Will The Oregonian survive?

Local news coverage is dying.

dyingnewspapers

The latest casualty — the entire staff of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. All 161 of them, , including reporters and editors, are losing their jobs.

On May 2, the Times-Picayune’s rival, the New Orleans Advocate, bought the Times-Picayune and plans to merge the papers under a single masthead and website. The seller — Advance Local Media LLC, the parent of Oregonian Media Group.  Even winning  two Pulitzers for its coverage of Hurricane Katrina didn’t serve the Times-Picayune.

Randy Siegel, CEO of Advance Local, assured the New York Post’s Keith J. Kelly that the sale of the Times-Picayune was a one-time thing. But what if it’s not? Is The Oregonian/OregonLive at risk, too?

Daily newspapers like the Times-Picayune and The Oregonian were once pervasive throughout the United States, with many communities having both a morning and evening paper, and sometimes a weekly local paper as well. But daily local newspapers are now in decline, dealing with cratering circulation, a reduction in print editions and drastic staff cuts.

According to the Wall St. Journal, nearly 1,800 US newspapers shut down between 2004 and 2018, including more than 60 dailies and 1,700 weeklies. Hundreds of communities have lost their local newspapers. Between 1,300 and 1,400 communities that had newspapers of their own in 2004 now have no news coverage at all, according to the UNC Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media.

It was once unthinkable that papers such as the Cincinnati Post, the Albuquerque Tribune, the New York Sun, the Rocky Mountain News, and the Tampa Tribune would close, but they are all gone now. Nicco Mele, former director of Harvard’s Shorenstein Center, predicts that half of remaining titles will disappear within the next two years.

Newspaper consumption in Oregon is already dropping precipitously, with daily and weekly circulation combined falling from 1.4 million in 2004 to 796,000 in 2019, the UNC Center says.

Some of the remaining Oregon papers are what the UNC Center calls “ghosts”  because their newsroom staffing has been so dramatically pared back, often by more than half,  that the remaining journalists cannot adequately cover their communities.

In January 2018, when Willamette Week broke that The Oregonian was laying off another 11 newsroom staffers, the Portland Mercury observed, “After repeated rounds of layoffs, it’s hard to imagine The Oregonian having anywhere else to cut. But the news business’s grim prognosis marches on, so the cuts continue.”

“For those inclined to point fingers at The Oregonian or our parent company Advanced Publications: Ad revenue across our industry continues to plummet precipitously. Layoffs in local newsrooms are happening everywhere. And it fucking sucks,” Oregonian reporter Shane D. Kavanaugh tweeted.

Compared with its breadth and depth in the 1990s, The Oregonian/OregonLive has become a ghost. When I was a business reporter at The Oregonian in the 1980s and 1990s, the business team of reporters and editors was a robust 8-10 individuals covering a panoply of topics from energy and healthcare to labor and retail. OregonLive’s list of staff today includes just one reporter, Mike Rogoway, specifically devoted to business coverage , unless you also count Jeff Manning, who is listed as a reporter covering Health Care Business, OHSU.

Sports coverage is still robust, with 12 reporters and editors, but just one reporter, Gordon Friedman, is specifically assigned to covering everything going on at Portland City Hall.

When the Jan. 2018 layoffs were announced, The Oregonian/OregonLive’s editor and vice president of content, Mark Katches, said to the paper’s staff, “You’re probably asking yourself, when will these cuts end? I wish I could answer that. Although we have made progress growing our digital audience while also producing award-winning, and important journalism, the revenue picture continues to pose challenges for our company – as is the case across the media landscape.”

In August 2018, Katches abandoned ship himself to take a new job as executive editor of the Tampa Bay Times, another paper that has had its own struggles both before and since it acquired its competitor,  the Tampa Tribune, in 2016 .

With all the strife in the newspaper business, is The Oregonian/OregonLive ripe for the same fate as the Times-Picayune.

