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Monday, October 24, 2011

Tribune finally slipping away

We were so grateful when timber magnate Bob Pamplin started the Portland Tribune a decade ago. Portland needed a new voice, and the Trib, which started out being published twice a week with free home delivery, provided it. It had great writers, among them Phil Stanford, Dwight Jaynes, Bill McDonald, and Promise King. It was something that we looked forward to getting our hands on.

Times being what they are in the newspaper business, however, all of that is gone now. The Trib is printed once a week, delivery a distant memory, and its editorial staff has been gutted. Jim Redden and Kerry Eggers are still around, but except for those two old pro's, the roster is thin. It's been that way for a few years now.

We've been surprised at how gamely the Trib has carried on despite the massive cutbacks. It's actually maintained a respectable profile running on a skeleton crew. But some big cracks are starting to show.

We picked up this week's print edition the other day, and were a little startled at how shallow this front-page profile was, on Portland mayoral candidate Jefferson Smith. Writer Jennifer Anderson produced a puff piece that downplayed Smith's significant personality problems and ignored the tangled finances of his obscure network of interlocked entities. She allowed him to brush off critics, none of whom were interviewed, as "haters." That's pretty weak.

Then we took a look at the advance piece on Roger Daltrey's concert tonight, and the only way to describe it was amateurish in the extreme. It needed editing, a lot of editing, that it didn't get.

Meanwhile, Pamplin's other publications are starting to give us the willies. Down in Lake Oswego, the Review has become an unabashed cheerleader for Homer Williams's "urban renewal" schemes. And in Clackamas, the Review has thrown in with the county commissioners, who have subverted the initiative process with a deliberately confusing decoy ballot measure on "urban renewal."

Given limited resources, there is only so much value that these publications can provide to their communities. But when they start doing more harm than good, well, it's sad.

Comments (20)

Have only been here a decade, and on arrival subcribed to our local Pamplin paper. Quit paying for it about 4-5 years ago when it finally sunk in that the "coverage" of local political/tax issues was nothing more than rewriting (barely) local gov press releases. "Cheerleader" is too mild.

Sounds like their "value" to the communities has been appropriated for business-related propaganda purposes. Information control is everything in a corporate-run plutocracy.

"Cheerleader is too mild"
I'll say.
Their support for the Lake Oswego, Clackamas County and Beaverton planning schemes could not be more scandelous.

Take a pick on which is their worst endorsement.
It may be Beaverton's UR plan and School levy combo.
But all take dishonesty to new levels.

Check this out and Jk's comment.


I also thought Pete Schulberg's column was great back in the day, and once, after he wrote about my comedy-writing "career", I found out that a lot more people read his column than mine.

Wow, I just realized I turned the attention back from him to me within the same sentence. If you're trying to be a freelancer, study that closely. That's how it's done.

Agreed, Schulberg was good. How soon I forget.

Besides the Tribune's failures reporting on urban renewal, transit, bike culture, planning and candidates, I find the Green Agenda with no analysis just as appalling.

Are you forgetting Pete Schulberg's stint as Portland Park Bureau spokesmodel?

I'm going to stick up for the Tribune and once again turn it about me. At this point it's a reflex action. I did a column several weeks before the invasion of Iraq talking about the unforeseen consequences, and the general wisdom of the idea. I suggested that if W. hadn't used his connections to get out of Vietnam, he might not be doing this, and I used the experiences of a local Vietnam veteran to show how easily things could go badly.

I was told that it led to my departure from the Tribune, but the fact remains, that while the New York Times and the Oregonian and so many other papers were carrying water for the Bush/Cheney invasion plans, as we were swept into this frenzy to attack Iraq as a response to 9/11, the Tribune can say they were one of the only papers that presented a real look at what we were getting ourselves into.

Later I wrote a line that went on national TV that said, "The Senate Intelligence Committee has concluded that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. Well, thank God we found that out before we did anything crazy."

That line was also printed in Time Magazine.

The Trib dismissal was - as they often are - a great break. It allowed me to go on cable access with my friend James Shibley and really tear into the Bush/Cheney administration for this wretched war.

During this outburst we played my song, "Let's Leave Iraq"
at least 100 times in the Portland area. One funny moment was when the control guy at cable access asked why we played the song so much and I said, "The idea is if they stop the war, we'll agree to take the song off the air." The young man said, "I'm surprised there hasn't been more movement on that."

