Reed encouraged staff to flourish at Hermiston Herald

Bill Bighaus, a former sports editor for the Hermiston Herald from 1976 to 1985, poses for a photo in from of the current Herald and East Oregonian offices during a visit to town in July 2015.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I was lucky that my first newspaper boss turned out to be Jerry Reed.

As a 22-year-old reporter, fresh out of college in 1976, working at the Hermiston Herald was a huge opportunity for me.

The community was thriving, and Reed, who owned the paper, had already assembled a great staff by the time I got there as a sports writer.

With our notepads and cameras, we had free rein on a weekly basis as we focused strictly on local news, features and sports and used our competitive zeal in going up against two daily newspapers.

Reed, who mostly managed advertising and business duties, trusted us, believed in us and gave us the flexibility to carry out our mission.

He let me cover as many games as possible, home and away, but I was still motivated by the fear of messing up.

With his booming voice, status as a community leader and sometimes gruff disposition, I was a bit intimidated by him in the beginning.

This was, after all, his newspaper.

And Reed, who was definitely a little more hands-on when it came to sports coverage, was emphatic about getting as many names and faces in the sports section as possible.

That’s what sells newspapers, he always said, so the only time he ever yelled at me was when he thought I was spending too much time at my desk.

I quickly learned my lesson about responsibility and expectations, and have continued to hustle after those names and faces throughout my 40 years in the newspaper business.

In looking back, after receiving word of his death, I thought The Herald, under Reed, offered a wide-ranging reflection of everyday life in Hermiston during the late 1970s.

The paper was loaded with news and advertising, and also played a significant role in boosting and promoting the bustling community.

The award-winning paper touched many lives.

Al Donnelly was a terrific editor during those early years. He also was an integral part of the paper’s success, along with an impressive array of young news reporters.

We all grew and flourished together, with The Herald reigning as the state’s best weekly newspaper in 1977 and 1978.

Hermiston, where I spent nine years, still ranks as my favorite place to be a journalist. It’s the place that built character in me and where I have the best memories.

Over the years, I got to know Reed’s close-knit family, including daughter Shannon, who is still employed by The Herald.

I still fondly recall catching papers as they came off the press, helping unload huge rolls of newsprint into the back shop and developing my own film after games.

I got to drive the company car, a bright red Ford Pinto, to out of-town events, with press operator Jack McGraw as my sidekick.

And I have all of those lasting memories of the athletes I covered and the games they played.

No question, the best part of working at a small-town newspaper is the people.

Jerry Reed, my first boss, was one of best.

Bill Bighaus is a mostly retired sportswriter for the Billings Gazette and set the mold for local sports coverage that generations of sports writers and editors have been measured against since his time as sports editor of the Hermiston Herald in the late 1970s through the mid 1980s.

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