Embezzlement of Oregon weekly newspaper’s funds forces it to lay off entire staff and halt print

A red Eugene Weekly newspaper distributor box stands outside its office on Friday in Eugene, Ore. (Todd Cooper via AP)

PORTLAND, Ore. — An Oregon weekly newspaper has had to lay off its entire staff and halt print after 40 years because its funds were embezzled by a former employee, its editor said, in a devastating blow to a publication that serves as an important source of information in a community that, like many others nationwide, is struggling with growing gaps in local news coverage.

About a week before Christmas, the Eugene Weekly found inaccuracies in its bookkeeping, editor Camilla Mortensen said. It discovered that a former employee who was “heavily involved” with the paper’s finances had used its bank account to pay themselves $90,000 since at least 2022, she said.


The paper also became aware of at least $100,000 in unpaid bills — including to the paper’s printer — stretching back several months, she said.

Additionally, multiple employees, including Mortensen, realized that money from their paychecks that was supposed to be going into retirement accounts was never deposited.

When the paper realized it couldn’t make the next payroll, it was forced to lay off all of its 10 staff members and stop its print edition, Mortensen said. The alternative weekly, founded in 1982, printed 30,000 copies each week to distribute for free in Eugene, the second-largest city in the state and home to the University of Oregon.

“To lay off a whole family’s income three days before Christmas is the absolute worst,” Mortensen said, expressing her sense of devastation. “It was not on my radar that anything like this could have happened or was happening.”

The suspected employee had worked for the paper for about four years and has since been fired, Mortensen said.

The Eugene police department’s financial crimes unit is investigating, and the paper’s owners have hired forensic accountants to piece together what happened, she said.

Brent Walth, a journalism professor at the University of Oregon, said he was concerned about the loss of a paper that has had “an outsized impact in filling the widening gaps in news coverage” in Eugene. He described the paper as an independent watchdog and a compassionate voice for the community, citing its obituaries of homeless people as an example of how the paper has helped put a human face on some of the city’s biggest issues.

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