Google, "Let's Leave Iraq". It's still there although the upload quality of the video is not that great. (Incidentally, I'm proud of my slide guitar playing - thank you.)

In conclusion, last week marked the official announcement of the end of the War in Iraq. This week marks the 3-year anniversary of the passing of my co-host, James Shibley who died at 39. I wouldn't trade hanging out with James for those shows for anything at the Tribune, so thanks for letting me go.

The 150 shows we did have been presented on a hard drive to his widow so his young son can see what a cool dude his father was.

It all fits together.

A lot of people forget why Pamplin started the Tribune.

Let's not forget the Pamplin claim that KPAM radio would "play it down the middle" and "present all sides" on its talk shows. Within what seemed like nano seconds (nano months at max) consultants were brought in (they said they wouldn't) talk show hosts were blown out including Sheila Hamilton and the much ballyhooed Bill Gallagher who was placed back in news (thanks to the consultant) and his talk show blown up. The original crew of hosts were all replaced with (surprise) right wingers with a pro Bush, pro-Iraq war agenda. Schulberg and Jaynes may have done a bang up job for The Oregonian but neither seemed to understand radio, radio talk, radio news and what makes for "good radio." To wit..did morning news listeners REALLY give a damn if Barbara Walters was gonna switch networks? Did morning news listeners REALLY care if the networks dumped regular programming to cover JFK Jr.'s death in a plane wreck? Was this cutting edge morning radio in Portland? Any new ground broken? Was it funny? Thought provoking? Controversial? In-depth and memorable? Investigative and hard hitting? How about just interesting? In time Pamplin replaced both Jaynes and Schulberg on KPAM and in the years since, the ratings have stayed pretty much where they've always been...nowhere.

Bill McDonald is an honest, thoughtful guy with a boat load of integrity. Yeah yeah, funny I know...funny as hell actually. But he (wisely) rejected the Bush/Cheney/Iraq War Kool-Aid and the Pamplin outfit couldn't have that. The sad fact is too many print and broadcast media outlets here and across America aren't bastions of good journalism but whorehouses for the powerful, the elite,
and the war mongerers...particularly the war mongerers who (surprise) didn't have the guts to go to Vietnam.......

Actually, considering the absolutely unlistenable, un-intellectual swamp that KPAM became after all the really nifty local live talent got canned because Dr. Bob discovered that that stuff costs money, the real miracle is how the Tribune survived as long as it did with any sort of voice.

Re: "...the real miracle is how the Tribune survived as long as it did with any sort of voice."

Perhaps it has been the puzzle half-page -- in the absence of comics -- that has kept readers coming back for more?

I appreciate the kind words but a boat load of integrity? Not even a small canoe. Not even a kayak.

My integrity comes down to sheer luck: All the times I've really tried to sell out, they weren't buying.

On a humorous note, James and I would openly solicit offers on our cable access show to change our opinions to pro-Bush and Cheney, making that "call-me" sign.

I thought the integrity guy at the Tribune was this cartoonist named Jeff Cook.

Re: "I thought the integrity guy at the Tribune was this cartoonist named Jeff Cook."

Bill McD,

The photos were superb when the Trib first appeared, but then the photo editor -- who, with a staff of committed photographers, had contributed aesthetically, journalistically, and memorably to the venture -- was eliminated. The photographic staff was pared. The look of the newspaper suffered: it is not only not a good read but it is also hard on the eyes.

Ah well, as far as Jim Redden is concerned, he can always go back to publishing PDXS. There's always a market for unsubstantiated conspiracy theory and testimonials for BDSM liquid latex, right?


Be it newspapers, radio and TV shows, or even websites, somebody has to pay the bills; whether for the talent, or for the operating infrastructure.

I'm not judging anyone's ideas, but in the end, either a benefactor or advertisers need to step up to the plate to fund the operations.

It doesn't matter how many eyes or ears the venues garner, if the costs of operation aren't covered, the operation will eventually wither and disappear.

Sure, there are a lot of right leaning radio talk shows, and a smattering of progressive talkers, too. Willing advertisers and benefactors are the enablers. Without them, there would be silence.

Even benefactors lose interest in their causes...

Well I wonder what the yearly buy is by local government.

Regarding Jefferson Smith and his "tangled finances of his obscure network of interlocked entities" .... He tweeted from San Jose a few days ago - presumably collecting money for his Mayoral run. Keepin' it local, alright. East-side Mayor, my butt. East-side of California, maybe.

Don't overlook Steve Law . . . . he does some nice work.

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