Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Oregonian, Bob Caldwell and Al French

The Oregonian has a history of coverups of its favorites--especially regarding predatory sexual behavior toward young men and women.

The most egregious case has been documented by Nigel Jaquiss who won a Pulitzer prize for his investigative reporting on Neil Goldschmidt's statutory rape of a 14 year old teenage girl in the 1970's. In his reporting, Jaquiss documented the failure of the Oregonian to investigate and report on evidence going back to 1986 (when the Oregonian's nationally syndicated editorial cartoonist Jack Ohman was given information which he passed on to his boss (Robert Landauer) who went to "then-Editor William Hilliard and Managing Editor Peter Thompson" who did nothing) and November 2003 (when Oregonian senior political writer Jeff Mapes was given "the victim's name, a chronology and the names of others who could confirm the story" and "reportedly told his editors about [Fred] Leonhardt's bombshell" but "there's no evidence that anybody in The Oregonian's 430-person newsroom pursued the story until the first week of May, when word leaked that WW was about to expose Goldschmidt.")

There's also the January, 2009, Sam Adams/Beau Breedlove story that, again, took Nigel Jaquiss of the Willamette Week to break. The Oregonian passed on evidence sent to them as well as to Willamette Week which Jaquiss acted upon.

Or how about the reporting in July of 2011, of an incident with former Rep. David Wu and a young woman, that occurred in November of 2010. A complaint was made to Wu's office in the "spring" but no Oregonian reporting on it until July even though everybody knew in February of 2011 that things were not right with Wu.

And now the Oregonian has been caught not only not reporting on the criminal conviction of one of its long-time editors (who, they admit, "[a]s head of our editorial board, Caldwell had substantial influence on the politics and policies of our state"--emphasis added) but in lack of investigative interest in his untimely death (which it transpired happened when "Caldwell was stricken after a sex act in the apartment of a 23-year-old woman. The woman told police she and Caldwell had engaged in such acts previously and he had given her money for books and school"). From Peter Bhatia, editor and vice president of the Oregonian:
"I don’t blame [John] Killen [reporter of the original false information]. There was no reason or sign that Caldwell’s death was anything other than routine. He had a DUII in his past (which we didn’t report at the time — true, also my call), but nothing else. And, even though journalists are trained skeptics always ready to ask the next question, none of us could have imagined a fellow journalist [Kathleen Glanville*] not telling us the truth."
[emphasis added]
Compare the treatment of Bob Caldwell, with more than 15 years as editor of the Oregonian and his impact on "the politics and policies of our state" with the fire hose of investigative reporting aimed at Alfred French in 2004. Don't remember Alfred French? Well, he appeared for a few seconds in a political ad run by the Swift Boat vets against presidential candidate John Kerry. After seeing the ad, the Oregonian immediately put its "430-person newsroom" on the task of digging under every rock to discredit Alfred French. (no articles remain online, but three of them are listed here**) When asked why they were digging up every embarrassing fact about his marriage, work relationships, work record, etc., the Oregonian responded that he had made himself a public person by appearing in a Swift Boat ad against John Kerry. Thus any dirt against him, his wife and a secretary with whom he had an affair was fair game.
"As French's own credibility came under intense scrutiny, he admitted that he had lied to his boss when confronted about an extramarital affair with a secretary and was placed on 30-day paid leave pending an investigation into his conduct. Link Expired This subsequent investigation by the Office of the Clackamas County District Attorney 'concluded that allegations of a 1991 relationsip (sic) with a fellow employee were a private matter.'"
You see Alfred French had a few second bit in one political ad against a candidate the Oregonian supported. So he was super important and merited top Oregonian investigative reporting. But Bob Caldwell was only the "editorial page editor, where he also directed the newspaper's daily commentary pages and Sunday Opinion section" over a decade and a half for one of the top 25 newspapers in the U.S. No reason to look at him even after a criminal conviction.
*the Oregonian has fired editor Kathleen Glanville
**Noelle Crombie, "Oregon prosecutor accuses Kerry in ad (Link Expired)," The Oregonian, August 20, 2004.
Dan Hortsch, "Vietnam vets rally against Clackamas County prosecutor (Link Expired)," The Oregonian, August 24, 2004.
Stephen Beaven, "Prosecutor who attacked Kerry admits lying to boss (Link Expired)," The Oregonian, August 27, 2004.

H/T G R Durand

UPDATE: Post edited to indicate that the girl mentioned in paragraph two was a young teenager.


MAX Redline said...

An excellent post; taking many of the threads and weaving a tapestry with a compelling, albeit repulsive, image.

The Oregonian has a storied history of failure to report on "important" people. When The Washington Post broke the story of Bob Packwood's conduct, The Zero's slogan at the time was: If it matters to Oregonians, it's IN The Oregonian

Following the Packwood revelations, a poular bumper-sticker hearabouts read: If it matters to Oregonians, it's in The Washington Post.

Ten Mile Island said...

I remember when the Oregonian had one of the better business sections in the country. Of course, that was back in the '80's.

I haven't purchased an Oregonian since 1994. And glancing at one a couple of weeks ago, it's not much better than a comic book.

Only, comic books are laid out better.

T. D. said...

Good addition, Max. I had forgotten about the Packwood reporting fiasco.

TMI, you are one of the early "adapters" to the Oregonian's reportial and content melt down.

Thanks to both of you for dropping by and enlivening the discussion.