fuqua said. “I was in the office most of the time handling sports pages and editing stories but it was when I was first introduced to Philomath sports. I believe the first game that I covered involving the Warriors was a girls soccer playoff game that had been staged on Corvallis High’s field.
“But I took a lot of calls from coaches like Blake Ecker, Dave Garvin, Troy Muir, John Williams, Anton Grube and others,” he continued. “I remember Marissa Eng stopping by the office occasionally to report swim results in person.”
In late 2014, then-publisher Jeff Precourt followed through on an idea to establish a weekly newspaper in Philomath. Mike McInally was named general manager and Fuqua transferred from the G-T sports desk to editor of the Philomath Express.
“I was pretty happy to get back to community journalism and begin to cover Philomath’s news and sports,” Fuqua said. “I started in that role in late November 2014, about six weeks before the first edition, and worked on the website design while beginning to cover various events. My first Philomath event that I covered was the Christmas tree-lighting ceremony at the museum.”
But the newspaper folded in September after 5-1/2 years in operation.
“I fell in love with Philomath and just this year, my wife and I were able to buy a house here instead of commuting from 40 minutes away,” he said. “I’ve always felt like a local and that’s how everyone has always treated me but now I can really say it. I think living in the community will help me do an even better job of providing news and sports coverage.”