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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trump’s Not The First To Try To Control the Drip Drip Drip

leaks

Media are joining in on the hysteria about the Trump Administration’s efforts to control federal government communications.

“Federal agencies are clamping down on public information and social media in the early days of Donald Trump’s presidency, limiting employees’ ability to issue news releases, tweet, make policy pronouncements or otherwise communicate with the outside world, according to memos and sources from multiple agencies,” Politico reported today, Jan. 25.

Willamette Week jumped on the bandwagon today as well, telling readers, “Send us tips, oppressed comrades!”

“Got information that would make a great story, but worried about revealing who you are? (Because you work for, say, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under President Trump?) WW has two new ways to send tips without disclosing your identity,” WW said.

“It’s a dark time right now,” because of Trump Administration restrictions on the use of social media and other channels by government employees, a former Obama administration spokeswoman told Politico. “From what we can tell, the cloud of Mordor is descending across the federal service,” added Jeff Ruch, executive director of the watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

Before everybody goes off the deep end on all this, assuming it’s something new under the sun with the evil Trump, let’s step back a bit.

Every administration in recent memory has tried mightily to control the flow of information it doesn’t want disclosed from its agencies, with varying degrees of success.

In 1962, President Kennedy approved the wiretapping of a New York Times reporter and then set in motion Project Mockingbird, illegal CIA domestic surveillance on American reporters.

Richard Nixon fought leaks to the media with a vengeance. After an initial honeymoon with the media, he later distrusted them and fought them tooth and nail, believing coverage of him was deeply biased. And, frankly, it was. As Politico’s John Aloysius Farrell wrote in 2014, “Just because he was paranoid doesn’t mean the media wasn’t out to get him.”

A recent report commissioned by the Committee to Protect Journalists blasted the Obama administration for being overly aggressive in controlling government communications with the media, too, saying its information disclosure policies had a“…chilling effect on accountability.”

“The war on leaks and other efforts to control information are the most aggressive I’ve seen since the Nixon administration,” said Leonard Downie, a former Washington Post executive who authored the study.

David Sanger, the chief Washington correspondent for the New York Times, said in the report: “This is the most closed, control-freak administration I’ve ever covered.”

The report told of how the Obama administration used the 1917 Espionage Act to prosecute leakers and created the “Insider Threat Program” requiring government employees to help prevent leaks to the media by monitoring their colleagues’ behavior.

The report also described how the Justice Department secretly subpoenaed and seized all the records for 20 Associated Press telephone lines and switchboards for two months of 2012, after an AP investigation into a covert CIA operation in Yemen.

“Put all these together and it paints a pretty damning picture of an administration that talks about openness and transparency but isn’t willing to engage with the media around these issues,” said Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists.

So before everybody goes ballistic, singling out Trump’s efforts to tightly manage public pronouncements and minimize leaks, consider that he’s part of a long line of presidents who have fought hard to do the same.

That’s just a fact. Depressing, isn’t it.

Is Motor Voter Promoting Voter fraud in Oregon?

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown was thrilled when she signed the automatic motor voter registration bill on March 16, 2015.

motor-voter-law-brown

But does it have a flaw that could enable fraud?

Under Oregon’s Motor Voter law, when an eligible unregistered voter (over 17 years old, an Oregon resident and a US citizen) visits the DMV to apply for, renew, or replace an Oregon drivers’ license, ID card, or permit, that person receives a mailing from the Oregon Elections Division explaining their options for registering to vote.

Recipients of the mailing can:

  • Do nothing. In that case, the person is registered to vote as a nonaffiliated voter (not a member of a political party).
  • Choose a political party by returning the card. Joining a political party will allow the person to vote in its primary elections.
  • Use the card to opt-out and decline to register to vote.

On Oct. 25, 2016, Willamette Week ran a story that reviewed the new voter numbers. It noted that since the start of 2016, the Motor Voter law has added 247,501 newly registered voters. The story also noted that 9,292 DMV-generated voter registration cards could not be delivered.

