DALLAS — The new owners of the Polk County Itemizer-Observer, Scott and Jeanne Olson, have a long history in community newspapers.
Last week the couple, who live in Creswell, finalized the purchase of the I-O from Eagle Newspapers, completing the first change of ownership for the newspaper in more than five decades.
Scott began his career in community newspapers in 1989 as a sportswriter for The Dalles Weekly Reminder.
A native of Salem, Scott said he was in part inspired by his grandmother, who had been a community correspondent for the Statesman in the 1940s and 1950s.
“I guess I kind of inherited her desire to report on events relevant to the community where she lived,” Scott said. “It wasn’t until I began my first job as a sports reporter for The Dalles Weekly Reminder that I knew that I would like to pursue newspapers as my career, and possibly manage or own my own newspaper someday.”
It didn’t take him long to branch out into management. The next year after starting his career with the Dalles Weekly Reminder, he and Jeanne married and moved to Yakima, Wash. There, he took the post as the managing editor of the Selah Optimist.
In 1996, Olson became editor and publisher of The Montesano Vidette, and purchased the weekly newspaper in 1999. Three years later, the Olsons sold the paper.
Scott and Jeanne purchased the Burns Times-Herald in 2003, and sold it in 2006 after years of splitting time between Burns and their family home in Creswell.
The next year, Scott took the role of advertising director at the Canby Herald and Wilsonville Spokesman newspapers. He was later promoted to general manager of the Spokesman.
In 2008, the Olsons launched a new paper in Springfield, the Springfield Times, after the closure of the Springfield News in 2007 and Springfield Beacon in 2008. The couple started the paper in November of 2008 and owned it until 2016
Following the opening of the Springfield Times, the Olsons began publishing the Fern Ridge Review out of Veneta in early 2010, and later that year launched the Lane County Shopper.
In 2011, the couple brought their hometown paper, The Creswell Chronicle. They sold the paper in 2019.
Scott said he and his family are dedicated to small newspapers because of the role they play for the citizens of the communities the publications serve.
“Community newspapers definitely provide news and information that you cannot get anywhere else. Hyper-local journalism is our niche and I love the aspect of reporting and documenting what is happening in the local communities my newspapers have served,” Scott said. “Over the course of my career, I’ve received many letters from subscribers and readers thanking me for the product my employees helped to produce on a weekly basis. They love our product and it serves a purpose in their lives.”
The Olsons took a one-year hiatus from newspapers when the opportunity arose to purchase the I-O, which has been published for 145 years. Scott said it’s the sense of a small-town newspaper’s purpose that made him want to take ownership.
Scott briefly lived in Polk County, in West Salem, when his father worked at the Polk County Farmer’s Coop, so it feels like something of a homecoming, as well.
“I also love the history, and the I-O definitely has a long, rich history in providing news and information to the people of Polk County,” Scott said.
He said he is honored to take over the paper that was previously owned by a former Oregon governor, Elmo Smith, and his son Denny Smith, who served in Congress.
“The Smith family, under Eagle Newspapers, owned the I-O for over 50 years,” Scott said. “I feel honored to be able to own a newspaper that has been respected by members of the news media, while also being able to carry on a news product that has been supported by generations of readers.”
Former publisher Emily Mentzer, advertising account manager Jeff Mentzer, account manager Eric Flierl and office manager Dawn Ohren left the I-O during the transition of ownership. News staff Jolene Guzman (Dallas, Falls City, Polk County reporter), Audrey Caro (Monmouth, Independence and WOU reporter) and Jennifer Biberston (sports reporter) remain. Account manager Cameron Rowland has stayed with the advertising crew.
The I-O office is now open 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday until further notice. Contact Olson at firstname.lastname@example.org. To see a listing of the I-O’s news and advertising staff and contact information, see the staff directory on page A2.