By Erin Merz, M.A., APR
Member and volunteer since 2013
Less than 48 hours in Portland was enough time for Mark Katches to know that this is where he wanted to fulfill his lifelong dream of running a regional newsroom. Since taking the helm as editor of The Oregonian in July, Katches has made strides toward transforming the 164-year-old institution into a more relevant, consumer-friendly news source.
Reflecting on an exercise with his new team, Katches said, “We asked ourselves, what do people do with their time? They work, shop, pay bills, seek entertainment, enjoy the outdoors and spend time with their family.”
These topics had fallen by the wayside and he knew it was time for change.
“It was time to remap the newsroom and inject more personality into the coverage,” said Katches.
He created new beats, including consumer health, shopping and agriculture. Readers will see more lifestyle columnists and coverage from a second environmental reporter. After working remotely, Les Zaitz is coming back to the newsroom to strengthen investigative reporting. Reporters are poised to tell more data-driven stories, underscored by the people affected by that data.
Katches believes that there’s tremendous power in local journalism, for which he earned two of his Pulitzer Prizes.
“Reporters will be more immersed in local communities and tell the stories of the people who live there—ordinary people doing extraordinary things,” Katches added.
He promises more uplifting stories that make readers feel good, and the new beats lend themselves to that vision. And, he said that readers will never see a wire story on the cover.
While The Oregonian’s circulation numbers have dropped, OregonLive.com is the state’s most trafficked website, garnering over 40 million page views per month and experiencing 30 percent year-over-year visitation growth.
“I spend most my days in the newsroom working with journalists to identify new opportunities, asking what can be done better, what can be done more and what can be done differently.”
And he’s taken quickly to the Oregonian lifestyle—he put away his umbrella on his rainy walk to the event and brought Portland’s signature pink boxes filled with Voodoo Donuts for everyone.
It’s an exciting time for The Oregonian and we look forward to what’s to come.