Longtime newspaper publisher Bob Moody remembered for his grit, kindness, dedication

Feb 1, 2023

The Observer Publisher Bob Moody holds a copy of the paper in this undated photo. Moody, who served as publisher of The Observer 1974-1997, died Dec. 28, 2022, at Grande Ronde Hospital at the age of 90. (The Observer file)

The Observer

LA GRANDE, Oregon — Bob Moody was lying flat on his back in a hospital bed when he was asked to become publisher of The Observer in 1974.

Moody, who at the time was the publisher of the Redmond Spokesman, was in a Bend-area hospital because of a back problem when Western Communications President Robert Chandler paid a visit.

Chandler, speaking to Moody and his wife, Bev, characteristically got straight to the point.

“I want you guys to go to La Grande,” said Chandler, explaining that he was asking Bob to become The Observer’s publisher.

In a 2005 story about his induction into the Oregon Newspaper Hall of Fame, Moody recalled he was in no position to react.

“I was flat on my back in traction,” he remembered.

Moody, who served as publisher of The Observer until 1997, died Wednesday, Dec. 28, at Grande Ronde Hospital at the age of 90.

Chandler sent Moody to La Grande with the following piece of advice ringing in his ears.

“He told me, ‘You can turn yourself into the most popular guy in town or you can run a good newspaper,’” Moody recalled in 2005.

Moody heeded the advice. It is one reason his career path continued to rise. While based in La Grande, Moody was promoted to vice president of Western Communications in 1985. In this capacity, he oversaw two other WesCom papers, the Baker City Herald and later the Hermiston Herald.

“I think Bob managed to do exactly what Chandler told him he couldn’t — be the most popular guy and run a good newspaper,” current Observer Publisher Karrine Brogoitti said. “He was very well liked and respected in the community by readers and business owners alike.”

Kari Borgen, a former publisher of the Baker City Herald under Western Communications, called Moody an “iconic newspaper publisher.”

“He ran one of the most successful businesses in La Grande and was well respected by the community and his employees,” she said. “He loved La Grande, EOU, his family, and his leadership reflected that.”


Moody’s newspaper career began in 1943 when he started working for the Bend Bulletin as a carrier at the age of 11.

He later worked under Les Schwab, the entrepreneur who would go on to found one of the nation’s most successful tire companies, in the Bulletin’s circulation department. Schwab promoted Moody to a director position in the newspaper’s circulation department while he was still in high school.

Moody received tremendous guidance from Schwab but paid a price for working with him. Schwab was a softball player who practiced pitching during breaks at the Bulletin. Moody caught many of Schwab's pitches. One of Moody's fingers was jammed from catching Schwab's pitches and continued to bother him years later. Still, Moody, in his good-natured way, laughed off the bad finger as testimony of his lifelong friendship with Schwab.

After graduating high school, Moody served in the Navy, 1950-1954.

Upon returning from military service, he went back to work at the Bulletin. This was around the time the paper was purchased by Chandler, who would found the Western Communications newspaper chain.

Chandler, who died in 1996, promoted Moody into management and named him publisher of the Redmond Spokesman, a Western Communications newspaper, in 1971.


Moody’s former employees expressed deep admiration for him.

“He was the epitome of the word ‘gentleman.’ He was a sharp businessman and a terrific human being. He was one of the good guys,” said John Pritchett of Crescent City, California, who worked a total of two years in The Observer newsroom in the early and mid-1980s.

Pritchett also respected Moody’s decision-making skills.

“He had the ability to make decisions. He wasn’t afraid to make tough ones,” Pritchett said.

Ted Kramer served as The Observer’s sports editor 1977-1982 and as editor of the Redmond Spokesman for 13 1/2 years before returning to The Observer in 1995, where he served as editor until 2012. Kramer returned to La Grande primarily for the opportunity to work for Moody again.

