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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Oregonian "Censors" "Yes On 66/67" Ad, To Remove References To "Chickenshit" Publisher, After Printing "No" Campaign's Lies

Posted by Matt Davis on Sat, Jan 23, 2010 at 12:07 PM

YES ON 67 SPADEA: RAN, CENSORED, THIS MORNING
  • YES ON 67 SPADEA: RAN, "CENSORED," THIS MORNING

If you've been following Sarah's reporting on the Oregonian's Spadea advertisements for the "Yes on 66/67" campaign, you'll know that the paper's change in editorial policy in December—to allow political ads on the front page—has been controversial.

O PUBLISHER ANDERSON: CHICKENSHIT
  • O PUBLISHER ANDERSON: "CHICKENSHIT"
Well, this morning's Oregonian carried a $20,000 ad by the "Yes on 66/67" campaign, responding to the ads put out by their opponents. But "Yes on 66/67" Campaign Director Kevin Looper is furious with the Oregonian's new publisher, N. Christian Anderson III, over alleged "censorship" of his new ad, to remove references to Anderson himself.

It all goes back to Anderson's history in California politics, says Looper.

"N.Christian Anderson III and his Orange County politics are a real threat to the civic tradition of Oregon," Looper says. "We all have stakes in being able to have a full public airing of political dissent. Instead of bullying the editorial board around and making sure his reporters can't report his name, he should step forward and debate the measures in public. We're just trying to pull the curtain away to get a look at the wizard."

"It's one thing for the Orange County Register to describe public schools as 'Taxpayer supported schools,' because it wasn't pretending to be objective," says Looper, of Anderson's old paper—although admittedly, Anderson did change that policy, after he arrived there. "But this idea of pretending like you're objective, attempting to influence an election and then not wanting to step forward in the political arena and defend what you're doing, that's chickenshit."

Anderson is yet to return the Mercury's calls for comment on Looper's remarks.

First of all, Looper is pissed because he was never offered the opportunity to buy an ad in the Spadea spot. "My understanding, right up until that fateful spadea day when we saw the 'no' ads on the front page was that their policy was not to confuse editorial, journalistic content with advertising," he says. "Consistent with my understanding of journalistic ethics."

Eventually, having seen the "no" campaigns ads this week, Looper submitted a Spadea of his own this Wednesday night, with the following lines, calling out new publisher N. Christian Anderson III:

CENSORED CLIP: CALLED OUT ANDERSON AND HIS CONSERVATIVE PAST
  • "CENSORED" CLIP: CALLED OUT ANDERSON AND HIS CONSERVATIVE PAST
CENSORED CLIP 2: CALLED OUT OREGONIANS CHANGE IN DIRECTION
  • CENSORED CLIP 2: CALLED OUT OREGONIAN'S CHANGE IN DIRECTION
But the Oregonian's ad sales department responded to Looper by saying they wanted him to pull references to Anderson from the ads. They said that they were obligated to "fact check" the ads, and that:
On the back page, the copy block with the headline of Then Why Is The Oregonian Ignoring Its Own Reporting? needs to be reconstructed or replaced. completely eliminated as this is false and misleading. The publisher was not involved. We decline to accept the personal reference to the publisher. With respect to your view that we are rejecting your claims about the errors in the opponents' ads, please be assured that we are not asking you to change any of that copy.

That's an email from the O's ad sales team to Looper, furnished by Looper.
FALSE CLAIMS IN NO ON 67 ADS: STRAIGHT UP LIES, NOT CENSORED
  • FALSE CLAIMS IN NO ON 67 ADS: STRAIGHT UP LIES, NOT CENSORED
"But we are asking readers to make up their own minds," he says. "And in any case, being asked to fact check our own ads when our opponents have been reporting, falsely, in their own ads, that the state has spent $259million more last year on salary raises for public employees, and that the measures will result in the loss of 70,000 jobs—what started as hypocritical, goes to intellectually dishonest, and I'm not sure where we end up."

You can read more about those false claims made by the "no campaign," which were left in the Oregonian's ads, un "fact-checked", in the Mercury's endorsement of the Yes vote.

To be clear, Looper is not accusing Anderson of "overruling the editorial board" on Measures 66 and 67, he says. "There was no vote. But I think Anderson had a conversation with the editorial board director and said this is how it's going to be, and so [editorial page director] Bob Caldwell went in and made that happen. We had the majority of them on our side, before. We know that. But they're all terrified for their jobs."

Meanwhile, Looper says he's concerned about the paper allegedly "censoring" references to Anderson by name. Reports on the measures by Brent Walth, Jeff Mapes, and Harry Esteve, make no mention of Anderson over recent days.

Emails to the paper's managing editor, Therese Bottomly, and to Caldwell, seeking comment on Looper's allegations are also yet to be returned.

Update, 2:50: "For the record, nothing of the sort has been said to any reporters here," writes Bottomly, in an email this afternoon—referring to allegations that her reporters may be subject to censorship.

Original post, 12:07:
"I'm amazed that N.Christian Anderson III, given his clearly activist proclivity, is so very unwilling to have his name mentioned in his own paper," says Looper. "That an institution feels so insecure about its decision-making that it won't let a political opponent in this case even purchase an ad to speak to its readers without censorship."

"I would think they'd have great confidence in their ability to defend whatever I might have to say and defend it publicly," Looper continues. "But the fact that neither they nor their reporters can mention 'he who shall not be named' is an abdication of their civic responsibility."

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