From the Front Lines
Steve Bass ’79 keeps Oregonians informed and entertained
by Bryan Wendell
They don’t spend much time on Kevlar vests in journalism school. Or in economics classes at Bucknell.

But for Steve Bass ’79, ensuring his reporters had bulletproof vests, helmets and gas masks as they covered racial-justice protests was just another of 2020’s harsh realities.

As the president and CEO of Oregon Public Broadcasting, Bass oversees a team of 180 that covered a trio of once-in-a-century stories in 2020: the global pandemic, historic wildfires and 140 straight days of protests in Portland.

Steve Bass at the office
Photo: Corey Arnold
Steve Bass ’79 keeps a large team on track at Oregon Public Broadcasting.
“We had very justifiable concerns about the safety of our reporters,” Bass says. “One night, one reporter got shot in the hand with a so-called ‘nonlethal munition,’ which I got to watch on Twitter.”

He did much more than watch. As some elected officials were calling reporters the “enemy of the people,” Bass made sure his staff had the training and protective gear they’d need.

His precautions enabled them to deliver what the audience demanded: on-the-ground reporting in near-real time.

“We value accuracy and truth more than we value speed, but people will not wait for the newspaper to arrive with a nice thump in the morning,” Bass says.

His journey to Oregon has been long and accomplished. At Bucknell, Bass majored in economics and music, played the clarinet, and handled publicity for arts performances. He earned a master’s in arts administration from the University of Wisconsin and worked in public broadcasting in Washington, D.C., Massachusetts and Tennessee.

As his career progressed, journalism also evolved. Beyond covering breaking news, his team creates daily radio shows like Think Out Loud, podcasts like Timber Wars and TV shows like Oregon Field Guide.

“I came here in 2006 to run a radio and television network,” Bass says. “Now I’m running a journalism organization. The way we define journalism here goes beyond just hard news.”