Who are those 9,292 people? Could that mean that 9,292 people were fraudulently registered to vote?

According to Dr. Russell Terry, a Voter Engagement Advocate in the Oregon Secretary of State’s Elections Division, cards returned to the Elections Division as undeliverable can be because:

  • the address does not adhere to the USPS standardization for mailing addresses
  • the individual provided DMV with an address before updating their address through USPS
  • the individual is not identified as being at the address to which the mail is delivered

You might expect that a few addresses would be invalid if it took a while to send out the cards and people moved in the interim. But Terry said the transfer of data from the DMV to the Elections Division “…is only a few days, before or right around the time DMV would be mailing a driver’s license to that address as well.”

Is there a way, then, to check whether the people whose cards were undeliverable are legitimate voters?

I asked if I could access a list of all the names and addresses on those cards so a sampling could be checked.

Nope. “The Oregon Vehicle Code prohibits the disclosure of those individuals and their information,” Terry said.

So were up to 9,292 registered Oregon voters not eligible voters on Nov. 8? Who knows?

Given that situation, should the names of the 9,292 people whose cards were undeliverable be struck from the voter rolls?

Yes.

 

 

 

 

Why is Val Hoyle smiling?

moneyinpolitics

Like Hillary Clinton, Rep. Val Hoyle, D-Eugene, who’s running for Secretary of State,  wants to get the obscene amounts of money out of politics…..later.

 

That way, she can rake in bundles of money now while running for Oregon Secretary of State as a champion of fundraising reform.

hoyle-mobile

Val Hoyle (D-Eugene)

In the past, Hoyle has said she supports enacting a constitutional amendment to limit campaign contributions, so long as the limits aren’t “unreasonably low”.

She has also blamed Democratic losses outside Oregon on “fear and cynicism” among voters fostered by large political contributions “from a small handful of special interests”.

So much for worrying about special interests.

According to state records, Hoyle has raised $587,000 to date, putting her at the top of the fundraising pile among the Secretary of State candidates.

Val Hoyle (D)……………………..$592,728

Brad Avakian (D)…………………$387,482

Dennis Richardson (R)………….$297,413

Richard Devlin (D)……………. ..$172,315

Sid Leiken (R)……………………..$ 45,104

Hoyle’s biggest contributor is Michael Bloomberg, a New York businessman who supports aggressive gun control measures. On April 29, he gave Hoyle $250,000 in appreciation for her support of legislation that passed in the last session expanding background checks to almost all private firearm transfers.

“Mike is supporting Val Hoyle because her leadership in passing Oregon’s background check bill is truly notable,” Howard Wolfson, a spokesman for Bloomberg, told Willamette Week in an email. “No one in the country has worked harder —or more successfully—to take on the NRA than she has.”

Hoyle has also received $105,000 in contributions from Emily’s List, a Washington, D.C.-based political action committee that supports female candidates.

Without those two large contributions, both from out-of-state, Hoyle would have raised just $237,728, which would have put her behind both Brad Avakian and Dennis Richardson in fundraising totals.

 

P.S.: The other candidates aren’t exactly pure in their fundraising either, although they’re collecting nothing comparable to Hoyle from individual donors.

Brad Avakian’s larger contributions

  • $40,000 from United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555
  • $30,000 from Oregon School Employees Association – Voice of Involved Classified Employees (2307)
  • $10,000 from Pacific NW Regional Council of Carpenters, SSF
  • $10,000 from Oregon League of Conservation Voters PAC (2352)
  • $7,500 from Peter Goldman, a Seattle attorney
  • $6,000 from Naral Pro-Choice Oregon PAC (172)
  • $2,500 from Mt. & M Gaming, operator of The Last Frontier Casino in La Center, WA

 

Dennis Richardson’s larger contributions 

  • $25,000 from Sherman and Wanda Olsrud of Medford, OR
  • $15,000 from Larry Keith of Salem, OR
  • $15,000 from James Young of Lebanon, OR
  • $15,000 from Freres Timber, Inc. of Lyons, OR
  • $10,000 from Stephen M Greenleaf of Medford, OR
  • $10,000 from Richard E Uihlein of Lake Forest, IL
  • $10,000 from Murphy Co. of Eugene, OR
  • $5,000 from Zidelle Collin s of Shady Grove, OR
  • $5,000 from David A deVilleneuve of Central Point, OR

If it matters to Oregonians, it’s in (The Washington Post) Willamette Week

For those of you who don’t remember, Bob Packwood was the first.

