Pamplin Media Group – ‘Josie’ Barnett leaves a legacy in Oregon City journalism

Members of the Woman’s Club pay tribute to an active member of the city’s press corps for much of the 20th century

Members of the Oregon City Woman’s Club honored an active member of the city’s press corps for much of the 20th century by celebrating Women’s History Month.

For decades, Catherine Josephine “Josie” McEwen Barnett worked as a reporter for the Oregon City Courier, the Oregon City Enterprise, and the Enterprise-Courier when the two newspapers merged. She also worked for the Oregon Journal and for the KGON radio station when their offices were in Oregon City. PHOTO COURTESY: OC WOMAN'S CLUB - Catherine Josephine 'Josie' McEwen Barnett of Oregon City is pictured later in life after launching her own newsletter.

In addition to being a reporter and society page editor for Oregon City newspapers, Barnett was a photographer.

Historians of Oregon City have found that his photos left a record of various major changes in the city, including the construction of the second municipal elevator and the I-205 bridge, as well as floods, fires and happier community events. . Few photos were taken of this woman who spent so much time behind her camera.

In 1955, she received five Oregon Press Women’s Awards for Best Daily Reporting, Best Newspaper Photo, Best Newspaper Reporting Photo, Best Magazine Reporting Photo, the best newscast on the radio and the best commercial program on the radio. .

Then Barnett abruptly ended his career in the established Oregon City daily newspaper to start his own journalism business. After spending most of her life reporting the news for others, she began printing her own newsletter in October 1956.

Of the freedom to vote, Barnett wrote in 1956: “Not one person in the world, under our laws, can take away this privilege and freedom from you, none but you.”

A combination of hard news, local events, advertisements and occasional editorials, Barnett wrote, typed, copied and distributed the Hometown News to local businesses Monday through Saturday for most of the rest of his life. The news was also available by mail to residents of Oregon City for a small subscription price.

“Hometown News will bring you exciting day-to-day activities in the Tri-City area. Due to lack of space, they sometimes have to be brief…We promise to do our best,” Barnett wrote in a debut issue. .

With daily weather observation (“could be better”, “just awful”, “sharp” or “rain and sun”) and local news mentions that were not “newsworthy” enough for the Enterprise -Courier, The Hometown Daily The news has been read by legions of Oregon City residents, seeking hopefully positive mentions of themselves and their families. Among loyal Hometown News readers, Karin Morey, a member of the OC Woman’s Club and historian, recalls that when she was 8, she insisted that her father bring him home every night so she could keep up to date with news.

“I also had a few opportunities to help with distribution in downtown Oregon City when Josie found me bored while hanging out at my dad’s insurance office,” Morey said. . “She could include a little more life in her own diary and sometimes print news that wouldn’t appear in the Enterprise-Courier.”

Barnett’s father worked for the railroad, first as a telegraph operator and later as an agent, when she was born on October 2, 1897, in Glenwood, Iowa. Her family later moved to Colorado, where she attended high school. After high school, she attended Normal School in Lewiston, Idaho for a teaching degree. Later in life, she took extension courses at the University of Oregon.

On March 13, 1918, she married Guy Dewitt Barnett, a fellow educator. They moved to Oregon City in 1926 when Guy was offered a position as principal of Oregon City High School, where he served for 33 years. Their only son, Robert, was born in Oregon in 1929.

Barnett’s mentor was Annie “Nan” Cornelia Cochran (1878-1957), a pioneer family member and former editor of the Enterprise. Morey said Barnett has found her niche in Oregon City organizations, despite not being a society darling like her mentor.

Barnett was a founding member and first president of the Oregon City Soroptimists Club, a member of the Susannah Lee Barlow Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and a longtime member and past president of the Oregon City Woman’s Club in addition to being a founding member of the Oregon Press Women. She has received honors from several organizations, including being named a Woman of Achievement by the national organization Soroptimist.

Barnett was also a well-known local artist, having studied at Marylhurst and with a private teacher. She held annual open houses at the family home to display her work. She worked primarily in oils and acrylics, although some articles covering her work have been exhibits indicating that she experimented with other art forms. She told a reporter that after covering up a particularly gruesome murder, she went looking for a way to capture beauty and found it in art.

Barnett, whose energy seemed endless, died of heart problems on September 17, 1991, at the age of 73.

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