In a rare major media display of conscience, the Oregonian apologized for its treatment of Bob Ball who raised questions about newly elected Mayor Sam Adams' fitness to be mayor in the lead up to the mayoral campaign.
This is what Anna Griffin of the Oregonian reported in September of 2007*:
The problem: The story Ball told about Adams and a 17-year-old legislative intern isn't true, according to both Adams and the young man. Adams acknowledges trying to be a mentor, including exchanging numerous phone calls and text messages with the young man over several months in summer 2005. But both men said that they have never been anything more than friends. Ball said he was doing a public service in speaking with [Portland City Commissioner Randy] Leonard, implying that as a reserve police officer he felt a responsibility to report suspected child abuse. Oregon law requires people in positions of responsibility -- public or private -- to report child abuse to police or welfare workers. Those he told, including Leonard and former Mayor Vera Katz, said they took it as an attempt at political assassination.In an editorial two days ago Oregonian editors apologized explaining:
For one thing, when Bob Ball, [Sam Adams'] would-be opponent began spreading rumors about Adams and Breedlove back in 2007, Adams didn't just deny the allegations and decry Ball's tactics. He launched an all-out public relations assault against the man.Oregonian, January 20, 2009 front page story
He asked one of the city's leading campaign specialists to coach Breedlove in dealing with the onslaught of impertinent questions. He preached piously about the importance of mentoring young, confused gay men to help them through their identity crises. He derided Ball for falsely employing a vicious anti-gay canard in his effort to force Adams out of the mayor's race and out of politics. He took care, he claimed, to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. He'd do it all again, Adams proclaimed back then, to defend these virtues. He fairly dripped sanctimony
But it was a lie, Adams now admits, cooked up to save his political career.
Sad to say, plenty of us bought it and, for that, we owe Ball an apology. Yet, even this week, Adams felt an underlying justification for his tactics back then because Ball accused him of criminality instead of mere sexual exploitation of a callow young man.
The Oregonian editors deserve recognition for admitting their part in covering for Adams and then apologizing.
Unfortunately the Oregonian didn't go on to admit to a lack of creditable reporting in following up on the story as Nigel Jaquiss and The Willamette Week did.
Initial evidence on the Adams/Breedlove relationship was followed by 1) Adams' strange appointment of a reporter who had investigated the story to a position in his administration that she had no background for and 2) an e-mail sent to major media outlets (Willamette Week, The Oregonian, The Portland Tribune, Just Out, The Statesman Journal, The Mercury and KOIN-TV) giving the name and phone number of a contact who had information on then 41 year old Adams affair with 18 year old Breedlove. Apparently only Jaquiss and The Willamette Week cared to follow up. This is a black eye for major Oregon print media--except The Willamette Week.
Bernard Goldberg has said the media is in the trust business. There will be fewer and fewer readers/watchers/listeners as news sources show a lack of regard for the truth, a bias for political favorites, and willingness to look the other way on their mistakes.
When the media wrongly trashes someone's reputation and does not show due diligence in searching out the truth of a story, it kills trust. It's good that the Oregonian recognized its error regarding Ball, but the Oregonian and its reporters owe another apology for not following up on clear evidence because its editors and reporters favored Adams.
*(Archived by WebCite® at http://www.webcitation.org/66EkRBU9P)