Former Senator Bob Packwood (R-Ore)

Former Senator Bob Packwood (R-Ore)

On Nov. 22, 1992, the Washington Post reported that 10 women had accused Sen. Bob Packwood of sexual harassment. Even though one of The Oregonian’s own reporters was among the 10, and the paper had gotten tips about Packwood’s behavior, incredibly it had failed to aggressively pursue the matter. The Oregonian’s failure to break the story was mortifying for the entire paper.

Adding to the shame was a bumper sticker that began appearing around Portland:

washPoststicker

Oregonian editor, Bill Hilliard, later told the Washington Post, in a massive understatement, that his paper “should have been a little more aggressive… We were worried about ruining a man’s career.”

Neil Goldschmidt was second.

Neil Goldschmidt

Neil Goldschmidt

Nigel Jaquiss, a reporter at Willamette Week, was researching the role of former Oregon Governor, and later power player, Neil Goldschmidt, in efforts to take over Portland General Electric. He was making good progress on the story, but got hints there was more.

“It was shaping up to be a pretty good story,” Jaquiss told the American Journalism Review, “but I kept getting pushed by people… ‘There’s more you ought to be looking at… There’s a girl..'”

Jaquiss’ aggressive digging eventually revealed that Goldschmidt, when he was the married Mayor of Portland, had begun raping a neighbor’s 14-year-old daughter on a regular basis over a three-year period. Sources said Goldschmidt often took the girl to her parents’ basement, to hotels and other private spots for sex.

When Willamette week posted a summary of the story on its website, it spread like wildfire. The Oregonian had been beaten again.

Not only had The Oregonian been beaten again, this time by a local alternative weekly, but The Oregonian made things even worse. When it ran the Goldschmidt story it appeared to many readers to soft-pedal Goldschmidt’s actions as “an affair” with “a high school student”. Oregonians went ballistic.

A memo of a staff meeting at the Oregonian revealed that there was a lot of internal angst, too. The memo noted: “Steve Duin felt strongly that our coverage today was too reverential. We are dealing with a child molester. He made a very impassioned plea for doing the who knew what when story — lots of people became rich riding Goldschmidt’s coat tails — and why they kept it secret. He suggested that readers might think we’d learned nothing from Packwood and that we are hands off people in power.”

And now the Kitzhaber-Cylvia Hayes scandal.

John Kitzhaber and Cylvia Hayes

John Kitzhaber and Cylvia Hayes

Again, it was Nigel Jaquiss and Willamette Week that broke the story and followed up with bombshell after bombshell.

The Oregonian followed up with some revelations, but it was late to the party. It’s most significant role in the evolving saga was to run an editorial on Feb. 4, 2015 calling on Kitzhaber to resign, arguing, “…it should be clear by now to Kitzhaber that his credibility has evaporated to such a degree that he can no longer serve effectively as governor.”

What’s happening to The Oregonian, once the state’s dominant paper of record, now a mere shadow of its former self?

It may sound hackneyed, but great newspapers like the Oregonian were once the indispensable guardians of our freedom. Seasoned reporters have served as watchdogs to ensure good government and reinforce good citizenship. The Oregonian has been a key ingredient of  civic dialogue and discourse in the state.

David Simon, a former Baltimore Sun reporter who created the award-winning HBO series The Wire, warned at a U.S. Senate hearing on the “Future of Journalism”, that “high-end journalism is dying in America.”  Oregon can’t afford for The Oregonian to be among those at death’s door.

 

Disclosure: I worked as a reporter at The Oregonian during the 80s and 90s.