PENDLETON — The kind of grit that was essential to survival in the early twentieth century — the era of Jackson, Aldrich and Chessman — gave way to a new grit that was needed to survive in the postwar era. The dominant names of this period included J.W. Forrester, Eleanor Forrester and Amy Aldrich Bedford. As the century ended, their children — the third generation of family ownership — would rise, and the fourth generation would make its initial appearance.
The deaths of Merle Chessman in 1947 and E.B. Aldrich in 1950 announced the generational change that mark the postwar era for the East Oregonian Publishing Company. Aldrich was succeeded by his son-in-law, J.W. Forrester, Jr. His daughter, Eleanor, would run the newspaper’s business operation. And daughter, Amy Aldrich Bedford, would run commercial printing. In Astoria, Merle’s son, Robert, became publisher of the Astorian-Budget.
The larger transition, which ensued in the 1950s, was the Aldrich family’s purchase of the Chessman family’s stock in the publishing enterprise.
For the first time, the editor of the EO was not a Democrat. Forrester declared himself an Independent with a liberal, internationalist slant. As Forrester put it in his first editorial, “Your editor is a registered Independent. His editorial viewpoint is independent. Political candidates will be judged by their educational backgrounds, intellectual integrities and beliefs on the important issues of the day.”
Forrester moved the East Oregonian’s technoloy into a new era by installing the first photo-offset printing press west of the Mississippi. The newspaper also moved away from Pendleton’s Main Street, to a new building on the Umatilla River.
To reverse the financial decline at the Astorian-Budget, the family hired a veteran newspaper publisher out of Alaska. Morgan Coe’s major accomplishment was to assemble property for a new building that would house a photo-offset press.
In 1968, Mike Forrester became editor of what was now called The Daily Astorian. He was the first member of the third generation in the family business. In 1973, the two Forresters would exchange jobs — with Mike coming to Pendleton and his father coming to Astoria.
During the 1970s, the company’s ownerships would move beyond Pendleton and Astoria. The main newspaper properties the family eyed included the Chinook Observer in Long Beach, Washington, the Capital Press in Salem and the Hermiston Herald in Hermiston. The first acquisition opportunity, though, came in 1978 when the Moreau family, owners of the Blue Mountain Eagle in John Day indicated a desire to sell.
In 1988, two more members of the third generation would enter management. Steve Forrester would succeed his father as editor of The Daily Astorian. Amy Bedford’s daughter, Jacqueline Brown, would become the corporate human resources director.
In 1999, the company acquired the Wallowa County Chieftain, based in Enterprise.
In the spring of 2000, the company launched an effort to make better use of the internet in disseminating the news. The company named Laura Sellers-Earl as corporate internet news editor. Sellers-Earl had been the Daily Astorian’s first female managing editor.
The death of J.W. Forrester in 2000, followed by the deaths of Amy Bedford and Eleanor Forrester marked the second major transition. The fourth generation of the family entered the company when Kathryn Brown joined the board of directors in 1997.
During the first decades of the new century, the company underwent major management changes, dealt with the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, absorbed new acquisitions, financed major press and building upgrades, weathered declining print circulation and advertising, tried to figure out how best to use the internet, and managed succession to the next generation.
All of this happened within the context of communities along Oregon’s northwest coast and eastern region that struggled to find secure footing as their natural resource-based economies contracted. The timber industry of Wallowa and Grant counties declined because of environmental and supply pressures, while the communities of northwest Oregon and southwest Washington grew evermore dependent on seasonal tourism and retirees. Agriculture provided a solid base for Umatilla County, but it was not an economic growth activity, except for food processing in the county’s west end.