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Oct-22-2006 13:08printcomments

Big O Leap of Faith
Forced By Realities
In Media Open-Market

Board Split Bridged By Big-O Edit-Chief’s Own Choice.

Kulongoski and Saxton
Kulongoski and Saxton

(SALEM) - The top man at The Big O has proven his individual worthiness and professional character in his detailed statement today (10/22) about “the process The Oregonian’s editorial board and I went through to reach our conclusions”.

He is, of course, explaining not only the process but also reporting on the overwhelming surprise --to say the least-- forced upon the most friendly of readers by the endorsement of Ron Saxton published last Sunday as “a leap of faith”.

The conclusion-reached was his own --as he clearly states. The Edit Board was split, 5-to-4 for Gov. Kulongoski. Caldwell made the “leap of faith” call himself.

Bob Caldwell has much to be professionally and personally proud of in accomplishment and character-delineation through conduct and action at The OREGONIAN.

That is an indisputable fact...and it is demonstrated every day, in many ways, right where it counts the most --in the pages The OREGONIAN devotes to the full and broadening gamut of tough responsibilities demanded from any daily newspaper these days.

There is another key phrase, however, in his explanation of from whence cometh The OREGONIAN endorsement of a former chairman over a sitting Governor.

Surely that action is, as denoted there, “a leap of faith”.

The detailed explanation offered of the process involving ten members of the editorial board gives the explanation in reality, whether so intended or not:

“We don’t vote at editorial board meetings. We talk. When we are done talking it out, i’s my job to decide our editorial position.

“Sometimes our editorial position is obvious because a consensus emerges and I agee with it. The discussion of the governor’s race was not one of those times.
“The board was split. Five favored Gov.Ted Kulongoski. One leaned toward him slightly, but also thought Saxton would be a plausible choice. Four favored Saxton.”

One of the strongest possible findings of opinion-making research, over many years, in numerous studies, is that the existing life-experience “surround” has much more to do with the final formation of opinion than even the most informative and persuasive of rational-point/making, however presented.

Here we have a clear demonstration of that potent power.

How else can one expect even a conscientious and sensitive person --as Editorial Page Editor Caldwell has surely demonstrated himself to be-- to respond --when the chips are really down?

There can be no question whatsoever of where the pressure potential lies in this particular key-vote; in a key state, with control of Congress lying literally right on the table as the vote is counted.

From the earliest get-go, the Saxton candidacy has been seen --and clearly labeled-- as a strongly business-powered forced-choice with a measured acceptance of the risk involved in presenting a candidate whose own “conservative” character is clearly flawed and in question by many key party participants.

There can be no question, either, that Saxton is already irrevocably PLEDGED to the now-notorious Norquist-Abramson cult exercising heavy influence in Washington; and committed to 19th Century failed-philosphy reflected in a notorious “drag government into the bathtub and drown it”-line.

That PLEDGE prevents Saxton acting in precisely the ONLY way possible to correct the corporate tax consequence “at the heart of the matter” for every State-program issue; just as it presents the most probable pressure-builder for any daily newspaper in Oregon today, living on the still-lavish proceeds of advertising revenue.

There can be no question whatsoever of what those pressures are in all reality in any daily newspaper today.
Every daily is facing the damaging impacts of ongoing change in the industry, continuing with the always-demanded heavy flow of advertising revenues inescapably needed; to realize the potent possibilities of any paper for both community service and continuing private-side profit potential.

Whether that dual-potential, arising from the very foundation pattern for daily journalism in America, is in any way openly at stake and with pressures already exerted, is not the issue here.
The reality is that The Big O, like every other metro daily, is facing the same inescapable impacts and painful involutions.

In fact, the ongoing further detailed explanation Caldwell provides proves how purely the chasm between the news-side and the editorial-side have, at The OREGONIAN, been professionally separated-and-protected; as one would expect of such an excellent enterprise in journalism as The OREGONIAN has proved itself, over and over, earning such distinguishing honors as its latest Pulitzer.

Yet the fact remains that, on this “close call”, to cite Caldwell’s own designation, the decision to make that “leap of faith”, was made by him alone “at the top”.

Perhaps this situation might well be a positive change in the process as-described: Even though the no-vote pattern is surely obviously designed to place the full responsibility for final Editorial choice right at the top, the potent democratic power of the vote might well be allowed to rule over the also-potently demonstrated power of the ostensibly-open market concept also demonstrated here. The competitive pressures involved are obvious for anyone sensitive and well-placed to observe, as Caldwell clearly finds himself.

What would the decision have been, if the Editorial Board had submitted itself to the discipline of the majoritly rule concept so carefully compounded with First Amendment responsibilities by the Founders?

