Patterson helped our company and its owners reckon with future
By STEVE FORRESTER
For the Chinook Observer
A publishing company is many things. It is paper and ink, printing presses and a bevy of computers. But most of all it is an array of people with diverse talents. We just lost one of our biggest talents of the past few decades.
A man who loomed large in the development of our company died last Sunday. Pat Patterson was our corporate general manager during a period of acquisition, the company’s first moves into the digital world and its transition from one generation of owners to the next. He was our top executive for 21 years.
When I came to The Daily Astorian in 1987, Pat was my mentor. While I had been managing editor of Willamette Week, I came to Astoria from 10 years of self-employment, running my own news agency in Washington, D.C. Pat helped me learn many a management lesson.
Within months of my start, Pat joined me in Long Beach at the Bank of the Pacific where we signed loan papers to purchase the Chinook Observer. Then we began the process of bringing Craig Dennis’ paper into our corporate structure.
Next came acquisition of the Capital Press, a deal which flowed from a relationship between my father and Dewey Rand Jr. On two occasions, Pat expressed to me his surprise at how much authority and confidence my father gave him.
From the 1970s on, business school academia’s discovered family-owned business. Thanks to my cousin Jacqueline Brown, the third generation of our family ownership paid attention to the Austin Family Business program at Oregon State University. We brought an outside, non-family director to our board. It was a difficult transition for some in the second generation, and Pat helped ease that.
Pat had no MBA. With a community college degree, he created post-degree learning programs of his own. He was an exceptionally resourceful and self-educated man. He talked about spending an hour each day reading trade and professional literature, to stay current. That was how he reckoned with the early days of the internet. Pat recognized that we needed to make a commitment to the new digital world and in 2000 recommended that we make Laura Sellers our first corporate internet editor.
Except for our Astoria and Long Beach bankers, few in this part of Oregon and Washington knew Pat. But he was a large influence in the formative years of coastal managers such as Patrick Webb, Matt Winters and Sellers.
Pat was known for his annual visits to the newspaper offices where he would greet each employee by name and ask about their family by name or inquire about their hobbies or recent travels. During those visits, he had meetings with as many staffers as possible and ask, “If you were me for a day, what would you change.” And then sometimes, he would make the change.
Pat spanned two eras of print journalism. Webb captured that in his reflection. “I appreciated his skill of working to adapt old-school to cutting edge without losing core values of journalism.”
Steve Forrester is the retired editor and publisher of The Daily Astorian. He is the president and CEO of the EO Media Group board of directors.