From the editor — December 2016
I wrote the below on March 25, 2008. Then life came at me hard and Portland News Review languished with a handful of subsequent posts. I thought about taking what I wrote then and updating it, but I like the idea of starting from my original vision and inspiration, just as it was more than eight years ago when I wrote this. Because if anything, it’s more accurate and more pressing today than it was then.
At that time, George W. Bush was the president of the United States, we were nearly seven years into the War of Terror and I wasn’t sure things could get any worse. We didn’t yet know that we would have four years with Barack Obama in the White House, let alone eight. And we certainly didn’t know that those eight years would be followed by the dubious election of the least qualified and most frightening figure to ever run for the office, let alone secure it.
From the editor — March 25, 2008
This project was inspired by a number of things that I’ve witnessed over the past eight years or so. Each is alarming on its own, but together they paint a picture that is bleak and frightening in its implications for the future of journalism in the United States and beyond.
These trends include:
- The pernicious belief that pursuing and reporting news should be a highly profitable endeavor.
- Stemming from the above (as most of the ills plaguing journalism do), the placing of news in the same arena as popular entertainment and forcing it to compete as such.
- The misguided notion that journalists should give the public what they want rather than fulfilling their duty to research and provide information and analysis on what the public needs to know.
- The new obsession among formerly conscientious and competent news outlets that speed trumps everything, as manifested in the ever increasing number of news organization blogs and headlines touting breaking news, instant news, around the clock news and so forth.
- The seeming lack of journalistic integrity among many in the online news business—no doubt stemming in part from their misconception that the news is business.
- The cries, from within the industry and without, that newspapers are dinosaurs doomed to extinction (these cries often coming loudest from the very bloggers and online properties who rely on newspaper reporters for their material).
- The relentless dumbing down of the news to appeal to ever shorter attention spans and provide sharable clickbait.
- The successful propagation of the myth, by right-wing politicians and their hangers on, that the media has a liberal bias
- The increasing percentage of unaltered press releases, including audio and video, that are being aired as news with no acknowledgment or clarification that they are, in fact, nothing but paid advertisements
Portland News Review is also inspired by Columbia Journalism Review, (the now defunct) American Journalism Review, The Poynter Institute and the rest of the media watchdogs and friends of the press. These organizations not only hold the news media to account for their errors and shortcomings, but give accolades where due and stand by their side in the defense of journalism against the relentless attacks, both subtle and overt, of those who seek to stifle rigorous journalism and a free press.
Those working to undermine the press include self-serving business owners and shareholders who are blind to the vital role and higher calling of journalism in a liberal democracy. Cowardly politicians seek to muzzle journalists and scale back freedom of the press because they know their actions and politics cannot survive the blinding light of truth and public scrutiny. Many in the burgeoning world of online news distribution profit directly from access to the quality, in depth reporting being done almost exclusively by the old school print newspapers and public radio and television outlets, all the while hailing their impending demise; a despicable case of biting the hand that feeds.
I want to focus, though not exclusively, on Oregon and the Pacific Northwest in doing what Columbia Journalism Review does so well on a national scale.
Columbia Journalism Review’s mission is to encourage and stimulate excellence in journalism in the service of a free society. It is both a watchdog and a friend of the press in all its forms, from newspapers to magazines to radio, television, and the Web…. CJR examines day-to-day press performance as well as the forces that affect that performance. The magazine… offers a deliberative mix of reporting, analysis, criticism, and commentary. CJR.org, our Web site, delivers real-time criticism and reporting, giving CJR a vital presence in the ongoing conversation about the media. Both online and in print, Columbia Journalism Review is in conversation with a community of people who share a commitment to high journalistic standards in the U.S. and the world.
I highly recommend a subscription to the Columbia Journalism Review.
I hope you’ll join me on the journey and participate in the discussion frequently!
– March 25, 2008