By Nicole Montesano • Staff Writer • 

Veteran journalist joins N-R as managing editor

Marcus Larson/News-Register##Kirby Neumann-Rea is a longtime reporter and editor.
Marcus Larson/News-Register##Kirby Neumann-Rea is a longtime reporter and editor.

Neumann-Rea has worked in newspapers since graduating from Linfield College in 1980, and said he’s always appreciated McMinnville and hoped to return one day. He replaces former Managing Editor Jodie DeJonge, who left in October to accept a position with the Seattle Times, heading the metro division. Ossie Bladine, who managed the newsroom before and after DeJonge, is returning to focus on company business operations.

Neumann-Rea said he became interested in writing news early, when he was recruited to write a column for a local paper in Redmond, Wash., at the age of 13 or 14.

“I wrote 10 or 15 stories for them in eighth grade year,” he said. “Really, ever since then, community journalism has been a passion.” He served as his high school paper editor, and wrote for the Linfield student publication, then Linews — and worked nights for Nick Peirano at Nick’s Italian Cafe.

He said community journalism’s role is providing residents with their “most reliable and consistent source of news and information.

“We’re accountable for what we do, and we want people to hold us accountable, and they know where to find us … That approachability is our role.”

Neumann-Rea said he spent two stints in Israel, studying there for a year in college, and returning a few years later, for another stay.

The Pacific Northwest, however, has ultimately always been home.

“These are wonderful communities where people know each other and care about each other and the people who own the newspapers care about communities. You are close to the people you write about and are affected by the same types of things you and your staff write about,” he said.

“I like being close to the people and I also like communities this size; places with a close-knit identity; a lot of vibrancy and activity and a strong sense of place.”

He said he and his wife, Lorre Chester-Rea, married in McMinnville, adding to his happy memories of the area and feeling of having local roots, but the couple has lived in several locations around Oregon and Washington. Neumann-Rea worked for the Itemizer-Observer in Polk County, the Molalla Pioneer, and eight years at the Peninsula Daily News in Washington. He also worked for two years as a public information officer the Evergreen School District, but said, “That didn’t work out. I missed being in newspapers.”

So he landed a job as editor at the Hood River News, where they remained for the next 21 years, finishing raising their sons, Connal and Delaney Rea.

“I’ve been fortunate to have lived in some great places in the Northwest,” Neumann-Rea said.

Last March, Eagle newspapers sold its several Gorge publications — three newspapers, a directory and a magazine — to a new owner; former employee Chelsea Marr, who had been publisher of the Gorge publications for several years.

The 116-year-old Hood River News, 130-year-old Dalles Chronicle and the 117-year-old Enterprise from White Salmon were merged into a single newspaper.

Neumann-Rea called it a painful time.

“The past year professionally was both a huge challenge and also really, really satisfying,” he said. “It was hard seeing the newspaper I’d worked for 20 years and [that had been] the newspaper for Hood River for 116 years, and our sister newspapers, had to be consolidated into one newspaper. It was really difficult and sad. But the people I worked with ultimately rallied and turned into a good experience.”

He said he’s proud of the way staff members from all three newspapers pulled together.

“We were given six days notice, so we had virtually no notice and we had to change course and turn into a consolidated paper virtually overnight. And we didn’t skip a beat; we turned out a paper the next week,” he said.

He described leaving Hood River as “a really tough decision,” but said he’s excited to be in McMinnville, to have the opportunity to reconnect with friends, learn about Yamhill County, and to join the News-Register staff.

“I love the role of being part of a group of people that provides a product that people look forward to picking up and reading every week, that they find of use in their lives,” he said.


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