Former Newspaper Boy Tasked With Delivering News in 21st Century World

A large desk pushed up near a side wall in the back of the newsroom, serves as a makeshift office. Newspapers and smaller tabloid size publications litter the desk.

Silver headphones sit on a pile of papers, and a white hat is perched on top of a computer tower. Two white ceramic coffee mugs sit side by side. Both are empty.

The desk’s occupant is dressed in a gray sweater, baggy black pullover and relaxed fit khaki slacks. Running his fingers through his shaggy brown hair, he says he probably needs a haircut. Sporting at least a day’s worth of beard growth, he explains that sometimes he goes a month or more without shaving, simply because he does not like to shave.

On the floor, behind the desk, lays an analog clock with a Post-it note attached to its face, the hands perpetually stuck at 6:33. It seems symbolic of the plight of the desk’s occupant.

That is, the struggle to keep a small-town newspaper running at a time when other papers are going under.

The desk belongs to Philip “Ossie” Bladine, editor and assistant publisher of the family owned Yamhill County News-Register in McMinnville, Ore.  Ossie is the fourth generation  to serve as editor of the biweekly community newspaper. His father, Jeb, is president and publisher.

In his early 30s, Ossie is tasked with transforming his family’s newspaper business and making it successful at a time when many newspapers have moved to online publications or just closed their doors.

Ossie may outwardly appear laissez faire, but his friend, Zach Geary, said he is a man who knows how to get things done.

“He does it and with great acclaim. He’s able to take what he knows and blend it into something that’s great,” said Geary.

News-Register’s managing editor, Steven Bagwell, described Ossie as “totally unflappable.”

“He mirrors his father Jeb, who is patient and even keeled, but Ossie is even more so,” he said.

In 2014, Kristin Stoller summed him up in her interview for Young Pros of Yamhill County. She wrote, “Ossie pulls off the ‘I may live in my mom’s basement’ look all the while bossing hard in his super duper grown up bossy job at the NR.”

Ossie is married to Lacy Bladine, a special education teacher in McMinnville. They have two children, 3-year-old son Kingsley, named after a band name Ossie liked, and 2-month-old Sloane.

Besides his responsibilities at home and the newspaper, Ossie said that involvement in the community is important to him.

Newly elected president of the Yamhill County Cultural Coalition, Ossie said: “The coalition does an annual grants process and an end of year giving cultural campaign for the local arts and cultural organizations. Anything arts, culture and entertainment related is a side hobby and passion for me.”

He is also founder of the area’s annual Walnut City Music Festival. Ossie’s eyes lit up when he talked about the future of music in his hometown. He envisions an amphitheater that will draw big name musicians.

Ossie’s roots in Yamhill County are strong. “He had a great old-time McMinnville type childhood, with close friends, families, [and] athletic teams that stay[ed] together for long periods of time,” said his father Jeb Bladine.

At 10, he had a paper route. In high school, he was opinions’ editor for his school newspaper, The Bruin. He covered sports for the News-Register when the sports writer left for another job.

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Young Ossie liked to mix songs on tapes and CD. He bought a record player at a thrift store for $15 and began a record collection that currently includes about 500 albums.

The family newspaper allowed Ossie a unique outlet for his love of music. He started writing music reviews in high school. The column ran for nine years.

He competed in junior golf tournaments in his late elementary years and was a state junior golf champion by the age of 14. He considered going pro, but then lost interest in the sport.

“For a while during his senior year, he would alternate between playing with only 4 clubs and then play with no shoelaces or something similarly off beat. He drove his coach crazy, but he could play golf as good with four clubs as most people could with a full bag,” his father said.

After high school, he attended Santa Clara University. He completed his freshman year and then took a break. He returned to the golf course.

“I went and caddied at Bandon Dunes [Golf Resort] for a stretch. The first night, I was driving and saw this makeshift campsite. That became my little spot. I was that weird guy, living in a ’77 Lincoln Continental. To me, it made sense. I didn’t have to pay [camping] fees or the parents,” said Ossie.

He paid a dollar to shower at a campground every few days, and ate a lot of tomato avocado sandwiches.

The Amish might refer to such a time as a Rumspringa, a season when a young adult runs around before settling into the adult world. Though not Amish, Ossie said for him it may have been just that.

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After working four months at the resort, he returned to college at his father’s alma mater, the University of Oregon, and earned a degree in political science.

While attending the university, Ossie was editor of the Oregon Commentator. Zach Geary said, “The magazine got into a friendly rivalry with fabled Dean Dave Frohnmayer. I would read whatever [Ossie] wrote in the Commentator. He was always really funny.”

Ossie said, “After college, we had the opportunity to buy an alternative newspaper called the Vancouver Voice. It was kind of my dad’s pitch to carry on with the newspaper.”

“It was like the publication I was working on at the U of O. It was a neat opportunity, so I moved to Vancouver and did that for a few years,” he said.

In 2011, Ossie returned to McMinnville to serve as news editor, and eventually editor and assistant publisher of the News-Register.

Like many other newspapers, the future of the News-Register is uncertain.

Thinking about his situation, Ossie leaned back in his chair and said, “I wasn’t pushed into anything. My parents took me to do a lot of different things and encouraged me to do those things they saw got me excited. That kind of went for the newspaper as well. They have always made sure I know it’s my decision if I want to continue the tradition.”

Right now, his focus is on making the newspaper’s website profitable. He said he plans to create a paywall that allows per article purchases. Then, he will concentrate on making the print newspaper more marketable.

Steven Bagwell, managing editor of the News-Register, has been at the paper since Ossie was in high school. He said, “[Ossie] is pretty relaxed about the whole family mantle. It’s never gone to his head. [Ossie’s] joked ,… half seriously, ‘I may end up as a one-man shop.’”

Ossie said, “My dad and I have talked. If the only option is to become an online news source, which papers have done … do I want to do that?” Shaking his head, he lamented, “It loses a lot of its luster to me if it comes to that.”

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