Tag Archives: The Oregonian

The ‘O’ is vanishing

We called it “The O,” or the “Big O” back in the day, but these days the “O” is a shadow of its former self and is vanishing into history’s dust bin.

The O is The Oregonian, the newspaper of record for my hometown of Portland. A friend sent me a story from Editor & Publisher with a distressing story about the Oregonian’s plans to quit daily distribution of a newspaper that once was considered a “cash cow” for Newhouse Corp., the company’s corporate owner. The Oregonian is about to end 142 years of daily newspaper distribution.

No more, man.

A paper that once distributed more than 250,000 copies daily and 400,000 copies on Sunday is suspending publication for four days weekly effective Jan. 1. The culprit? That damn Internet!

I don’t know how to react, other than with profound sadness at the state of the industry that gave me a wonderful career. I practiced my craft for nearly 37 years, and I actually got started with the Oregonian Publishing Co., which used to operate the afternoon Oregon Journal until it folded the paper into The Oregonian in 1982. I worked on the copy desk at the Journal until the spring of 1977 when I took a job as a temporary sportswriter for the Oregon City Enterprise-Courier.

The temp job became permanent, and I was on my way to a career that gave me more enjoyment and fulfillment than I probably deserved.

Now comes this terrible news out of my hometown. The Eugene Register-Guard and the Salem Statesman-Journal — both owned by Gannett/GateHouse — have effectively become a regional newspaper covering the Willamette Valley, according to E&P. The Medford Mail-Tribune shut down earlier this year. All three of those publications once were award winners of the first order..

The Oregonian’s circulation numbers are about a tenth of what they once were. The paper’s sales continue to plummet. What’s next is the unthinkable: shutting it down altogether.



Retirement journey takes me farther than I thought

I want to acknowledge something I realized during a recent foray across the western portion of North America.

It is that my retirement from a craft I pursued with great joy has taken me farther away from it than I could have imagined.

I worked in print journalism for nearly 37 years. My career ended in August 2012. I dabbled a bit here and there part time writing for other media outlets: public TV, commercial TV and editing a weekly newspaper. I kept my head in the game and my hand on the mechanics of the craft.

Then I entered full retirement mode.

In the old days, travels with my wife usually meant picking up newspapers in every community we would visit or pass through. I would bring home an armload of newspapers from which I might glean ideas about layout, or presentation.

This time, after spending more than a month on the road through the western United States and Canada? Nothin’. I didn’t bring home a single newspaper. Indeed, I read only one newspaper during our time on the road … and it was a freebie distributed to all the visitors of a Eugene, Ore., RV park. The newspaper was the Register-Guard of Eugene, which in the old days was considered one of the better newspapers in the Pacific Northwest. It was family owned and was considered a leader in graphic design and presentation of news and commentary.

The Baker family sold the R-G not long ago to GateHouse Media, the outfit that has purchased dozens of newspapers around the country, becoming a media titan in an age of dwindling newspaper influence and importance.

My wife and I spent several nights up the highway from Eugene in Portland, my hometown and where I first fell in love with newspapers. I never laid eyes on The Oregonian newspaper during our visit there.

Oh, the end of an era for me personally!

We visited many cities that used to boast solid newspaper tradition: Colorado Springs; Bend, Ore.; Wenatchee, Wash.; Calgary, Alberta; Winnipeg, Manitoba; Grand Forks, N.D.; Topeka, Kan.; Tulsa, Okla.

I didn’t read a single word printed in newspapers distributed in those communities.

What does this mean? Hmm. I’ll have to ponder it. I still cherish my memories of toiling at newspapers in Oregon and Texas. I continue to harbor many fond memories of those years. I recall them with glee. However, I no longer am wedded to newspapers as my primary information source … or so it has become obvious, given what I have just reported about our recent journey.

Gosh, am I now dependent on “The Internet” for all my information? To some extent, yes. Although I want to rely solely on “legitimate news sources” that are spread throughout cyberspace.

There remains a glimmer of hope that I haven’t gone totally to the dark side. I do subscribe to the Dallas Morning News. I restarted my subscription upon our return home. It arrived this Sunday morning. I will consume its contents with great gusto.

Two memories: distinct yet related come to mind

Once in the bluest of moons strange thoughts cross my mind, involving distinctly different memories but which somehow — oddly — are tied together in my heart and mind.

My late grandmother and my hometown newspaper have come to my mind this evening.

