New owner takes helm at The New Era/Lebanon Local

Longtime resident Chris Chapman takes over operation of newspaper

The New Era has a new owner.

Scott and Miriam Swanson, co-owners and co-publishers, announced this week that local resident Chris Chapman, a former employee of the newspaper, took ownership July 1 of the company, which has produced Sweet Home’s local newspaper since April 2005 and also publishes the Lebanon Local monthly and a variety of visitors guides, business directories and entertainment programs, along with three websites.

“It’s a sad day for us, because we’re going to miss being intimately involved in The New Era,” said Scott Swanson, who has operated and published the paper for more than 18 years with Miriam, his wife. “But we’re happy to pass it on to someone who shares our vision for independent, fair, local news coverage. That’s what our readers are getting with Chris Chapman, and that’s why we’re doing it now.”

Chapman, 38, is the ninth owner of The New Era, which was founded in 1929 by a local physician, Dr. G.H. Crusen, who decided the town needed a newspaper.

Chapman was preceded by the Swansons (2005-23); Alex and Debbie Paul (1985-2005); Dave and Bridget Cooper (1972-85); Springfield-based partners John Nelson, Jack Nelson and Connie Johnson (1970-72); William “Bill” Dudley and A.E. “Mac” Macoubrie (1946-1970), John Russell (1931-1946) – with a brief interlude in 1939 when it was owned by Dave MacMillian, then returned to Russell; and Dr. Crusen.

Chapman has lived in Sweet Home since 2005, after arriving from Downey, Calif., where he had worked as a designer for the Downey Patriot, a free weekly community newspaper, which eventually expanded into other communities in the Los Angeles suburbs.

“I worked on the newspaper and yearbook in high school, but the Downey Patriot is where it all came together,” he recalled “That was my foot in the door.”

He arrived at The New Era office, handed a resume to the new owners and, as he said, “the rest is history.”

Chapman actually worked for The New Era twice, interspersed with a non-newspaper job with a rental company, a stint at Xtreme Grafx in Albany, and two years at the Albany Democrat-Herald, where he worked in the advertising and circulation departments, and as a systems administrator and safety manager.

“I’m probably the only designer in the world that has a Society of Professional Journalists Award,” he said, jokingly, noting that he was one of a team of Corvallis Gazette-Times reporters who won an SPJ Excellence in Journalism Award for their work on a 2016 investigative story about potentially hazardous residual radiation produced by ATI, which had been stored until 2011 at Wah Chang. Chapman noted that the effort to get the story resulted in the arrest of a G-T photographer.

He then worked as a designer and social media manager for local Realtor Sherri Gregory of the Gregory Home Team from the beginning of 2018 to the end of 2022.

Along the way he operated his own independent design and consulting business, doing work for the Rio Theatre, the Sweet Home Chamber of Commerce, and others.

Chapman was named the chamber’s 2020 Junior First Citizen, recognized for his efforts as a member of the Sweet Home Police Department Volunteer Group, the ArtShow Committee for SHOCASE, and as a board member of the East Linn Treasure Seekers.

EIGHTEEN YEARS APART: At left, Scott and Miriam Swanson purchase The New Era in April of 2005 from Alex and Debbie Paul. In front, from left are: oldest daughter Carissa, then a sixth-grader; Debbie Paul; youngest daughter Sierra, then in first grade; middle daughter Kimber, then a fifth-grader; and Miriam Swanson. In rear are Alex Paul, left, and Scott Swanson. In the righthand photo, taken last week, are from left, Carissa Swanson Larson, Chris Chapman, Paige Chapman, Sierra Swanson Griffes, Miriam Swanson and Scott Swanson.

During the Swansons’ tenure as owners, The New Era staff has increased from 1½ full-time employees to three full-timers, including two reporters, and five part-timers. They and their staff have developed a line of annual business directories for Sweet Home, community maps and a tourism website, http://www.trailstolinn.com.

The New Era and Lebanon Local have been regular winners in the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association’s annual Better Newspapers Competition, including a first-place General Excellence award for small newspapers in 2022 and two Sweepstakes Awards, which go to newspapers with the highest total awards in the weekly newspaper category.

The New Era was named Business of the Year in 2006, under their leadership, and Scott Swanson was named the 2017 Chamber of Commerce’s First Citizen.

During his time with The New Era, Scott Swanson has been a longtime member of the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association Board of Directors, serving this year as president.

He also serves as a member of the Linn Cultural Coalition and was extensively involved in the Sweet Home Active Revitalization Effort from 2008 to 2019, a group of local officials, business owners and residents who established the Commercial Exterior Improvement Program and other programs, as well as funding a Downtown Retail Market Analysis, conducting an inventory of downtown commercial properties, and other economic development activities.

Miriam Swanson plans to continue her involvement as a member of the Samaritan Lebanon Community Hospital Foundation. She has also been a longtime Ambassador for the Sweet Home Chamber of Commerce, and has been a longtime fitness instructor at Steelhead Fitness.

The Swansons also have been active in other community activities. Their daughters all participated in music and competed in sports at Sweet Home High School, two representing the Huskies in the state track and field championships, and the third in the state swimming championships.

Chapman said he has no plans to change the editorial focus of The New Era.

“The plan is to continue the legacy that serves the community of Sweet Home,” he said. “But we will bring it more into the modern era with some technology upgrades. We’ll make some improvements and change some things, but the goal is to keep serving the community of Sweet Home.”