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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on September 2, 2005 10:10 PM. The previous post in this blog was Peak America. The next post in this blog is Black people loot, white people find. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Friday, September 2, 2005

You ask a silly question...

Newspapers and magazines fill up their unsold advertising space with "house ads" -- ads that tout the papers and mags themselves. There's a doozy of a house ad in today's O -- it's on page 3 of the Metro section of the edition we had delivered. In it, the newspaper enthusiastically pats itself on the back for its recent stories on the Portland police and firefighters disability system. The text of the ad is pretty funny:

When The Oregonian reported the huge cost of Portland's police and fire disability program, readers reacted with outrage. Readers demanded change. The city has responded, with a series of proposed charter amendments to reform the system.

Reports like this don't happen easily. They take weeks of digging in the best of circumstances -- reading reports, conducting interviews, tracking down stacks of obscure statistics. When the agency in question stonewalls -- as the disability board did -- the analysis takes that much longer, and the work is that much harder. But this is the kind of hard-hitting and informative journalism that defines Oregon's largest daily newspaper and makes us a watchdog on issues that matter to all of us.

Oh, please. As if no one else had noticed the problems in the system? And the advertising department left out the part about "We also dug up some drinking and spousal abuse stories from Commissioner Leonard's past, and splashed them around for no good reason. Might as well have some fun smearing someone while you're doing the hard, hard work of investigative journalism."

Then there's "Reports like this don't happen easily." How utterly unprofessional. Can you imagine any other paid service provider having the nerve, not to mention the perverted self-image, to say something like that to its clients?

Perhaps the silliest part of the ad, however, is the glaring headline: "If we didn't blow the whistle on the police and firefighter disability program, who would?" Gee, let's see: the Willamette Week, the Portland Tribune, the Portland Business Journal, bloggers, the City Club? Or hey, how about the Washington Post? You know, the people who have beaten you to nearly every really big scandal story that's mattered to anyone around here for decades.

The Oregonian's track record as an investigative publication is weak at best. It will take many years of work as good as, or better than, its police and fire disability stories to make it worthy of serious recognition in that realm. To run quarter-page ads declaring itself a leader in the area is, to be honest, pathetic.

Elsewhere, the O's house ads are trumpeting the advent of something they're calling "high definition news." I'm wondering what that can be. Perhaps it goes something like this. Here's the old, low-definition Oregonian:

Now here's the new, high-definition version:

We'll get to see for sure if that's what it is on the 18th.

Comments (14)

jack. hello, first post. i gotta say your blog is interesting, but here's a bit of a warning from someone you needn't listen to. your recent condescending attacks on the O just ring shallow. you're raving in the void. has the O got its problems? well, sure. but, come on, you criticize the port coverage as if to insinuate that there's something more there. evidence? gosh, you don't seem have any. does anyone? haven't seen it. that's not to defend the port. that's not the point. but just to say that the port's got a big budget so there must be something there? that's not a story you can put on the street and you know it. but a blogger's job isn't to face hard, cold deadline and libel suits, is it? it's just to be provocative. to bring back the same ditto heads. responsible investigative journalism doesn't just happen (insert, wapo and ww pulitzer come-back here; ok, they deserve that.) the O isn't the perfect paper, but you're not advancing the cause of anying by slinging the tiny little mud balls you generally sling. show me the money.

Thanks for the "warning," "cole," but I stand by this post, and my post about the Port "coverage."

The self-congratulatory ad to which I refer here is very unseemly. If no one can criticize the monopoly daily for that one, it's an odd world we're living in.

With the Port, what I suggested was that The O apparently is content to nitpick about expense accounts, when there are certainly more significant issues that need looking into. "Semi-autonomous" agencies have been involved in corruption in many cities in this country. Has The O even considered the possibility that that history has repeated itself in pristine Oregon, where "semi-autonomous" agencies preside over a billion dollars of pork every year? Doubtful. Maybe there's nothing there, but are they even looking?

I would ask, and indeed have asked, the same question of the state attorney general and the U.S. attorney.

I admit, I'm a blogger. This is a hobby. I am not in a position to look into the way the Port operates. But if I did, I certainly wouldn't start or finish with firemen's credit cards.

I would like The O to ask the serious questions, on a consistent and proactive basis, before they get wind that someone else is working on something. In the fire and disability case, they may have. Elsewhere, they clearly have not. And it's their job.

Packwood, Goldschmidt, the PDC -- The O gets there only after it's forced to go.

If you are satisfied with that publication's level of critical analysis of state and local government, you are in the distinct minority. As for my "raving in the void," all I can say is, well, you read it.

Back in the era of the Packwood scandal, the big O's motto was "If it matters to Oregonians, it's in the Oregonian".

