Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Mea Culpa

My last post was clearly not as well considered as it should have been.  I apparently caused offense where none was intended.  I was not trying to demean the new reporters at the O, but to point out a part of the difficult current economic times newspapers face.

Anyway, here is a response from the comments that bears reposting here:

Patrick: You are, of course, entitled to your opinion but your post regarding The Oregonian is both demeaning to a talented group of journalists and factually incorrect. Yes, we have taken hits in our staffing as have all businesses the past few years. But there remain many, many talented, experienced and award-winning reporters at the paper, whose work is evident every day. In total, we have far more reporters than any other news organization in the state has total staff. In addition, we have hired experienced, veteran reporters this year as well as the extremely able reporters to which you refer. Calling them children is wrong and insulting. They are not replacements for those who have left; most are assigned to local coverage of communities around the metro area, an area of coverage we have stepped up in the past year. They are all graduates of top-flight universities and journalism schools and skilled in the new technologies journalism requires today. We are fortunate to have them, as are our print readers and online viewers. A blog is a blog, but please report before commenting.

Peter Bhatia
Editor, The Oregonian

And here is my response:


In my bloggy flippancy I occasionally speak a little too loosely, and this may be one of those occasions, but I think I was reasonably fair in general. I was, of course, joking about the children and the 16-year old thing, and I apologize if I have caused offense. A blog is a place, in my opinion, where irreverence is part of the modus operandi.

I think, however, that I am pretty accurate in terms of the economics of newspapers these days and I have in the past sounded the alarm. I think we, as a society, will suffer from the decline in investigative reporting if current trends continue. I also often point out that no one should mistake the opinion found on blogs for real reporting and I do not believe that blogs are any substitute for newspaper reporting. Which, is of course, why I worry about the hardship daily newspapers are facing.

Regarding the staffing at the O, I think I was pretty reasonable in saying: " I have no doubt that these are skilled and well-trianed reporters, but they lack the experience and connections of those they replace. It could be that the energy and eagerness of the new crop might make up for this, but I have some reservations." This is a statement of opinion and pretty fair I thought.

I do take your point about the newly trained reporters and new media, it could be that these reporters will be better than ever. It is an interesting question and one to which I have no answer.

The Oregonian is a wonderful local paper and I am a loyal subscriber (and will be as long as there is a paper to subscribe to). I am very grateful for all the great work the reporters and editors do there. I have interacted many times with quite a few reporters from the O and have always come away very impressed. I think daily newspaper reporting is, as I said in previous posts, a valuable public good.

So let me be very clear, I appreciate what all the reporters at the Oregonian do and I sincerely apologize if I have caused any offense, it was not my intent. I am also worried about the newspaper business in general and think that our society needs to think seriously if the free market can provide an optimal level of investigative reporting. That is really the point of my post.



Jeff Alworth said...

This is a remarkable exchange. In your original piece, you pointed out an actual phenomenon happening within the media--one which Peter Bhatia endeavors mightily to spin ("Yes, we have taken hits in our staffing as have all businesses the past few years.") Yet your post, mildly insouciant, was far from offensive.

Bhatia's, meanwhile, is actively offensive. I'm surprised he bothered to comment on a blog--"a blog is a blog" (unwritten implication: an amateurish bit of rumor and nonsense that's ruining real news)--so beneath him does he clearly regard it.

But he did comment on it, which means the O does now feel it necessary to see what's being written by professionals not in their employ. That's encouraging.

Bible by Bicycle said...

"They are all graduates of top-flight universities and journalism schools"

That new Kost fellow went to Arizona State. 'Nuff said.