What possible repercussions might have flowed from that vote, given the very-possible and highly probable group decision to avoid that “leap of faith” so visible to all, and settle for the solid “stick with the one we know” pattern which has governed so many similar change-process decisions, at so many levels, for so long --with proven practical and realistic results.

That now remains a major mystery for many; an unavoidably puzzling personal/professional question for Caldwell, too.

Inevitably, and perhaps unfortunately, it may also become a demonstration later on in the truth of that opinion-making process research cited early on.

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Henry Ruark October 24, 2006 7:50 am (Pacific time)

To all: "Op Ed" in S-N has special meaning: NOT "personal opinion" BUT professional reporting from factual analysis. For full definition and description of method,see "What, Why, How Re Op-Ed Generation" in our Archives- Search panel in upper left Home-Page. That's why HCR is Op Ed Reporter, NOT "Editor"... We seek dialog, NOT personal "belly-button feeling".

Henry Ruark October 23, 2006 7:11 pm (Pacific time)

Allan: Your graceful and kind comment very well-written (!) Documenting refs.intended to take readers to more information, not so much "prove points", since this is dialog (as Op Ed should be !) rather than debate, where opposition defines what's done, and confrontation is other name-for-game. Here we seek steps toward consensus made possible only by learning. Earlier Op Eds on variety of subjects (and shorter !) but infamous situation here defying rationality and decent politics demanded different detailing. Thanks for interesting and informative comment.

Allan October 23, 2006 4:39 pm (Pacific time)

Obviously I am not a writer, thus fail to either make a point or get one across. I am much more receptive to ones opinion when the article I read does not take 24 hours to read and does not include references to massive documentation as though that proves someones point. Just the basics are great. If someone wants more they can ask. Henry is very adept at citing sources to back up his points. I could not do that with my opinions if I tried, without a lot of research. That does not make them wrong because I have not. I want to understand Henry's point of view but I prefer article format not book format. I don't get it if I can't get through it. I need to read some of his other op ed's other than politics if there are any.

Henry Ruark October 23, 2006 4:39 pm (Pacific time)

To all: "Learning" is defined as change in behavior. Is yours towards Big O now different ? Did you find this opportunity to learn in any other newspaper ? Did you wonder a bit why not ? Tha's "learning", too...

Henry Ruark October 23, 2006 1:52 pm (Pacific time)

Allan: Should have suggested you sign up for NY TIMES, or the Washington POST, note for news coverage...but then you might also suffer a seducingly different kind of Edit Page "coloration", too. You can do much worse than The Big O, as I think I pointed out sometime, somewhere, before. If that's your choice, you can make that "leap of faith" simply by sub-payment.

Henry Ruark October 23, 2006 1:01 pm (Pacific time)

Allan: Appreciate your Comment. This is plainly labeled Op Ed - that's different than "news", which I also write and have for more than fifty years, professionally --which means somebody pays to read it. Tim's explanation makes completely clear why this one took care to state every point completely and in plain English, for those who appreciate Op Ed's with documentation, depth and clean design. For others, those same ones will still be worth price of admission...and some attention on the off-chance of learning, too.

Tim King October 23, 2006 11:13 am (Pacific time)

Allan, I hope that you don't stop visiting our site. There is this ancient phenomenon at hand, whereas people who support candidates like Saxton rarely if ever take the time to become writers. They're too busy making and maintaining money to consider things like journalism for a career. Reporting is often a thankless job without the benefits of working in more business related fields.

Another thing is that when you are immersed in news reporting for many years, you see and become familiar with the endless suffering in the world. You see society degrading as it has, crime going through the roof, and young Americans dying in a highly criticized war in Iraq. You see the president and his men robbing police budgets that help fight meth and you see this strange tie between fundamentalist Christian ideology and the mechanized slaughter of human beings.

I know for a fact that offers have been made to members of all parties to contribute their thoughts through OpEd's. That offer goes on. This story explained how The Oregonian came to support a GOP candidate for governor, and I did not know how this went down until reading Hank's words. I can tell you as the editor that we care greatly about offering material that all people find easy to digest. We are trying hard to grow and I am leaving for Afghanistan in a little over a week. I would like to think that illustrates our level of caring for all people in this state and nation.

Allan October 23, 2006 11:03 am (Pacific time)

Henry - More people would be inclined to read your Op-Ed if it were shorter and to the point...That article could be summarized in about 50 words and you would have still made your point. As it is most people cannot get through it. It would also be nice to have writers at Salem-News who will give a different point of view...the only "other view" we get is in comments and they are usually slapped down. I personally am considering just not coming to the site any more as it is too one sided. I prefer news, not opinion.

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