The New Era sold to Scott and Miriam Swanson

Alex and Debra Paul announce the sale of The New Era Publishing Company, Inc., to Scott and Miriam Swanson, formerly of La Mirada, Calif.

The new owners took over operation of the award-winning newspaper; EXTRA, the total market coverage shopper?s guide; and, the community?s news and advertising Web site, effective April 1.

The sale occurred exactly 20 years to the day after the Pauls purchased the newspaper from Dave and Sonia Cooper. Jeff Potts of JP Media Partners, Gold River, Calif., handled the business transaction.

?If we had written an advertisement seeking a family to which we could entrust Sweet Home?s community newspaper, we could not have found better guardians,? said Alex Paul of the Swansons. ?First and foremost, the sale means The New Era will remain an independent voice for the community, extremely rare considering the growth of media groups in the last 25 years.?

The Swansons have already moved to the community and are anxious to publish their first issue. In fact, they attended the Chamber of Commerce awards banquet held in February as a way of getting to know the community. Although new residents, they have a circle of friends here, at Elm Street Baptist church, which has developed over several years. They have wanted to return to Oregon for a number of years, especially to the Sweet Home area.

Scott Swanson brings an extensive and impressive newspaper background to his new role as publisher. Reared in Oregon and in Japan, in a missionary family, Swanson is fluent in conversational Japanese. His parents live in Grants Pass.

He earned a bachelor?s degree in journalism from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 1984 and a master?s degree, also in journalism, from the University of Oregon in 1990.

Swanson taught journalism at Biola University, in La Mirada, from 1992-2003, both as an adjunct and full-time professor.

His newspaper career is varied, starting 25 years ago as a sportswriter at the Grants Pass Daily Courier. Since then he has held positions at the Five Cities Times-Press-Recorder community newspaper in Arroyo Grande, Calif., and the San Gabriel Valley Newspaper Group, east of Los Angeles.

Most recently, Swanson managed the editorial operations for 14 weekly community newspapers with a total circulation of approximately 175,000. He has also edited the editorial pages of three metro daily morning newspapers with a circulation of more than 100,000 and has worked the news desk in the metro, business and wire departments.

In addition to his newspaper duties, Swanson has worked as a free-lance book editor and as a free-lance writer for Christianity Today magazine.

?His life is newspapers,? said his wife, Miriam.

The family includes three daughters: Carissa, 12, Kimber, 10, and Sierra, 6. All three have been active in sports and enjoy a wide range of musical and theatrical activities, church and the outdoors. They are attending Oak Heights Elementary School.

Miriam Swanson was raised in Lompoc, a farming town on the Central Coast of California. She and Scott were married in 1989.

She has been a homemaker since their children were born, after working in a series of fields including real estate, banking, and for a chamber of commerce. She recently ?retired? after teaching aerobics for over 22 years.

The Swansons said the idea of moving to Sweet Home and purchasing The New Era came to them several years ago.

?I actually saw Alex Paul in a store in Sweet Home while we were visiting the area a few years ago and thought about asking him if The New Era might be for sale,? Scott Swanson said of his interest in the newspaper. ?When we learned it was for sale last fall, we were immediately interested and excited. We knew this was where we wanted to be.?

Swanson said he has always loved Oregon, but reluctantly went south to find work.

?I?ve considered myself a displaced Oregonian for years, and now I?m very happy to be back,? he said. ?Being able to take over a newspaper like this one, in a community like Sweet Home, makes it all the more exciting.?

He said he and his wife expect to see The New Era continue to grow as an institution in Sweet Home.

?I have been in some communities that lacked a strong local press presence and it was detrimental to those cities and their residents in a number of ways,? he said. ?As local owners, when we publish an excellent newspaper, we do so for our neighbors and friends. We?re not absentee owners whose newspaper serves a bunch of faceless people thousands of miles away.?

Swanson said their goals for The New Era are simply to continue to improve the service the newspaper offers to the community.

?I believe strongly that a local newspaper is an extremely vital part of the community,? he said. ?A good paper provides its readers with vital information about politics, government, sports, human interest stories, as well as crime and other bad things that happen. It provides food for thought and a public forum in which readers can express their own opinions on important issues.

?That?s what we expect The New Era to continue to be for the community of Sweet Home?that kind of definitive news source.?

For the Pauls, the sale is a culmination of a life plan set in place more than 30 years ago.

