Shutterstock photo
Shutterstock photo
By Don Iler • News Editor • 

Don Iler That's it for this journalist

I’ve had two of the three worst jobs in America. 

According to a recent list from, as a newspaper reporter, I’ve worked the worst job in America for the past three years. I also spent five years before college as an enlisted Marine, the third worst job. Apparently, I’m a sucker for bad jobs.

And with stagnant pay, stress, poor hiring outlook, constant layoffs, benefit cuts, there are tons of reasons why journalism isn’t really the best career.

At my previous job before beginning at the News-Register, I saw all our benefits cut, mandatory time off instituted and there were some layoffs, too. The News-Register has been worlds better, but when looking around the state it isn’t hard to notice how the career options for reporters are disappearing. 

Guest Writer

Don Iler is the outgoing news editor and reporter for the News-Register. He covered state and local politics in addition to the cities of McMinnville, Lafayette, Dundee and Newberg. As news editor, he handled layout, headlines and design for A sections.

He was raised in Bend and served five years in the Marine Corps as an Arabic linguist. Later, he studied history at Oregon State University and served as editor-in-chief of the student newspaper. He enjoys cooking, hiking, baseball, trivia and writing his novel.

You’ve read the headlines: dwindling revenue, smaller budgets, reduced staff, newspapers going bankrupt, cutting print days. Pick up The Oregonian (or nearly any paper in the state) on any given day and it is noticeably skinnier than when I was kid — which wasn’t all that long ago. Scan through our own News-Register archives and you’ll find papers a decade ago had more ads, sections were larger and there were more reporters.

Visit any newsroom and you’ll notice plenty of empty cubicles. The News-Register has done a great job of maintaining staff and benefits and stands out among its peers as a great place to work, but even our office is emptier as positions go unfilled. (My position of news editor will fall back to current editor, Ossie Bladine, and current reporter Tom Henderson will take on the McMinnville city beat.)

It’s sad to be leaving journalism. I enjoy the work -- the excitement of uncovering a scandal or hurrying out to cover a breaking news event provides a rush that has been hard to replace since I left the Marines. However, I’m unsure about its future and whether I’ll still be able to work as a journalist a decade or two from now. And while the owners and people who have invested their lives into this noble work will ride it out and discover the outcome, I’m young enough to still be able to swim away. 

I fell into journalism by accident. Growing up, I never envisioned becoming a reporter. Besides a journalism class in eighth grade, I’ve never taken an academic journalism course. After I got out of the Marines, all I knew was I wanted to write the great American novel. I joined the student newspaper at Central Oregon Community College after stumbling upon their table at a club fair and believed I could do it since I enjoyed writing. I showed up at a news meeting, wrote a few articles and, from then on, I was hooked, even after a transfer to Oregon State in Corvallis. 

The great American novel is finally written, however unpublished, and I’ve learned a lot along the way. Journalism requires you to be a polymath, a little knowledable about so many facets of life. It trains you to be a better researcher, a better questioner and a better listener. I learned much about human nature and politics, and far more about landfills and our trash than I previously thought necessary.

My already thick skin has grown a little thicker. In the words of Taylor Swift, “the haters are gonna hate, hate, hate, hate.” In journalism, that’s usually a good sign. If certain readers are unhappy with your article, it means you probably were fair, balanced and told the truth. And like Taylor Swift does, reporters just have to “shake it off,” unless, of course, you reported a factual error, which I am ashamed to say has happened more than once. 

Journalism is vital for a prosperous and well-run democracy. Without strong watchdogs, state agencies, school districts and public officials are more able to get away with corruption, incompetence and a lack of accountability. Newspapers are the people’s inspector general. We attend the meetings no one else wants to (trust me, they really are as boring as you suspect they are), we look through the documents that get filed away without anyone looking through them and we say the things everyone in the room is thinking when sometimes they are too chicken to bring it up. 

Journalism has had its ups and downs in the past, and new techonology is making it accessible in more places and to more people than ever before. We still live in a free and democratic state and reporting does have the power to change. Journalism will recover — unless Donald Trump becomes president, in which case I just won’t be around for it. 

It’s up to you, and me now, to support journalism. There is no doubt we need it as a society, but whether we are willing to continue paying for it is another question. 

I begin a master’s program in elementary education at Portland State in a couple weeks. So even in my new career, I still won’t be making any money. But there will be one less journalist out there holding government accountable. And thankfully — I’ll need those fat PERS checks later in life when I and all other the other public employees finally bankrupt the state of Oregon. 



Ah...I really looked forward to reading your articles. I especially appreciated, "Springer keeps close ties with trash company." That was a great investigative piece and a real eye-opener for me. You have been a great asset to this county. I wish you all the luck in your future endeavors.


I second the above sentiment. I'm sorry you did not feel comfortable in including your name in the article.


Writers aren't responsible for creating the credits that accompany their work. That is an editor function.
The piece was written by Don Iler, whose full name appears in the headline, title line and byline all three in the electronic version — the very one now collecting comments, including this comment. See above.
In addition, his photo ran with the story and his last name was used in the headline on the portion of the piece continuing to page 4. There was no intent by Don or anyone else to hide his identity.
The omission resulted from an editing flub over which Don had no control.
Believe me, we aren't very happy when things like that mar the product we put out. We're sorry it happened.
Steve Bagwell, Managing Editor

Sal Peralta

I will miss Don's wry sense of humor and excellent reporting and wish him the best in his new career.

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