I got word today that The Oregonian is going to shut down its presses, darkening the production operation in downtown Portland, the city of my birth and where I came of age. It makes me sad.

And on July 4, tomorrow, I will mark the 37th year since my beloved grandmother, Diamontoula Filipu, passed away. She died on the Fourth of July. I think of her almost daily. I think of her on Independence Day because Yiayia, as we called her, was a great American, a loving matriarch, the best cook who ever lived and was a proud American. She chose to live in the United States and never took for granted — not for an instant — the blessings she accrued when she moved here from Turkey not long after the turn of the 20th century.

My wife told me that Yiayia likely timed her passing just to be sure that we’d remember it. Boy, do we ever.

OK, so how are these two things related?

Here goes.

My wife and I hadn’t been married all that long. She was working in the circulation department on the ground floor of The Oregonian building. We had produced one son already; he was about a year old. Then we learned we were pregnant again.

With this news fresh in our minds — and with little time to inform anyone of it — my wife went to work one morning and told a colleague of hers about our big news. Well, it turns out that her friend’s grandmother was a good friend of Yiayia’s. This friend, apparently, told his grandmother later that morning in a phone call. Her colleague’s grandmother than reportedly called Yiayia to congratulate her on becoming a great-grandmother again.

One issue, though, arose: Yiayia didn’t know about it until her friend told her.

Later that evening, my wife and I walked into our little rental house. The phone rang. It was Yiayia.

She was “mad” that we didn’t tell her first about our big news. She proceeded to “scold” me, telling that she had to be kept informed before anyone else when the news involves something so huge as the impending birth of a new family member.

She then laughed and told me she loved me.

That was Yiayia. Was she a busy-body? Sure. But old-country women are entitled

It might be a stretch to combine these two memories, but they’re in my heart tonight as I think of a longstanding tradition in my hometown going away — and of one of the many happy remembrances I have of my beloved Yiayia.

I miss her every day.

A landmark about to vanish in the old hometown

This news hits me like a haymaker to the chops.

The Oregonian newspaper — once the hands-down media leader in Oregon — is shutting down its press operation.

The operation at 1320 S.W. Broadway Ave. in downtown Portland is emptying out. The paper is going to farm out its printing to another vendor. The Oregonian needs to save money, I guess to stay viable. They’ll lay off 100, maybe 200, pressroom and production employees.

Man, oh man. This news hits me hard. It ought to hit every person who grew up reading The Oregonian, wanting to be like the reporters who wrote for the paper. It ought to sicken them.


I am sick tonight. I used to work part-time in The Oregonian’s mail room, back in the early 1970s. I was newly married and attending college. I got my start there, understanding a little bit about the miracle that occurs every night when the paper goes to press, gets bundled up, put on trucks and then delivered to hundreds of thousands of homes every morning.

The Oregonian has undergone massive change already. Its circulation has plummeted. It stopped delivering the paper daily to homes throughout the metro area. It went to a tabloid format.

It’s not the same. Then again, no print medium is the same these days.


It’s fair to ask, then: What does the future hold for the craft that attracted so many of us back in the day? It’s cloudy, uncertain, perhaps even murky.

Look across the country and you see change is afoot everywhere.

Here in Amarillo, the Globe-News soon — I reckon — will be printed in Lubbock, 120 miles south on Interstate 27. They presses in Amarillo will be shut down, taken apart and sold. Maybe even scrapped. What happens, then, to the office buildings that occupy a city block?

What does it mean for the news being reported by the paper? Well, despite what the newspaper publisher, Lester Simpson, said in announcing the pending shutdown of the Amarillo presses, it’s going to diminish the paper’s relevance as it regards late-breaking local news.

Simpson said the company remains committed to the printed newspaper. But when you’re having to push deadlines back two hours to accommodate the travel time it takes to get the papers loaded onto trucks and brought back to Amarillo for distribution, there won’t be late-breaking local news.

But the Globe-News execs promise to deliver the paper every morning by 6.

Suppose a fire breaks out in a major structure at, say, 11 p.m. Will it be in the paper? Nope. The newsroom staff — or what’s left of it — will put it online and tell readers of the paper to get the news at the paper’s website.

There’s your commitment to the printed newspaper.

It’s happening all across the country. The media landscape is rumbling under our feet.

The Internet has changed everything.

For the better? Well, that story has yet to be played out.

