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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The end of the O, as told by Willy Week

The enthusiasm with which the bad news is reported here is a little unseemly. Old grudges die hard, apparently.

For our part, we'll be sorry to see Portland's daily become a three-weekly, or whatever. But we must admit that reading it on paper has turned into a real oddity for us. We've cancelled the free subscription they were delivering to our house. Except for the A&E section, it was just a pile of papers containing stories we had already read on line.

WW hits the nail on the head, however, in blasting the O's website. That thing is bad. And it isn't as if they haven't had time to get it right. They've been at it for a decade or so, and it's still dreadful.

Comments (21)

I wouldn't call it "enthusiasm" so much as "gallows humor". As the staffs at other weeklies nationwide have discovered, layoffs and downsizings at local dailies are usually followed by similar downsizings at neighboring weeklies, and the pain tends to be a bit more intense. The dailies usually have some kind of standards as to the people they hire, and weeklies are notorious for driving off their most popular (and expensive) contributors in favor of unpaid interns and bloggers who will do anything, and I mean anything, to tell people that they work in journalism.

There's a line in Vanity Fair's article on Microsoft that seems to be fitting for the big O.
"an internal culture that unintentionally rewards managers who strangle innovative ideas that might threaten the established order of things."

Indeed, if you're going to go to a primarily online strategy, the least you can do is make sure your website doesn't suck. There's plenty of local Web talent in these parts that could be tapped to make a truly useful website.

Although, to be fair, it's probably the suits in New Jersey mandating The O use that godawful OregonLive template. It's also probably a corporate mandate to keep OregonLive a separate entity from the newspaper, the reasons for which have never been clear to me.

Newspapers have a definite and simple organization and hierarchy -- the front page, the editorial page, the local section, the arts section, the sports section. Once a day, or once a week, or whenever the paper is published, it's a snapshot of where things stood at deadline time. In contrast, with the web, things change constantly, and readership tends to increase the more the content is revised. The trick is to come up with a reliable organization and hierarchy in that atmosphere. The Newhouses clearly don't have it.

But they really shot themselves in the foot when they decided to have content disappear after 14 days. It will take years to recover from that blunder.

They just revamped the website and the new one is worse.

The O should start charging a fee to publish
press releases that were handed to them (Similar to Obit charges.) We might see less propaganda from government and they could profit by not disclosing "paid advertisement" on their news.

We're not the only ones blessed with this website:


Website layout for a news organization is simple. Have big links that say "Local News" "National News" "Odd Stories" "Sports" etc. Then have each link automatically open as a new tab in the internet browser when it is clicked on. I get to read the sections I want without having to read the boring bits. And each tab is a different "theme" so I know exactly what I'm getting.

That's pretty simple and it would certainly make me happy.

The Oregonian isn't alone in recently "improving" their site and making it worse. The Tribune's upgrade, in my opinion, is just as bad. I've been noticing that the lead post for each main article features a run-on sentence at the beginning.

The NY Times has the best website I've ever found for news. It isn't perfect because the various sections all have different formats, but it is very, very good.

The O's website is a total and complete mess. Whoever is in charge of that pile doesn't even understand the concept of news delivery.

I have no idea how many people it takes to run the NY Times website but I bet it is a big investment. The content changes from moment to moment so they must have a room full of people updating the site. Not sure how they pay for it, but it sure is cool to watch.

Pardon me if I happen to see the irony in the slow motion demise of the "O".

For years, the local "O" Op Ed writers have been heaping their scorn on local industries for not being "green" enough for the "O".

My UNPUBLISHED letters to the editor (and deleted comments) questioned how "green" the single use, plastic wrapped, dead ground up tree, truck distributed, SUV delivered, content thin, lefty leaning, anti business, intern cut and pasted, spoon fed government PIO content of the "O".

The incomplete descriptions of the WHO in their crime reports, would get them a failing grade in any high school journalism class.

I expect a boost in unsolicited phone calls with "special subscription rates" soon.

