"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.

A great newspaper’s lousy spin

stapilus RANDY

The View
from Here

The news of what the Oregonian will be doing, and not doing, by and on October 1, was bad enough. But do they have to insult our intelligence, and do a really bad job of dodging the facts in a hail or corporate bafflegab, at the same time?

Here’s how the Oregonian story on the new developments begins: ” A new, digitally focused media company, Oregonian Media Group, will launch this fall to expand news and information products in Oregon and Southwest Washington. The new company, which will launch October 1, will operate OregonLive.com and publish The Oregonian and its related print products. A separate company, Advance Central Services Oregon, will provide support services for Oregonian Media Group and other companies. Oregonian Media Group will introduce new and improved digital products, including enhancements to Oregon’s largest news website, OregonLive.com. The company will provide up-to-the-minute news and information, when and where readers want it – on their desktops, laptops, smartphones and tablets. At the same time, it will continue to publish Oregon’s oldest, largest and leading newspaper.”

Sounds fine, doesn’t it? Doesn’t sound very significant to the average reader, does it?

Of course, what’s really happening, and what’s not even really hinted at in those opening sentences, is this: The paper is cutting back home delivery from seven to three times a week (there’s a fig leaf about a “Saturday edition,” but evidently it will be delivered with the Sunday paper). There will be layoffs – no specific word on how many, but word circulating is that they will be large. The paper will move out of its long-time building gently uphill from Portland’s downtown, to some smaller digs, no longer needing the space. And so on.

You can find an actual comprehensible news report about what’s happening and what its significance is, at Willamette Week.

What it comes to is this: The Oregonian will no longer be a true daily newspaper (at least not in any sense that distinguishes it from every weekly newspaper that also runs a 24/7 website, as most of them do). It will have a far smaller reporting and editing staff and so – the limitless capacity of the web notwithstanding – there will be less local and regional news coverage. News consumers in Oregon will be taking a major hit.

So, long term, I suspect, will the Oregonian, and its parent Advance Publications, based out of New York; Advance (not in Portland) was where the cutback decisions got made. (They are similar to the approach which gouged the papers in Cleveland and New Orleans, which Advance also owns).

Not long ago I talked with a veteran and successful newspaper publisher outside Oregon curious what I’d heard about what was going on at the Oregonian. I said there was talk about the three-day-a-week model and major cutbacks, but also hearing about blowback in Ohio and Louisiana, with the possibility of some rethinking about at the approach at Advance. He and I agreed the big cut approach would be disastrous, and hoped it would be reconsidered.

But evidently not.

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