Don’t think it can’t happen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let the dogs out: the assault on Steve Scalise

Rep. Steve Scalise, R-LA, has had a reputation throughout his political career for being open to talking with just about anybody, regardless of their ideological persuasion. Horrors!

In today’s hyper-partisan world, that’s apparently a bad thing.

“I live in a rather special world,” influential film critic Pauline Kael commented after the 1972 presidential election. “I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don’t know. They’re outside my ken.”

The provincialism and narrow-mindedness of that observation came to mind in thinking about the Steve Scalise controversy. Progressives in the media and government were all too ready to accept the controversial allegation from a left-leaning blogger and attack Scalise in a frenzy because they wouldn’t, or couldn’t, think outside their echo-chamber of like thinkers.

But consider the source, and wonder whether the media have failed the public.

The melee started when a left-leaning blogger, Lamar White Jr., posted that twelve years ago a Louisiana state legislator, Steve Scalise, addressed the European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO) about a tax and spending ballot measure.

Lamar White

Lamar White

Rep. Steve Scalise, R-LA

Rep. Steve Scalise, R-LA

White later said he learned about the incident after getting a tip from Robert Reed, the son and campaign manager of a Democrat who lost to Scalise in a 2008 special election to fill an open House seat in Louisiana.

White said he verified the tip by checking Reed’s source, a post on Stormfront, a race-baiting website run by white nationalists and other racial extremists.

Stormfront logo

Stormfront logo

When the media discovered White’s allegation, they leapt at the story, apparently without bothering to do much fact-checking. The progressive posse, eager to believe the worst about a conservative, went ballistic.

Because EURO was founded by David Duke, a prominent former Ku Klux Klan leader, critics excoriated Scalise for even talking to a racist group, no matter the topic, even though Scalise said he had no recollection of speaking at the EURO conference.

The national Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) enthusiastically bashed Scalise, now House Majority Whip, with a guilt- by-association pronouncement.

DCCC National Press Secretary, Josh Schwerin

DCCC National Press Secretary, Josh Schwerin

“Steve Scalise chose to cheerlead for a group of KKK members and neo-Nazis at a white supremacist rally and now his fellow House Republican Leaders can’t even speak up and say he was wrong,” said DCCC National Press Secretary Josh Schwerin. “Republicans in Congress might talk about improving their terrible standing with non-white voters, but it’s clear their leadership has a history of embracing anti-Semitic, racist hate groups.”

Rep. Sean Maloney (D-N.Y.), piled on, calling for Scalise to resign from the Republican House Leadership team.

Alexandra Petri, author of the Washington Post’s ComPost blog, said, “Why would you possibly think speaking at this event was a good idea? Why would you think attending this event was a good idea?”

Similarly, Eugene Robinson wrote an opinion piece in the Washington Post titled, “The GOP has a bad habit of appealing to avowed racists”.

“Here’s some advice for House Majority Whip Steve Scalise that also applies to the Republican Party in general: If you don’t want to be associated in any way with white supremacists and neo-Nazis, then stay away from them,” Robinson said.

Robinson went on, “Do not give a speech to a racist organization founded by former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke, as Scalise did when he was a Louisiana state legislator before running for Congress.”

This has just gone too far.

Now it’s apparently not only wrong to say something that’s offensive to progressives or something provocative that might challenge preconceptions and “trigger” discomfort, but it’s impermissible for politicians to address people progressives don’t agree with.

No wonder we have political gridlock if electeds are rebuked for even talking with people who have a different point of view.

What makes this whole thing even more bizarre is that Louisiana’s Times-Picayune newspaper now reports that Scalise may not, in fact, have spoken at the Euro event.

On Dec. 31, the paper said the man who arranged Scalise’s appearance at the event he addressed now says Scalise didn’t attend the EURO conference, but rather a small meeting of the Jefferson Heights Civic Association that was held in the same hotel conference room earlier the same day.

Wouldn’t it be something if all this sturm and drang has been over nothing.