The mobile version is even worse. No comments and if you click Desktop, it goes back in the main page instead of showing the full version of the current story. Yet if you reach a story that doesn't have a mobile version, it offers to show the full version and doesn't start over at the main page.

The O's website is a total and complete mess. Whoever is in charge of that pile doesn't even understand the concept of news delivery.

Or journalism, for that matter. I believe it's because like many local papers, it has little to do with "news" anymore.

The most annoying tidbit that has not been mentioned yet has to be the cramming of about 5 different articles under 1 heading on the front page, all seemingly disconnected. A good example is something like this:

"N. Alberta Neighbors Stand Against New Festival; Blazer's New Coach Feeling at Home; A Pop Up Food Cart idea; Restaurants Bite Back"

Occasionally they'll end it with something like "ZZZ Roundup" but usually it's just a flustercuck of articles, half of which I have no idea what the story entails just by reading their headline.

The other thing I find annoying is still having links all over the place to the dude who was in the car crash and masturbated afterwards. That happened months ago. Yes, it was weird, but it doesn't merit space in the "recommended" section after this long.

That's OK. TO fill the void, METRO is going to publish a weekly to give their "reporter" something to do.

Enthusiastically second the kent mulder comment about the stupid masturbating driver story. It is so obviously dumb to keep it running I wonder if anyone in top management even reads the on-line paper.
Can't blame them for avoiding it, it is a mess, and we can't blame the local management for that.
But the price is right.

I am moving this Friday. I am having a moving sale for my left over stuff for Saturday and Sunday. I am going to put an ad in Craigslist for free. I figured that I should get more exposure as my sale is really big, huge etc, so I went to the Oregonian website to place an ad. I figured it would cost ten to fifteen bucks. Wrong! Their cheapest ad is $45.00 for four lines. They have to be kidding. No wonder they are loosing advertising revenue. Idiots, they really could make it up in volume, which would be a reason also to sell more papers. Anyway folks, I am moving to Clackamas County zip 97009. We have been fixing up our new home, painting and cleaning etc. We use the Fred Meyer in Sandy. Wow, I am able to purchase Styrofoam cups, spray paint without it being locked up. The Safeway gives out plastic bags. My garbage is picked up every week, and I don’t have to recycle. Gasoline is cheaper too. From now on when I go to the big city, it is going to be Gresham.

I was a little perplexed by the claim that the Oregonian was "once considered one of the nation's best."

Maybe it was, and I'd be interested in hearing reader's opinions to the contrary, but IMO, it certainly must have been some time before the 8 years I've been living here. The Oregonian has always seemed to really be a second-rate rag---I love reading print newspapers and wanted to subscribe after moving here, but changed my mind after a month or two of reading it.

The O has made so many really dumb missteps, it is sad but understandable that it is now a fading rose. When I was a kid, my class went on a field trip to the Oregonian building to see how a paper was made. We saw the drawing table the cartoonist, Art Bimrose, used, the bull pen where the reporters worked, and my favorite- the press room where the pages were composed with the noisy Linotype machine in full operation throwing out lines of lead text, all building to make a paper. A big daily paper with wide circulation that kept thousands of kids on the streets with their bikes early each morning pitching papers onto porches, driveways and roofs. Even collecting money for the papers was a tedious task done by kids that taught business and customer relations skills. Do schools take children on field trips anymore?

The loss is more than physical. Losing our last daily paper means we will lose the strongest link we have to a shared experience of being in this time and place together. I don't think TV or the Internet can do the same. And that is sad.

John Benton, Rock on -- I hope you enjoy your new digs outside of the red zone. =-)

The O's website is a total and complete mess. Whoever is in charge of that pile doesn't even understand the concept of news delivery.

Or journalism, for that matter. I believe it's because like many local papers, it has little to do with "news" anymore.

Remember Jonathan Nicholas? Suspended for a couple of weeks for plagiarism, he went on to become an editor at The Zero. I'll never forget an interview he did, in which he was asked what motivated him to go into journalism. His answer:

"Because I wanted to make a difference."

That, right there, explains why vintage media is crashing, while blogs like Jack's are on the rise.

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