“Bob was a great newspaperman, in every sense of the word. He wasn’t a trained journalist, but he knew the value of local journalism,” he said. “He also knew the importance of the community and the value of listening to readers. He didn’t sacrifice ethics or refrain from covering tough stories. The community respected him for that.”

Kramer said Moody built The Observer into one of the best small daily newspapers in the state.

“For many years in the 1970s, ’80s and early ’90s — all prior to the internet — The Observer had the highest saturation rate in the state,” Kramer said. “It was something like 80% or 90%. Absolutely astounding. And much of that was attributable to the kind of man and publisher that Bob was.”

Frank Everidge, who was hired in the press room in 1978, remembers Moody as a “mentor.”

“He kind of raised me up in the paper world. He was a great boss. A lot of good stories about that man,” he said.

Kelli Craft, an advertising representative for The Observer, got her start in 1995 when Moody offered her a part-time job after she moved back to Union County.
“He was just a good guy,” she said. “He was like a second dad to me at times.”

Don Powell, who was the advertising director at The Observer the entire time Moody was its publisher, also had words of praise for him.

“He was a great newspaperman and a wonderful friend,” he said.

Pat Caldwell, a La Grande native who got his start in journalism in 1991 as a sportswriter at The Observer, said Moody was “the last of a breed of unique Oregon newspapermen. He gave me my first opportunity based on nothing more than my eagerness. He took a chance, and I will always be grateful.”

Brogoitti, who was hired shortly before Moody’s retirement in 1997, called Moody’s passing the “end of an era. For longtime employees of The Observer, Bob has always been thought of as the patriarch of our institution — retirement didn’t change that,” she said. “And honestly, I don’t think his passing will, either.”


Tim Seydel, Eastern Oregon University’s vice president for university advancement, recalls Moody not only as a pillar of both the community and the university, but an important figure at different points in his own life.

“I’m sad to hear when a leader like Moody passes away,” he said.

Seydel remembers delivering papers for The Observer as a child and seeing Moody in his office. Seydel recalls how impactful Moody was to journalism, especially when Seydel himself attended Eastern and was the editor of the student newspaper.

Seydel said Moody played a significant role at the university and was instrumental in fundraising efforts for Eastern’s Foundation.

“He knew the value of a college education,” he said.

Moody, along with his wife, Bev, established an endowed scholarship through the EOU Foundation that helps single parents achieve their dream of a college education. He saw people who needed help and decided to help them, Seydel said.

“I’ve watched (over the years) that scholarship change people’s lives,” he said. “We see that parent walk across at graduation, often with a child waiting on the other side.”

Students who receive scholarships write letters of thanks after graduation, and according to Seydel, they often share their stories. Some recipients of the Bob and Bev Moody Scholarship are girls whose education had been disrupted by early parenthood or wives who had left abusive spouses.

“It’s hard to read those letters and not start crying,” Seydel said.

Moody was awarded the Dixie Lund Service Award in 2013, which recognizes individuals who have served Eastern in support of the goals and missions of the university. Lund served as interim president at EOU 2003-2004 and 2007-2009. She also served on the board of trustees.

During this time, she got to know Moody and saw firsthand his dedication to the university and his perceived approach to life.

“He always seemed to have a little bit of a smile on his face,” she said. “I could never imagine him with a cranky look.”


Moody was an active member of the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association and the ON Foundation. He served as president of the ONPA board 1994-1995 and was president of the ON Foundation 1995-1996 and 1996-1997.

Moody became well known for his work in community service while in La Grande. He was a member of the Union County Chamber of Commerce, an active Boy Scout volunteer, a member of the Union County Youth Services Commission board and chair of the Union County Smoke Management Committee.

Moody was a member of the Eastern Oregon University Foundation’s executive board and a member of the La Grande Community Library Foundation.

He and his wife, Bev, who died Dec. 6, were married for 67 years. They would have celebrated their 68th wedding anniversary on Dec. 24.