Governor in serious ethical trouble

The state of my birth is now the subject of a serious political scandal that is getting stranger by the day, if not the hour.

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber’s fiancĂ©e, Cylvia Hayes, has been accused of using her position as “first lady” of the state for personal gain. It involves her lobbying activities and whether she presented herself as a representative of the state her significant other — Kitzhaber — governs.


The attached link spells out the trouble quite clearly.

The alleged profiteering reportedly has amounted to a lot of dough that’s gone to Hayes and, presumably, to Kitzhaber as well. The result has produced a firestorm in Oregon.

My hometown newspaper, The Oregonian, has called for the governor’s resignation. Kitzhaber so far hasn’t budged. As for Hayes, well, only the two of them know what they’re saying to each other in private.

But here’s the latest: Kitzhaber and Hayes have filed a response to the Oregon Ethics Commission complaint that borders on the laughable.

They contend that Hayes’s role as “first lady” isn’t an official government title, that she doesn’t run any agency so, therefore, she somehow is exempt from the allegations of conflict of interest that have peppered her. “The title ‘First Lady’ does not refer to an official office within Oregon state government or an officer of Oregon state government,” they wrote. “Ms. Hayes is not a public official.”

But as The Oregonian reported: “As for whether she was a public official, she subbed in for the governor at public events. She orchestrated meetings with senior state officials. She served as the governor’s unpaid adviser on energy and economic policies — by the governor’s reckoning, contributing thousands of hours.”

Doesn’t that make her a de facto state official? By my definition of the term “de facto,” that’s virtually the same thing as getting paid for her work on behalf of the state.

This drama has some distance to go before it plays out. My hunch is that it won’t end well for the governor and his first lady.


Looks like the Buckeyes belonged after all

I’ll be candid. I was one of those who thought a team other than Ohio State should have rounded out the four-school playoff bracket to determine the best team in college football.

My favorite for the No. 4 seed was Baylor.

It didn’t happen. Ohio State got in, I guess, on the strength of its schedule.

I’m no expert on this, but it appears that the selection committee that picked the Final Four got it right.

OK, so I’m basking a bit in the glow of my Oregon Ducks’ big win over defending national champ Florida State in the Rose Bowl. Oh, did I mention it was a serious beat-down of a very good football team — by an even better football team?

Well, I digress.

Ohio State finished off the night of playoff football by defeating the top seed, Alabama, which was representing the vaunted Southeastern Conference, where loyalists proclaim it to be the premier football conference in the nation.

Maybe it is. However, on New Year’s Night, the Crimson Tide failed to do the one thing it needed to do, which was score more points than the Buckeyes.

The No. 1 seed proved to be, well, quite mortal.

I am not going to try to dissect what happened in the Sugar Bowl. The Buckeyes outplayed the Crimson Tide on the one night that it counted. And on that night — last night — Ohio State proved that it belonged in the Final Four.

What now? Well, Ohio State will play the Oregon Ducks for the national championship.

You know where my heart lies. Go Ducks!


And while I’m on the subject of the Ducks, take a look at John Canzano’s excellent column in The Oregonian about the post-game press conference featuring college football’s two most recent Heisman Trophy winners. I believe it will explain a lot why the Ducks belong in the playoffs, too.



Climate change not a local matter?

My hometown newspaper, the (Portland) Oregonian has just announced that climate change won’t be on its agenda of important issues on which to comment in 2015.

I have a single initial response: Wow!


The editorial, while written well — as always — seems to miss a fundamental point about climate change as it affects a coastal state, such as Oregon.

The issue is a local one that well could impact many thousands of people living in that state.

The editorial, in part, states: “Our editorials, like those of other news organizations, reflect a set of values with which regular readers are surely familiar. However, ideology has nothing to do with the scarcity of climate-change editorials. We seldom discuss climate change, rather, because we focus almost exclusively on state and local matters. Weighing the costs and benefits of climate-change policy is best done at the federal and international levels.”

” … we focus almost exclusively on state and local matters,” the editorial states.

Roll that one around for a moment.

Climate change, as I understand, is having an impact at many levels all around the world. One of those levels — pardon the pun — is the rising sea level of the oceans and the affect it will have on coastal regions.

Oregon has about 300-plus miles of coastline facing the Pacific Ocean. Its coastal region would seem to be as vulnerable to the shifting tides, not to mention the intense weather changes that many scientists attribute to climate change. They’re as vulnerable to these forces as, say, Texas, another significant coastal state.