?As a teenager I set a goal of owning a newspaper by the time I was 30 years old,? Alex Paul explained. ?I also set a goal that at age 50, I would make a life change. I turned 50 in December. We bought the paper April 1, 1985 and we turn it over to the Swansons on April 1, 2005.?

It?s time for the community to have a new voice, for a publisher to see the community through a new set of eyes and skill sets, he said. There are thousands of stories yet to be told as the community sits on the verge of what could be major change in coming years. The Swansons will tell those stories and champion the community well, he added.

?We set the goal of providing the community with a newspaper in which we and our readers could take pride,? Alex Paul said. ?We believe we met that goal. We?ve always invested back into the paper and the community. We?ve devoted hundreds, perhaps thousands of hours to community betterment and we?ve been richly rewarded by the relationships we?ve had.?

Now, Paul said, it?s time for new challenges, although he admits, he?s not sure what they might be.

?Anyone who knows my wife knows she has a long list of projects for us around Oak View Ranch,? Paul said. ?We want to take a couple trips. I want to work with Mercy Ships and Catholic Charities and I?d also like to get back into teaching journalism on the college level, something I did before moving to Oregon. We would also like to live in a foreign country for a short time, but not permanently.?

After that, Paul said, it will be time to re-enter the newspaper world, probably doing what he enjoys most about the business, being a reporter/photographer.

?We?ve always tried to stay abreast of the newspaper business and that includes technology. We were the second or third weekly newspaper in Oregon to jump into desktop publishing with Apple Macintosh computers in 1986,? Paul said of The New Era. ?But that also means much of my time has been spent doing everything except writing, the very reason I went into the news game.?

Under the Pauls? ownership, The New Era has evolved from the days of Compugraphic typesetting machines to being completely computerized producing digital pagination and full color photographs in every issue.

The newspaper has twice been named among the best overall weeklies in the state by the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association and has earned more than five dozen awards for news and photography as well as two national awards.

In the last two years alone, The New Era was recognized by the Oregon High School Coaches Association for its coverage of all sports programs and by the Oregon School Activities Association for its coverage of high school wrestling.

The Pauls have been committed to the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association, with Alex Paul culminating almost 10 years on the ONPA board by serving as president in 1999-2000.

Both Alex and Debbie Paul have earned the President?s Award for exemplary service to ONPA programs. The newspaper has also earned the ONPA Community Service Award.

The Pauls have each been named Junior First Citizens and First Citizens by the Sweet Home Chamber of Commerce and The New Era was business of the year in 1996. Alex Paul is a past Chamber president and Debbie Paul is a past officer and board member of the Sweet Home Economic Development Group, Inc.

?Owning and publishing The New Era has been a dream come true for our family,? Paul said. ?Our three children all benefited from growing up and working here, as will the Swanson children. They met so many wonderful people and they learned about the values of hard work, civic pride and duty to their community. The things they learned at The New Era are now serving them very well in their professional careers.

?We are excited to see the Swansons put their mark on the newspaper and the community in the coming years and to enjoy living in Sweet Home as much as we have.?

The Pauls will assist the Swansons for a few weeks during a transition period.

Alex Paul said the sale of the newspaper is based on an old saying, ?You can?t get where you?re going until you leave where you are.?

?That?s how we feel about this giant leap,? Paul said. ?Sure, we?re sad about leaving ?our baby?. We?ve put in untold hours meeting that Tuesday deadline 1,040 times or so. There were many weeks in the early years when Debbie and I would arrive at work Monday morning and not return home until late Tuesday night. Our kids often slept at the office in a family room we built there. We were as devoted as we possibly could be to both the newspaper and to our community. But it?s time to move on and watch others move the paper and the community forward.?

Debbie Paul plans to continue her role as vice president of the Samaritan Lebanon Community Hospital Foundation and Hospital boards. Alex Paul plans to continue as president of the Linn-Benton Community College Foundation board.

?Many times, when a newspaper is sold, I?ve read that the new owners don?t plan any major changes,? Paul said. ?We hope the Swansons make many positive and exciting changes in The New Era. We hope they take it to the next level as an outstanding community newspaper with better stories, tighter editing, and lively photos as they develop an even stronger position as the community?s main source of credible local reporting and advertising. We will do all we can to support their efforts.?

The Pauls leave the newspaper as the second longest continuous owners in its 76-year history, second only to the Bill Dudley and A.E. Macoubrie period of 1946-1970.

The New Era celebrated its 75th anniversary last September. Scott and Miriam Swanson could well guide it to its centennial in 2029, Paul said.