Grit & Ink

Grit & Ink, An Oregon Family’s Adventures in Newspapering

Beneath the 24/7 national news cycle and argument over “fake news,” there is a layer of journalism that communities absolutely depend upon. Grit and Ink offers a rare look inside the financial struggles and family dynamic that has kept a Pacific Northwest publishing group alive for more than a century.

Chapter Overview

Frontier Town

Frontier Town gets a newspaper

Young Editors

Young editors inspire two budding western towns

Hard Times

Hard times hit Pendleton and Astoria

New Beginning

New beginning, new commitments

Postwar Era

Postwar era demands a different type of grit

Existential challenge

Existential challenge arrives with the Millenium

Free preview

Read the first few pages and listen to the latest author interview about a century of journalism.
  • The newspapers of the Aldrich-Forrester-Bedford-Brown family depict the histories of Oregon towns like Pendleton, Astoria, John Day, Enterprise and Long Beach, Washington
  • Written by noted historian William Willingham, Grit and Ink describes threats presented by the Ku Klux Klan, the Great Astoria Fire of 1923, the Great Depression, the Aryan Nation, the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation, the Digital Revolution, and more.

Book Events

October 18

History night at Fort George Brewery at 7pm.

October 29

Umatilla County Historical Society at 5pm.

October 30

Josephy Center in Joseph at Noon.

November 13

Book release at Oregon Historical Society, Portland at 7pm.

November 15

Beach Books author event, Seaside at Noon.

William Willingham, author of Grit & Ink

Author spotlight

Born in Pendleton, William F. Willingham is a historian and author of several books and scholarly articles. His 2005 history of Long Creek is titled Starting Over: Building Community on the Eastern Oregon Frontier. He has also written widely in the fields of water resources development and architectural history.

William Willingham

Readers say

Buzz Bissinger, author of 'Friday Night Lights'
I find Grit and Ink stirring and moving, the essence of what journalism should be and truly giving voice to the voiceless — establishing the most important thing there is in life, community. As a Northwesterner I feel particularly proud of what they have accomplished.

Buzz Bissinger

Author of ‘Friday Night Lights’

Grit and Ink is small-town family business history at its best. Colorful, candid, and fast-moving, this masterfully written and richly sourced account follows the path of an independent Oregon family newspaper group that has expanded and remained financially viable through more than a century of tumult, adaptation, and fluctuating management styles. This work will delight a wide audience of history-minded Oregonians, students of organization management, newspaper junkies, and all who simply enjoy the fun of a behind-the-scenes story well told.

Richard A. Baker

US Senate Historian Emeritus

Richard A. Baker, Senate Historian Emeritus
Knute Berger, columnist for Crosscut.com, Seattle Magazine’s Editor-at-Large, author of Pugetopolis

In a time of declining newspapers, charges of “fake news” and the targeting of the press as an “enemy of the people,” Grit and Ink is a timely reminder of the crucial importance of community news and the vibrant role of local ownership. More than simply recording a “first draft of history,” the Oregon newspapers written about here forged communities and made history. This story is of one family’s century-long commitment to local journalism. It’s not only a “how to,” but an important “why to.”

Knute Berger

Columnist for Crosscut.com, Seattle Magazine’s Editor-at-Large, author of Pugetopolis
There are few decent family-owned media companies anymore. This is the story of one of the best of them, and shows in telling detail how careful attention to the business side of a media company, coupled with a tradition of high-minded news values over generations, can lead to remarkably good — and sustainable — journalism.

Richard H. Meeker

Co-owner of Willamette Week and author of Newspaperman: S.I. Newhouse and the Business of News
Richard H. Meeker, co-owner of Willamette Week and author of Newspaperman: S.I. Newhouse and the Business of News
J. Mark Garber, Pamplin Media

A good newspaper is inseparable from its surrounding community, and that relationship is what historian William Willingham captures so well in the book Grit and Ink. This remarkably honest account intertwines the stories of a family, a newspaper company and Oregon’s colorful (sometimes admirable, sometimes disturbing) history. The family that owns what is now known as EO Media Group has had an indelible influence on the cities and towns where its newspapers have operated for decades. Willingham chronicles the highs and lows of the company over its 100-year-plus existence and he highlights the most interesting moments in the history of places such as Pendleton, Astoria and John Day. It’s a fascinating read for anyone who cares deeply about those communities, about newspapers or about Oregon.

J. Mark Garber

President and publisher, Pamplin Media Group

For over a century, multiple generations of one remarkable Oregon family have devoted themselves to chronicling and commenting on the day-to-day history of their communities, their state, and their nation.

We are fortunate that historian William F. Willingham now shines a spotlight on that family, and to detailing how their dedication to a free press and to bettering the communities they served has remained steadfast in in an era of constant change. Full of fascinating insights into the inner workings of a family business and to the critical importance of community journalism, “Grit and Ink” tells a story that is very worthy of being told.

Kerry Tymchuk

Executive Director, Oregon Historical Society

Kerry Tymchuk, Executive Director, Oregon Historical Society
Brigit Farley

Willingham aptly titles his story “Grit and Ink,” as he makes clear that running a network of regional newspapers requires plenty of both. This book has broad appeal; journalists, students of history and local newspaper readers will find much to like here.

