The Oregonian rethinks online

In Sunday's Oregonian, the public editor - Michael Arrieta-Walden - announced that he'll be working on a new project to use blogs, podcasting, and who-knows-what to connect better with readers; to make a two-way conversation between the paper and the public.

The newspaper is for and about readers, but we aren't harnessing every tool to engage them. ...

I'll be helping lead an effort by the newsroom to interact more with readers. We want to take advantage of advances in technology and journalistic practices to make sure that we're engaging readers in as many ways as possible.

Newspapers long have conveyed arrogance in their role of gathering and possessing information -- always telling more than listening and assuming they know what readers want or need. Yet newspapers are slowly learning that expanding the conversation makes the journalism better.

Over the Communique, the One True B!x has some thoughts - as does Betsy over at MetroBlogging.

Two questions for BlueOregon: One, what should the paper do online? Two, how should the printed newspaper be different - in a community where so many folks can and do go online for breaking news?

  • LT (unverified)

    A newspaper website first of all should have links that work (in looking for the blogs mentioned by Public Editor I clicked on Public Editor Blog and got Blazer Blog), should update information (school fire, traffic jam, etc) should have connection to local if not national wire service, should have a good search function and a way to navigate the website which isn't too complicated. Statesman Journal redid their website and I had to email them to find a feature which had been linked to the home page previously.

  • Ron Beasley (unverified)

    Before The Oregonian takes off a a brave new adventure they should completely redo their main page. I check a great many papers online, both large and small, and the Oregonian's is by far the worse I have seen.

  • Betsy (unverified)

    It's important to make the following distinction: what you see when you type in is NOT The Oregonian's home page. OregonLive is a cousin once removed (with separate offices/from a different corporate branch of Advance), and licenses The O's content.

    The Oregonian has minimal say about how their content is displayed, searched, presented, or augmented (by features such as a MovieFinder search, for example) on OregonLive.

    The one component they do control is the option to remove content from the site after 2 weeks - this honors existing revenue streams/relationships with paid search services such as Factiva (formerly Dow Jones), Lexis/Nexis and the like.

    Some of us have speculated that the moves hinted at by The O's editorial team indicate that the licensing arrangement that granted OLive the exclusive right to present The O's face to the web world is weakening - and that they'll be allowed to move in directions independently of what's done on OLive.

    Alternately it could be that they'll have more direct impact on OLive content (and thus more control over how Oregonian content is packaged/displayed) - from the way blogs are structured and presented to other interactive features such as forums.

  • Betsy (unverified)

    Finally, it's interesting to speculate about what - if anything - the new marketing campaign for the upcoming "High Definition News" Sunday edition (launching September 18th) might foreshadow about future Oregonian online direction...

    Of course, it could just be another marketing campaign...

  • Doran (unverified)

    This said open discussion, so I'm going off-topic:

    [off-topic comment removed. point below is well-taken. -editor.]

    Also, there should be an open thread on this site for comments like this one, if it isn't appropriate here.

  • Sid Leader (unverified)

    There are many excellent newspaper web sites.

    The Washington Post is great and their Style section is a must for anyone who loves fun, vivid writing, often with tongue in cheek.

    The Oregonian/OregonLive?

    I couldn't navigate that site if my last name were Magellan.

    But, here's hoping!

  • (Show?)

    OK, folks, anyone want to address question #2?

    Given Betsy's comments above that the Oregonian doesn't control its own website (go figure), how should the printed newspaper be different in the age of the internet?

  • anonymous (unverified)

    I don't think it really has much of a role in providing news. I get the Oregonian for the advertisements and the comics. Do people really read the rest of it? Even their stories from the New York Times sometimes get cut so badly that they aren't even the same story. If you are interested, its better just to start with the NYT to begin with.

    But the role the Oregonian does play is as the arbitrator of what is important to Oregonians. The Meth crisis. Gay Marriage. Multnomah County's feuds. Fights are the legislature. Security at the Library. You know, the important stuff. You know, if it matters to Oregonians its in the Oregonian. And if its not, then it doesn't matter.

  • Jona (unverified)

    In view of this, I think there's nothing wrong with what Michael Arrieta-Walden's new project. Just give a try then let's see.. right?

    [off-topic link deleted]

  • Sid Leader (unverified)

    Okay, Kari. I'll take a swing.

    Most working folks seem to be in front of the net all day, so that edition of the paper must be in real time, which I believe is the biggest reason bloggers have become so powerful -- they are (were?) the fastest.

    I'd produce tons of live shots, streaming video, live chats, crawl quickie email comments, pop-up boxes you actually want to click -- what some news web sites are doing today -- only make it fast, colorful and sticky, unlike Drudge which is black-and-white, boring and stupid.

