Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Oregonian's Tepid Call for Clearing Up "the AP mess"

In a low key editorial on the importance of a free press, the Oregonian tepidly calls on President Obama to "clear up the AP mess".
We've never thought of President Barack Obama as Richard Nixon, some of whose Watergate plumbers separately broke into the office of Ellsberg's psychiatrist and otherwise considered bizarre plots to discredit Ellsberg for having leaked classified documents. But the U.S. Department of Justice spying on the AP? Obama must step in and clear up the AP mess, particularly as it comes as the Department of Justice probes whether Internal Revenue Service officials broke laws by auditing Tea Party groups for political purposes. The president's dismissal Wednesday of acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller is a start.
"[C]lear up the AP mess"? Certainly not fighting words. It's what one says about broken TriMet vending machines not an assault on the First Amendment--or a body blow to the Oregonian's supposed mission and livelihood.

But, then, the Oregonian doesn't seem to think much of its mission. The best it can do to show the importance of its investigative reporting is to bring up Joseph Rose's reporting on TriMet and unidentified reporting by Bryan Denson.
Surely the Portland transit agency TriMet occasionally pulls its hair out wondering who among its employees tells The Oregonian's Joseph Rose about mishaps. Surely reporter Bryan Denson's telephone directory contains the numbers of folks who would lose their jobs if it were known they furnished information to him. But Rose and Denson, like all reporters and editors at The Oregonian, know they are out of business if they do not carefully establish the basis for all communication and then protect sources deemed confidential.
For the Oregonian editors apparently TriMet is as big as it gets.

Neither Rose nor Denson is known for digging up important information on Oregon or Portland government or political scandals. (Actually, that would be Nigel Jaquiss of the Willamette Week who broke important stories on Neil Goldschmidt, Sam Adams, mayoral candidate Jefferson Smith, and the Columbia River Crossing debacle.)  The Oregonian does not mention anyone covering the governor, the legislature, the mayor or City Council.  Their major political correspondents led by Jeff Mapes don't rate even a phrase about the importance of their sources.

No drum beat by the Oregonian demanding answers from the Obama administration. Or calls for fierce congressional hearings on the issue. The editors find the week early dismissal of the acting IRS commissioner (which has nothing to to with the AP scandal) "a start". But the editors have no specific calls for any other action.
Snooping on this scale by federal officials flouts protections assured by the First Amendment, purposefully designed to protect freedom of the press in a democracy that depends on it. Left unexplained, it potentially undercuts the ambition of newsgathering and certainly throws into question just how much the Obama administration really believes in the U.S. Constitution.
". . . [P]otentially undercuts the ambition of newsgathering . . . ." Ho-hum.

It's a reason why the Oregonian has lost a third of its circulation in the last 10 years and has fallen out of the top 25 daily U.S. newspapers. Sad


OregonGuy said...

Thirty-three percent drop in reach, and yet have advertising rates dropped by thirty-three percent?

I guess they make it up in frequency.

This "AP mess" is just like the Benghazi mess. What difference does it make?

MAX Redline said...

I think they're trying to boost their circulation numbers - lately, they've been tossing their Sunday edition into our driveway. My Bride's backed over them twice, now, on her way to Sunday lunch with her mom. So far, she's only managed 20% accuracy. But that's okay; the plastic bag's intact, and we do have to walk the dog....

Now, I can't believe nobody cares about Benghazi - heck, Barky calls it a bump in the road, and Howie calls it a laughable distraction. How they get away with that is beyond me.

But you're being a little hard on Barky; I saw him the other day doing something where he moves his lips, and he said that he didn't know anything about the IRS targeting, or about the news-folks having their phone records targeted. Just like Sgt. Schultz.

And, the thing is, it's believable. You see, that's why he holds press conferences in the first place; it's not so that he can explain to us what's going on - it's so he can find out what's going on. I mean, you've gotta give him credit for trying....

T. D. said...

OG, maybe the rates haven't dropped 33%, but total advertising income probably has. That's why they have been continually paring staff/reporters. [http://wweek.com/portland/blog-27818-print.html]

Max, astonishing that you and I know as much as the President on these things (having learned about the IRS scandal in the media as he did), and most everyone in the media finds that assertion unexceptional.

MAX Redline said...

You should run, T.D.! You might even find time to attend the occasional security briefing.

T. D. said...

Well, Max, it looks like I'm as up to speed on the news as the President. :-) Remember the to do because Reagan sometimes would fall asleep in a briefing? Heh! At least he went to some briefings.