Brigit Farley

Associate Professor of History, Washington State University, Tri Cities

“Grit and Ink” is the story of a family, the story of a state and the story of an industry. No industry but newspaper publishing could yield as many moments of drama, tragedy and triumph. No state but Oregon could be home to such vividly contrasting cities as Astoria and Pendleton, separated by climate and history but twinned in their pioneer spirit. And no family but the Aldriches and Forresters could have built a newspaper empire based in these cities, leading their communities and rising to statewide prominence. Read this book, and you’ll understand a lot about what makes Oregon Oregon.

Jackman Wilson

Editorial page editor, The Register-Guard

Jackman Wilson
Robert Michael Pyle, author of Wintergreen, Chasing Monarchs, and Magdalena Mountain

Those of us lucky enough to live in certain Northwest communities are gratefully aware that we’ve somehow been spared from today’s dire newspaper extinctions. That “somehow” has a reason behind it: the family-run EOMG, and its remarkable and brilliant history. Grit and Ink tells that story with all the panache and excitement that its title suggests, taking us on a rollicking several-generation journey. Readers will emerge fascinated with how newspapering really works, and even more grateful that it still can, given enough grit, ink, and maybe love.

Robert Michael Pyle

Author of Wintergreen, Chasing Monarchs, and Magdalena Mountain

When a newspaper–and a newspaper company–has been around for over 100 years, it’s worth knowing how and why. And when a family has successfully navigated the difficult terrain of news, business, and community for that long, it’s an important journey. Grit and Ink is the book title, but it is also a literal description of tough travel through hard times, public controversy, and some of the most challenging and beautiful country in the state of Oregon.

Rich Wandschneider

Director, Josephy Library of Western History and Culture – Joseph, Oregon

Rich Wandschneider, Director, Josephy Library of Western History and Culture - Joseph, Oregon
Sherri Noxel, PhD, Director, Austin Family Business Program, College of Business - Oregon State University

Grit and Ink chronicles the extraordinary accomplishments of an enterprising family deeply committed to building Oregon’s communities through local journalism. Although presented as a historical reference Grit and Ink captures timeless elements of successful stewardship of a family enterprise. This detailed account of how a shared and compelling vision, entrepreneurial skill and the willingness to sacrifice built trust among and between generations is a lesson to all in passing on a stronger business to well-prepared successors.

Sherri Noxel

PhD, Director, Austin Family Business Program, College of Business – Oregon State University

Anyone who thinks that the newspaper business was easy back in the day should read ‘Grit and Ink.’ These pioneers overcame the challenges of uncertain business models, technology and distribution to build a chain of locally-owned newspapers that continue to serve the information needs and quality of life in Oregon’s far-flung communities.

Steve Bass

President & CEO, OPB

Steve Bass, President & CEO, OPB
Carol Richards is an adjunct professor of journalism at the George Washington University in Washington D.C.

The author of this slim book manages to recreate a world where newspaper editors shot up Western towns with their words while angry citizens responded with guns. The book recreates the excitement of reporting the first news about gold strikes, jail breaks, and the closing down of opium dens in 19th Century Oregon.

Carol Richards

Carol Richards is an adjunct professor of journalism at the George Washington University in Washington D.C. She has written editorials for USA Today and Newsday and op-eds for the Annapolis Capital.

Grit and Ink is more than just the story of a family’s 100 year ownership of an independent newspaper business. It is the compelling story of a family, the newspaper industry, and the communities of Astoria and Pendleton. It’s a story of challenges, peaks and pitfalls, and of resilience in ever-changing times over a century.

McAndrew Burns

Executive Director, Clatsop County Historical Society

McAndrew Burns, Executive Director, Clatsop County Historical Society
Mark Kirchmeier
At a time when Donald Trump relentlessly attacks independent media, and our country needs independent media to survive more than ever, this Oregon newspaper family is showing how to do it.

Mark Kirchmeier

Author of Packwood: the public and private life — from acclaim to outrage

I found this book fascinating — it covers so much more than a reader would expect. You’ll also find conscientious efforts by the family to make the rural areas they serve vital and economically prosperous. This book is a home run!

Steven H. Corey

Oregon attorney and rancher
Steven H. Corey, Oregon attorney and rancher
W. Stacey Cowles, Publisher, The Spokesman-Review

“Grit and Ink” chronicles a remarkable history of more than 110 years of a news business grown and managed by four generations of shareholders and their employees. It’s a great tribute to their passion for public service, innovation and American democracy—passion shared by every great newspaper man and woman. Early Editor E.B. Aldrich’s creed included “be just in handling the facts” and warnings to be as “kind and generous as possible,” but also to “publish the news fearlessly and impartially.” No truer statement of the daily dilemma that is the newspaper business has been written. Succeeding generations regardless of diverse talents and interests remained true to his principles. On every page it’s apparent that dedication to the mission and the betterment of the communities of East Oregon drives every decision. And transparency and good faith govern relationships both in the business and the families. These families have grit all right. It’s not easy to survive the ups and downs of farm economies, small town politics, family business, competition, technology and now the digitization of retailing and the media. But they also know there’s great joy and pride in persevering at a great cause no matter what.

W. Stacey Cowles

Publisher, The Spokesman-Review

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