A fact of life about the small-town newspaper business — and probably any business — is change is inevitable.
Change comes to the Wallowa County Chieftain this week with the departure of longtime reporter Ellen Morris Bishop, whose last day at the paper is Friday, Sept. 4.
For those who work at the Chieftain, not seeing Ellen at the Chieftain will take some getting used to.
Ellen did not grow up dreaming of long hours, low pay and constant criticism as her life’s calling. In fact, Ellen holds a doctorate in geology from Oregon State University and her research helped define the history of Eastern Oregon’s exotic terrains. She’s penned books to explain the Northwest’s geologic history to nongeologists. She has taught at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash.
Then she decided to tackle newspapers. In early 2016, she started as a freelance writer for the paper with photo coverage of the Eagle Cap Extreme Dog sled race, then become a full-time employee in 2019. Since then she has been a reporter, photographer and an editor.
Ellen has, indeed, done it all.
In the short time that I’ve known Ellen, she has always demonstrated herself to be a professional and that she could quickly exceed expectations. She never recoiled from a photo assignment, and her photos always captured the moment. And, in the end, that’s the best compliment, I believe, you can pay a photographer.
There is no doubt Ellen will be best remembered for her time here at the Chieftain for her photos and her commitment to the paper and the community.
While I wish the best for Ellen as she moves on from the Chieftain, I am excited about the future and new possibilities. Change, I’ve learned in journalism, is a good thing. While Ellen is leaving this great institution, she will still be around in some capacity, and I am glad for that.
Even though I arrived at what ultimately wound up being the tail end of Ellen’s time here, she was a key piece to the overall news machine that we are looking to build and improve upon.
The Chieftain has been lucky to have had great newsmen and women through the years like Ellen, and, fortunately, we still have seasoned newspaper veterans like Bill Bradshaw, Jennifer Cooney and Cheryl Jenkins who remain as devoted as ever to building upon the legacy of those who have come before. You certainly cannot make up for the loss of institutional knowledge that stalwarts like Ellen bring to the table, but the knowledge she’s passed on to her colleagues will be invaluable.
There is no doubt, Ellen has earned the break from the day-in, day-out grind the newspaper business can often be. There is also no doubt, Ellen Morris Bishop will be missed by those of us still here inside the Wallowa County Chieftain.