Leith Easterling has been a graphic designer at The Nugget Newspaper since 1991. photo provided
Leith Easterling has been a graphic designer at The Nugget Newspaper since 1991. photo provided

When Leith Easterling started with The Nugget in 1991, the newspaper industry was on the cusp of revolutionary change.

As the third member of a tiny, three-person staff, along with then-owners Kiki and Erik Dolson, Easterling wore a variety of hats: She sold ads, designed and produced the ads, and pasted the paper up - with actual wax on paper. It was labor-intensive work.

"We had some really long hours, late hours," she recalled.

When paste-up was completed, the paper had to be physically transported to press at The Bulletin in Bend, where it was "photographed" for plating-up and printing.

Now, all those process are computerized, and the files that compose the paper are transmitted digitally. Leith no longer has wax under her fingernails, but she still has newspaper ink in her blood.

That's what drew her into the job in the first place.

"I was intrigued by it probably just because my dad was in the newspaper business and I had a great-uncle in the newspaper business," she said. "I just grew up in it and around it."

Now 27 years have passed and she's raised a family around the newspaper. And the work continues to satisfy.

"It's given me the flexibility I needed," she said. "It's not a dull job, so you're not doing the same thing day after day."

The Nugget's Sisters Oregon Guide is Easterling's signature project. She saw a visitor's guide in a small town where she was on vacation and brought the idea back to The Nugget. Originally, there were two guides, one for winter and one for summer - and they were modest affairs: "Not a lot of color."

Easterling's design helped the guide - now an annual production that goes across the Pacific Northwest - become a primary marketing tool for Sisters Country and its businesses.

"I love it," Easterling said. "That's one of the most rewarding aspects of the job - being able to do the Sisters Oregon Guide. It's well-received by everybody, I think."

After nearly three decades, she still enjoys coming to work.

"I love the people," she said. "We're a family. That's important. You get to find out what's happening in your community every week."

And Easterling is one of the breed that thrives under the pressure of getting a publication out every week.

"I love being on a deadline," she said.

She notes that not many people really "get" all the steps that go into the production of a newspaper - the old saw is that the ads and stories get put in a paper bag, shaken up and out pops a paper.

"It's not like that," she said, laughing. "It doesn't happen overnight; it's a process - and a complicated process."

Having moved from manual paste-up and photographs produced in a tiny darkroom to a fast-paced, productive digital era, Easterling is used to change. And she sees recent changes at The Nugget - including a change in ownership - as an opportunity.

"I see it growing and getting better," she said.

That's not an easy thing to say in an industry that is trying to find its footing in a brave new media world.

"When you look at the bigger newspapers that are struggling, it's a little unsure, I guess," she said. "But I've always thought the small-town newspaper has a niche."

Outside of work, Leith enjoys time with her kids and family, music, art, books and she confesses to a "love-hate relationship with Crossfit."

She also likes to travel - when she can get out from under that deadline.