Les Zaitz, editor of Salem Reporter and the Malheur Enterprise, has been honored by the Society of Professional Journalists as a Fellow of the Society. (The Enterprise – Kezia Setyawan)

Les Zaitz, editor and publisher of Salem Reporter and the Malheur Enterprise, was one of five journalists chosen as a fellow of the Society of Professional Journalists — its highest professional honor.

The organization announced the selections Thursday morning.

In addition to Zaitz, the 2020 fellows are Marty Baron, executive editor of The Washington Post; Nikole Hannah-Jones, known for creating The New York Times Magazine’s 1619 Project; Jorge Ramos, anchor for Noticiero Univision since 1986; and Gwen Ifill, who was the moderator and managing editor of “Washington Week” and co-anchor and managing editor of “PBS NewsHour” until her death in 2016.

The award, according to a press release from SPJ, is awarded to journalists “for extraordinary contribution to the profession of journalism.” SPJ started the Fellows of the Society program in 1948 and names three or more fellows every year. This year’s SPJ fellows will be honored at a virtual conference on Sept. 12-13.

Zaitz, a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist, joins many journalism legends who were honored as fellows in previous years, including Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite.

He is only the third Oregon journalist chosen for the award. Past Oregonian fellows include former editor and publisher of the Oregon Statesman Charles Sprague, chosen in 1966, and former editor of The Bulletin in Bend Bob Chandler, who was chosen in 1993.

Zaitz is an Oregon native and started his career in journalism after graduating high school in 1973 as a reporter for the Salem Statesman Journal. He attended the University of Oregon and joined The Oregonian as a reporter from 1976-1987.

From 1987-2000, Zaitz served as the owner and publisher of Keizertimes, but returned to The Oregonian in 2000, serving as a senior investigative reporter and later the investigations editor before retiring from the newspaper in 2016. His investigative work at The Oregonian looked into corrupt public officials, the Rajneesh sect and Mexican drug cartels, and he led the newspaper’s coverage of the occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge.

Zaitz became editor and publisher of the Malheur Enterprise when his family bought it in 2015, saving it from closure. In 2018, he co-founded the Salem Reporter, an online news service, and is the CEO and editor.

His long and successful career in journalism has resulted in his winning of many state, regional and national journalism awards for over 40 years. Zaitz is a five-time solo winner of Oregon’s Bruce Baer Award, the state’s top award for investigative reporting. In 2007, Zaitz was part of a team that won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer. He was also a finalist for the Pulitzer in 2014.

He was awarded the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association’s highest honor for career achievement in 2016 and awarded the Frank McCulloch Award for Courage in Journalism by the University of Nevada-Reno Journalism School in 2017. In 2018, Zaitz was given the Pat Gish Award from the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors.

When he is not running two newspapers, Zaitz runs a small ranch with his wife Scotta Callister in eastern Oregon.

Bailey Lewis – [email protected]