Two-time Pulitzer finalist Les Zaitz is an Oregon native. He started his professional journalism career right out of high school, hired in 1973 as a general assignment reporter for the Salem Statesman Journal. He continued writing as a staff reporter and correspondent while attending the University of Oregon, working for the Springfield News, the Oregon Journal, UPI, and the New York Times.
From 1976-1987, he was a reporter for The Oregonian, handling various beats before taking an assignment in 1982 to the investigative team.
From 1987-2000, he was owner and publisher of the weekly Keizertimes newspaper in Oregon. His family still owns the newspaper, which consistently wins journalism awards.
He returned to The Oregonian as senior investigative reporter in 2000, served a year as investigations editor, and returned to the field as senior investigative reporter in 2015. He retired in 2016 from the newspaper and returned to community journalism.
Les is the editor and publisher of the weekly Malheur Enterprise newspaper, based in Vale, Oregon. His family bought the newspaper in 2015 to rescue it from closure and Zaitz assumed the duties of publisher after retiring in October 2016.
He is also a founding partner in Mazama Digital, formed in 2017 to design and market a content management system for online news operations.
Les has won state, regional and national journalism awards for 40 years. In 2007, he was part of a team that won the prestigious George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer. He was a finalist for the Pulitzer in 2014. He is a five-time solo winner of Oregon’s Bruce Baer Award, the state’s top award for investigative reporting. The Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association in 2016 awarded him its highest honor for career achievement – an award not given since 2010.
In his field, he has been a trainer, coach and conference speaker for decades. He is considered an expert in Oregon public records law and twice has served on state councils examining reforms of Oregon’s law. In 2017, Gov. Kate Brown appointed Zaitz to the newly-created Oregon Public Records Advisory Council, one of three press representatives.
At the Enterprise, Zaitz is leading a transformation to make the weekly a model for investigative and enterprise reporting at the local level. The newspaper in 2017 pursued the story of a recently-released state hospital patient’s involvement in two murders and an assault in Malheur County. The newspaper discovered the defendant had been released after convincing state officials he had faked mental illness for 20 years to avoid prison and after mental health experts warned he was a danger. Zaitz and the newspaper were sued by a state agency to avoid complying with an order to turn over public records. Gov. Brown interceded, ordered the lawsuit dropped, and the records produced.
Zaitz has served on a multitude of community boards over the years, ranging from the Red Cross to a regional hospital to a county fair board. He has often held leadership roles in that board service.
He lives in a remote ranch in Grant County, and where he and his wife, Scotta Callister, run a small horse/cow operation.