There’s a point in almost any bad relationship when you know you’ve stuck around longer than you’ve should have. The moment came when you should have broken up but somehow you thought things might change, that whatever was weighing things down would dissipate if you only waited it out. This is how I feel about The Oregonian.
I first started to subscribe to The Oregonian in 1993 when I first moved to Portland. It was our first connecting point to the news of our new home. The Oregonian in 1993 was a mighty thing, with staff writers and columnists galore. The paper stood as many things in Portland do: much stronger than you’d expect for a city of its size. Flash forward 17 years and you have a paper in absolute ruin. Where once stood a Business section is often a single page of wire reports and cobbled-together news bits. Where once there was insightful and award-winning investigative journalism, you now have reporters using anectodal information; my favorite was for the story Construction of downtown Portland high-rise is halted by tight credit in which “reporter” Ryan Frank says, “Real estate brokers had taken to saying that Park Avenue West would be built by the “Bank of Tom Moyer.” No source, no quote, no real reporting.
The Oregonian suffered like most papers in this country as the economy faltered and news migrated online. But I stuck it out. I tried to look past the fact that more and more of the paper was comprised of news articles that came off the news wire. It became harder when I started to see wire articles appear in the paper that had been online for days and some times weeks in advance. Again, a sign of the economic times.
With belt tightening at The Oregonian came another clear trend: articles that were going to print without being proofed. Over the last year we’ve played a game at the breakfast table, reading aloud some of the headlines and articles from The Oregonian to our two grade-schoolers to see if they could spot the glaring grammatical errors. They almost always can.