Elected officials don't often give public advice to private businesses on how they should do business. Portland City Council member Steve Novick however, did just that in a recent blog post.
On August 7, the Oregonian had a very nice editorial commending me for changing my mind about something I was planning to do. It occurred to me that the Oregonian itself, and its parent company, Advance Publications, could gain a lot of good will if they changed their minds about some things they are planning to do. So I figured I might as well give them my two cents:
Don’t eliminate seven-day delivery.
Eliminating a seven-day-a-week paper is bad for democracy; as Mayor Hales said, online we look only for the things we know we're interested in, but when we see a front page, we can wind up reading about something we should care about but never thought about before. Advance (owned by the Newhouse family) is the only national chain that is doing this; are they really sure they’re smarter than everyone else? And the Oregonian is, according to the publisher, making money; they don’t have to do this to survive.
Don’t fire Scott Learn.
Scott covers environmental issues, and does it very well. He tells complicated stories in an accessible way. And he hasn't always only done environmental stories; I remember a fine piece he did on the inequities in our screwed-up property tax system in, I think, 2005. He's one of the best reporters the Oregonian has ever had. And a really nice guy, too.
Don’t fire Ryan White.
Ryan is now the music critic, but he's mostly just a fantastic all-around writer. He created one of the funniest things I've ever seen, back in 2008, when he had a sports blog - the Best Thing in the World Competition, an NCAA-tournament style competition to determine, simply, the Best Thing In the World, through fan voting. The competition featured terrific, gripping matchups like Mike Ditka vs. Fire, Keith Jackson vs. The Wheel, and, if I recall correctly. Las Vegas vs. Sliced Bread. How could the guy who came up with that idea be out of a job?
But he’s also a very good music critic. A couple weeks back, I attended a Randy Newman concert, and Newman thanked “Mr. White from the paper” for his article previewing the concert. I’ve never, ever heard an artist do that before. Randy Newman is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I don’t think the Oregonian is likely to find another music critic who gets shout-outs from Hall of Famers.
Don’t fire David Sarasohn.
Just as a business decision I think it's insane; I am quite confident that thousands of Oregonians mostly get the paper to read David Sarasohn. David is a fine, gentle, funny writer. He has (among other things) waged a fierce single-handed battle against childhood hunger in Oregon. And here are just a couple personal memories: He had a piece on Lewis and Clark some years ago, in which he noted how many things in Oregon are named after Lewis and Clark, and said that if weren't for them we'd have lots of Oregon places and institutions with names like "Fred." I emailed him and said I thought "Fred" would be a fine place name, and suggested (I hope this doesn't offend anyone in Gresham) that I don't see why people in Gresham would object to living in Fred instead. David immediately fired back with a soliloquy on the historical importance of Postmaster General Walter Gresham. Another time, the O had a headline on Amtrak cuts titled "Blood on the Tracks," So I emailed David saying I'd always hoped the O would have more headlines based on Bob Dylan album titles, and was glad they were finally coming around. He immediately responded, "Don't you remember our headline on the Barbara Roberts - Norma Paulus budget battle, "Blonde on Blonde”?” I doubt any paper in America has an editorial writer with a more refined sense of culture, history and wit than that.
The Oregonian wrote, “Switching course … can take even more courage than sticking to a controversial position.” So show your courage, Oregonian! Switch your course. A lot of people would be very proud of you.