Where: Click here to watch the recorded lecture.
An extraordinary time in Oregon history occurred in central Oregon, when a religious sect from India set up an experiment on a cattle ranch outside Madras. In the 1980s, the Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh presided over a sect that professed self-sufficiency and love that morphed into a tightly-controlled organization that engaged in assassination attempts and plots, orchestrated the largest illegal wiretapping operation in U.S. history, and poisoned hundreds of innocent diners as a way to suppress voter turnout. Les Zaitz was an investigative reporter at the time and he co-wrote a 20-part series about the Rajneeshees that was published in the Oregonian. More recently, he was included in the Netflix film Wild Wild Country, which looks at some of the history behind Rajneeshpuram in Oregon. Les is now the editor and CEO of the Salem Reporter, but continues to speak on the topic of the Rajneeshees and what lessons can be learned today from this long-ago event.
Les Zaitz is a two-time Pulitzer finalist who started his professional journalism career right out of high school. He was hired in 1973 as a general assignment reporter for the Salem Statesman Journal and 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. He is a five-time solo winner of Oregon’s Bruce Baer Award, the state’s top honor for investigative reporting and in 2016, Zaitz was awarded the highest honor for career achievement from the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association. In 2018 he co-founded a digital news service based in Oregon’s capitol, the Salem Reporter, where he is now CEO and editor. Born and raised in Oregon, Zaitz lives on a remote ranch in Grant County, where he and his wife, Scotta Callister, run a small horse/cow operation.
Want to read more? Check out Les’s 20 part series he wrote for The Oregonian.