The Oregonian sought input from its readers on the issues they thought the paper should emphasize. Those who responded didn’t think much of the climate change crisis. The Oregonian, therefore, responded to those who answered their question.

Does that represent a complete, fair and comprehensive view of the paper’s entire readership? I rather doubt it.

Still, my hometown paper — which has been honored with Pulitzer prizes in recent years for its editorial leadership — has chosen to skip what I believe will become one of that region’s primary issues in the coming decades.

Good luck, home folks.


This man would be out of place today

Every now and then when I think about Republicans who wouldn’t make it in today’s political climate — yes, I actually think about these things — the name of Victor Atiyeh pops into my skull.

I didn’t know Atiyeh well, although I knew plenty about him. I met him once while he was campaigning for Oregon governor back in 1978. I was a reporter working for the Oregon City Enterprise-Courier — a small suburban afternoon paper about 15 miles south of Portland. In those days, politicians thought it was important to talk even to small papers in order to get their message out to the voters.

Atiyeh, who died this week at age 91, had served many years in the Oregon Legislature. He was running against Democratic Gov. Bob Straub in 1978. The contrast between the men was striking.

Straub, a nice guy, was a scatter-shot speaker, unfocused, rambling and seemingly nervous to be in the presence of us small-town media types.

Atiyeh was the picture of coolness and calm. I remember that he smoked like a freight train during our interview. The Republican challenger was focused, engaging, looked me in the eye when giving direct answers to direct questions.

Atiyeh won that election and would win re-election four years later.

Here’s a couple of things about Atiyeh that need saying. One is that he was the first politician of Arab descent ever elected to a governor’s office in the United States. The other is that he was a consummate “establishment, mainstream Republican” who made tough choices they needed to be made. An editorial in the Portland Oregonian spells that out:


Atiyeh likely couldn’t cut it in today’s Republican Party. He was as staunch a Republican as any politician of his time. Today, though, being faithful to the GOP’s traditional pro-business, low-tax mantra isn’t good enough. You have to be mean-spirited, angry, obstructionist and accusatory — all traits that Vic Atiyeh never exhibited.

He was a gentleman through and through and he turned out to be a very good governor of my home state.

May this good man rest in peace.

Harding and Packwood: quite a duo

My hometown newspaper, the (Portland) Oregonian, is taking a look back at one of modern sports’ seedier events: the whacking of Olympic figure skater Nancy Kerrigan’s knee by thugs hired by her rival Tonya Harding’s former husband.


Why the interest in Portland? Harding’s a hometown girl, born and reared in Portland. She’s my homey. I grew up there, too. She makes me proud, yes? No.

I noted yesterday that 20 years ago I would answer questions about where I grew up by saying, “Portland, Oregon, hometown of Tonya Harding and Bob Packwood.”

Harding got into trouble over the Kerrigan knee-bashing. She ended up getting stripped of her world figure skating title. Her troubles made international headlines. She became a disgrace.

And then we had Sen. Packwood, who got into trouble about the same time.

I’ll talk just a bit about Packwood here.

He was a brilliant guy. He was part of a potent U.S. Senate tandem with fellow Republican Mark Hatfield. They sat on important committees and looked after Oregon interests in the Senate.

Then his career began to unravel in 1992. He got caught making unwanted sexual advances on female staffers, who filed complaints with the Senate Ethics Committee. He would resign in 1995, but not after he, too, embarrassed those who had watched him come of political age in Oregon.

He defeated one of the Senate’s true lions, Wayne Morse, in 1968. Morse had the distinction of being one of precisely two senators — the other being Ernest Gruening of Alaska — to vote “no” on the Gulf of Tonkin resolution in 1964. Packwood would win re-election in 1974; Morse, by the way, was the Democratic nominee that year, but died shortly after the primary, leaving it up to the state Democratic Party to select a replacement candidate.

I met Packwood in 1980 while working for a small suburban daily paper in Oregon City. He was an impressive fellow, quick-witted, razor sharp, glib, articulate, intelligent and a guy with such a rapid-fire delivery I had difficulty taking notes.

But he turned out to be a disgrace long after I left Oregon for Texas.

It’s still intriguing to me, though, to look back on those days and remember how my then-fairly placid hometown could produce such widely disparate scoundrels.