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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Andrea Blanco

Newspaper forced to shut down after employee embezzled tens of thousands

Google Maps/Mahmud Hafiz

A local weekly newspaper in Oregon was forced to lay off its entire staff three days before Christmas after one of its employees allegedly embezzled tens of thousands of dollars.

Camilla Mortenson, The Eugene Weekly’s editor-in-chief, revealed in a letter to readers that the publication had to abruptly stop printing due to its current financial troubles. Ms Mortenson told The New York Times that the employee accused of running the embezzling scheme took money from accounts set up to pay employees’ retirement and left bills of up to $70,000 to the newspaper’s printer.

“We’re heartbroken to have to tell you that this independent voice is in danger of falling silent,” the letter read. “There will be no print paper edition of EW, for the first time in more than 20 years.”

A spokesperson with the Eugene Police Department told The Independent that the agency took a theft report regarding an incident at 1251 Lincoln, the paper’s address, on 19 December.

“The case is under investigation and so we are not able to release further details right now,” the spokesperson said via email.

The Eugene Weekly has been in circulation since 1982 and it usually prints 30,000 copies each week.

Ms Mortenson told the Times that the person accused of embezzling the money, who has not been publicly identified, had been working at the publication for the past five years.

The editor-in-chief said that higher-ups first realised the paper’s financial troubles when they were closing records for the year. The managing team was not able to confront the accused employee because he was out of office.

“Every time I find something out, I just get sick to my stomach,” Ms Mortensen told the Times. “And again, this is someone we worked with who came to the office every day.”

The publication was still reeling from the financial losses it experienced during the pandemic, Ms Mortensen said, adding that the paper’s owners had always put earnings back into the business, usually using profits to cover employee benefits and bonuses.

While print operations have shut down, Ms Mortensen and other members of the editorial team have volunteered to publish articles online.

The owners, Anita Johnson, a former Washington Post reporter, and Georgia Taylor, covered the costs for the last print edition of The Eugene Weekly on 21 December.

The paper is receiving donations and Ms Mortensen said she hopes The Eugene Weekly can eventually resume printing.

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