The following historical information was taken from the first installment of a series of articles about the founding and history of the present-day Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association. The series began running in the August 1957 issue of the Oregon Publisher to commemorate the association's 70th anniversary. The articles were written by George S. Turnbull, author of "History of Oregon Newspapers" and former dean of the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon in Eugene.
"Over on Yaquina Bay, in Lincoln County, is a tiny hamlet that once had its dreams of future greatness. In its good days it was known as Yaquina City, and its founders and promoters were sure it was to be the terminus of a transcontinental railroad; it borders the present city of Newport, which has became (sic) a substantial and growing community.
"The dream faded. Looking now at the few buildings on the old site of Yaquina City, you wouldn't believe that at one time the little town had two competing newspapers, one of which ran a daily as well as a weekly issue for a short time.
"Here it was that the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association, under another name, had its inception. Attracted, no doubt, by the superlative recreational facilities of Yaquina Bay and the nearby Nye Beach on the ocean, Oregon's editors and publishers selected the ambitious little 'city' as the place where they would organize the Oregon Press Association. This later (1909) was to become the Oregon State Editorial Association, and finally (1936) the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association.
"The group formed at Yaquina City was not Oregon's first organization of newspaper editors and publishers. A previous association was formed at Salem in October 1878 for a specific purpose, to promote the passage of an effective libel law by the legislature, in session at the time. In this aim it was successful.
"As explained in the published history of Oregon newspapers, it took a bit of manslaughter to prepare the way for the libel law. Verbal strife among this state's newspapers, waged in the so-called 'Oregon style' of personal abuse, had just culminated in the killing of A.C. McDonald, one of the publishers of the Portland Telegram, by the assistant editor of the Portland Bee in a street fight. The fatal brawl followed personal abuse of the Telegram man's family in the columns of the rival paper. The slayer, J.K. Mercer, was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 15 years in the penitentiary.
"Realizing that this sort of thing had gone much too far and called for preventive action, ten Oregon newspapers and one in Washington Territory (the New Tacoma Herald) signed a call for formation of a newspaper association to press for passage of a criminal libel law. Presiding over the sessions of the new association, which lasted for two weeks, was Mart V. Brown of Albany, retiring state printer. Besides President Brown, promoters J.H. Turner of the East Oregonian, Pendleton, and W.H. Odell, Oregon Statesman, corresponding secretary, were chosen trustees.
"... When the new State Press Association adjourned after giving the new libel law its start, it was voted to meet again in Portland in June 1879. That meeting, apparently, never took place. The new association was unfortunate in some of its personnel; both Mr. Brown, the retiring state printer, and Anthony Noltner of the Portland Standard, prominent in the group, were under fire in connection with allegedly excessive charges for printing done for the state, and their fellow editors found their enthusiasm for the meeting fatally chilled. So far as this writer knows, no further meeting of the old association was held, and no new start was made until 1887. Under different names but with no lapse of continuity, the organization that was started at Yaquina City has continued to this day.
"A total of 18 editors, publishers, and other newspaper workers assembled in the ambitious little Yaquina Bay town August 12, 1887, to organize the statewide group."
The first person to serve as president of the Oregon Press Association was Martin L. Pipes, representative of the Benton Leader of Corvallis. In May 1928, Harris Ellsworth, advertising manager of the Four-L Lumber News, Portland, became the association's first field manager. In this position, Ellsworth spent part of his time managing the association and the other part teaching in the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon.
The office headquarters of ONPA, up until 1971, were at the University of Oregon. During the summer of that year, ONPA moved its office to Portland. In 2014, ONPA moved to the Kruse Way Place office complex in Lake Oswego, where it remains today.