Dick Nafsinger, who came to the Hood River News in 1962 as editor and publisher and retired last year as president and chief operating officer of Eagle Newspapers, was awarded the Oregon Newspaper Hall of Fame Award by the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association Friday at the ONPA convention in Tigard.
The award honors individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to Oregon newspaper journalism.
“It was an absolute shock,” Nafsinger said of receiving the award, considered the highest honor given to a person in the state’s newspaper industry. “I just didn’t have any idea.”
Nafsinger was 28 when he arrived at the News after serving as sports editor and then managing editor of the Albany Democrat-Herald. The News — then one of three newspapers in the Eagle chain — had 10 employees, including those who ran the hot-type press. The staff put out an eight-page paper once a week.
During the next three decades as publisher, Nafsinger implemented technological innovations ranging from offset printing to electric typewriters to computers.
“I always tried to have better equipment — more than we probably needed,” Nafsinger said. He strived constantly to put out the best quality newspaper possible with the technology of the day. The News went to twice-weekly in the 1980s, eventually averaging 50 pages a week.
During Nafsinger’s tenure, the News was named the top newspaper in both Oregon and the U.S. on several occasions, and received the coveted National Newspaper Association’s General Excellence award.
But it was more than awards that Nafsinger loved about his work.
“You can never get as closely involved in a community as you can as publisher of a community newspaper,” he said. “You get involved with everything.” His civic duties have included leadership positions on the school and hospital foundation boards and the Rotary Club and Foundation. He was closely involved in the creation of the Ray T. Yasui Dialysis Center at the hospital and has volunteered as a “lunch buddy” in Hood River schools.
In 1991 Nafsinger stepped down as publisher of the News to devote all of his time to serving as president and chief operating officer of Eagle Newspapers, which now includes 18 newspapers in Oregon, Washington and Idaho. He retired last year but remains on the Eagle board.
Nafsinger has been an active member of ONPA since 1962, serving as its president in 1971-72. He has received several of its top awards to individuals over the years, including the President’s Award in 1973 and 1996. Last year, he became only the ninth person in ONPA’s history to be made an honorary life member of the association.
Nafsinger said if he had his career to do over, he wouldn’t change a thing.
“I’ve always been grateful that I got into the field that I did,” he said, adding that community newspapers “are extremely important in the fabric of communities” throughout the country.
“I think it’s important work, I think you can do a lot of good things and it’s just extremely rewarding,” he said.