I sported a bumper sticker that read: "If it matters to Oregonians, it's in the Washington Post".

Little has changed.

You want a Port scandal to look into? How about the looting of public assets that took place when the Port sold the drydock (along with a bunch of property) to Cascade General at a sweetheart price, only to see months later the drydock literally sold down the river by CG for an amount that totalled more than what they paid for the dock AND the land.

Where was the O on that one? Nowhere to be found.

It's a touch more significant than credit cards.

If you are satisfied with that publication's level of critical analysis of state and local government, you are in the distinct minority.

Over the years I've dealt with Oregonian --and other-- reporters, I've found the individual reporters to be smart, thoughtful, and inquisitive. The problems come with addressing complicated issues, where things aren't black & white, and the "story" can't be told in a few paragraphs of sound bites. So the "news" gets filtered to what can fill a few paragraphs, and is "sexy," so too often we get splash over substance. And rarely do we get follow-through. I think that's where alternative media --like this excellent blog-- can help fill in the gaps.

"Cole", don't you think it's only fair to disclose your relationship with The O as you're rushing in to defend it?

See, it's the intermittent transparency (when it's convenient) coupled with the overall lack of context that's the most grating problem with The O nowadays - and by failing to disclose your connection with the paper, you're only perpetuating it.

Cole,
What exactly is your "warning"?

Evidence numero uno on the O and Port reporting is their coverage on the shipyard and floating drydock giveaway scandal.
Numero two is the total lack of follow up on the waived landing fees for Luftanza, Mexicanna and ?? airlines and the unknown results.
Numero three is the lack of reporting on the declining shipping here while other West Coast ports are swelling with business.
Numero four is the nearly nonexistant reporting on the Port's relationship and activities with Metro and other agencies equally not reported on.

The O rarely dose genuine investigative work when it come to our local government agencies.
If fact they rarely validate anything told them by those agencies.
Not the emissions report by the office of sustainable development (which proved to be a fantasy), not TriMet and the many self sustaining falshoods they tout and not Metro's TOD program or Urban Renewal.
The paper rarely checks anything when they do find something contrary to the local agenda they omit it.

I missed that laughable ad. My experience is that if an agency PR person tells someone at the O something, it tends to become ethched in stone and documentary evidence indicating it is a lie is not read. Pravda of Portland. Last week a friend from the East Coast came to town to interview for a PR job at a major local concern. I told him that atttempting to discredit or intimidate Jack Bog's Blog is isn't fair play no matter what some insiders might say. I would make the same statement to "Cole".

All the ads for The Big O's high def news campaign contain the same copy mistake. They really meant to say "High Definition of 'News'".

Their editors missed the omission of "of". Read as intended, this new campaign works like a merchantability warning and implores you to toke up before reading The Big O's "news" so it makes one less angry at their journalistic incompetence.

Instead, I cancelled my subscription and saved a whole bunch of money on Doritos.

I liked the disability package and I think journalists are the only ones who could have brought it to light. Sure another paper besides the O could have reported it but they did not. Yeah, the O has been beat on some major stories but that doesn't mean the investigations that they do aren't important to me and other readers.

Many of the reporters at The O are quite good. But they go where they're sent by the editors, and that's where the lack of creativity, critical thinking and guts seems to lie.

I'm sorry, Michele, but the Port credit card investigation just wasn't that important. And neither was the "We still think Frank Gable did it" bit.

Jack, I am confused I thought your post complained about the portland and fire disability stories.
I am not too familiar with the port investigation just recall some stories about credit card spending but I thought that story stemmed from an arrest of an employee not an investigative piece.
Anyway, the disability piece was welcomed.

Aside from the cheap shots at Leonard, the disability pieces were well done. There's a problem with the retirement side as well, and that deserves more play, but they have called attention to some fairly serious issues.

My point is, The O shouldn't be bragging about its investigative prowess.

I agree that the disability fund pieces-with noted exceptions-were pretty good. But, if the net effect of the expense account stories is to make it appear that government critics are over-harsh nags and whiners rather than people genuinely and reasonably concerned about deeper problems, I think it is negative. I do think the O has some very good reporters, but too many exhibit too much obsequious (sp?) behavior(I recall a clergyman searching for a polite way to say buttlicking). Some are also overconcerned with form and politeness, which makes them susceptible to flattery. All at the O need a better understanding of how good old systems work: how it can become nearly impossible to get good olds investigated, even for anti social,even criminal, acts. "Dunthorpe Estates" on SW Terwilliger has been involved in a major land scam, creating a strong argument for outlawing non-judicial foreclosure. The O has sung the praises of an involved judge and presents the DA who ignored it as noble. It is beyond the pale that a paper like that would brag about investigative prowess.


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