    So, that leaves the hard copy for a longer look at things the next day.

    Where's Big Al (From Gannett) when you need him?

    That guy knew news.

  • (Show?)

    Sid, I think you are 100% right... there should be some kind of rolling updates as content is available. If an article is accurate and ready to publish, the online community shouldn't have to wait for the printhouse to slap ink on paper for a release. The way news is being operated is changing, so too should the distribution model.

    Interesting that the O is considering a podcast function. When you consider the pioneers of podcasting have only been at it for a year, it's remarkable how quickly it has expanded.

  • (Show?)

    Tim -- I'd argue that the O has a lot of work ahead of themselves before they should take on podcasting. Podcasts are fine, I guess, but they have nowhere near the reach that the written word does. Their content isn't Google-able, and you can't skim 12 podcasts a day like you can with blogs and websites.

    I tend to think of podcasts as the revenge of the old-media people just trying once again to deploy one-way mass-media online... (sure, everyone can do it, but it's still one-way)... rather than really taking advantage of the net - which is many-to-many, bottom-up conversation.

    "Old-media" - I know: shocking. Feel free to argue that it's the new media kids doing podcasts, but I have two words for you: Adam. Curry.

    Certainly, of course, there are many grassroots podcasters - but there's a reason all the old-media folks are leaping to podcasting instead of wide-open commentable blogs. They understand it. It fits their world view. They like top-down one-way mass media.

    Bottom-up grassroots many-to-many media scares the bejeezus outta them.

  • Sid Leader (unverified)

    An old friend of mine wanted to be on the radio since he was five. No doubt about it.

    So, when he was in his teens, in the mid-1960's, he'd record himself doing a radio show in his bedroom, like so many other kids did back then, imitating the Larry Lujacks and Wofman Jacks of the world. His entire audience? One person. Himself.

    Nowadays, a teenager can do the same kinda show, in their bedroom, on their iPod, and with a few clicks of the mouse, they have an audience of millions on the Internet!

    Amazing stuff and it's all happpening way too fast for MSM to keep up.

  • LT (unverified)

    One thing the Oregonian might want to rethink is their target audience.

    I thought about this reading David Reinhard (yes, I did skim this one although I usually ignore him). Is Reinhard's target audience people who love sarcasm and hate anyone of any party questioning Bush's wisdom? Chuck Hagel got himself decorated in Vietnam and elected to the US Senate. But if he mentions Vietnam on TV there is something wrong with him because we should believe a National Review article quoted by Reinhard? What has Reinhard ever done with his life outside of writing sarcastic columns? Did he get an Oregonian job straight out of college and rise thru the ranks?

    I think there is a lot of truth to that statement about the "reality based community". The Oregonian needs to decide if they want to appeal to those folks.

  • (Show?)

    Bad mood day? Can't let this comment slide by:

    Most working folks seem to be in front of the net all day, so that edition of the paper must be in real time, which I believe is the biggest reason bloggers have become so powerful -- they are (were?) the fastest.

    That strikes me as really not accurate, by a long shot. Am I just off base here?

    I suspect that mst working folks are not in front of the net all day. Most working folks are slinging burgers or picking fruit or pushing cash register keys or twisting bolts or whatever. And if they are in the service economy and have internet access, I suspect many are probably limited in their ability to read the Oregonian.

    And finally if they do have time to look at things online during the day, I bet the local paper ain't one of them.

    Bloggers are powerful because they are immediate, but because they are also self-referential, self-fact checking, and monitored by the media and political elite. The last is very important.

    Look here ( The mass public still receives the vast bulk of its information from local and national televised news sources. The Internet is way down on the list.

  • (Show?)

    Here's how it works...

    Advance Publications is a company that owns numerous publications across the U.S., including the Oregonian.

    They own a company called That company does the websites for all their publications (,,, etc.).

    The design of their websites is a template-- every one of their newspapers use it. And on every site (unless someone at the other places has finally gotten smart & fixed it) there are major errors.

    It used to be that each had a large staff that worked on a variety of items-- some covered sports events, news, etc. They each had a small staff of people who moderated their online forums.

    Then decided it wanted more direct control over the sites. A lot of people were laid off, and the remaining forum people were all pulled under the umbrella.

    How do I know all this? Because once upon a time I worked for Oregon Live. Oregon Live could be a great website. Unfortunately, they don't put the effort into it that they should.

  • (Show?)

    I would have guessed they did, Paul. That is, that the majority of the "public" gets their information from local and national television news, and that the share of information from same per person approaches "vast bulk." (If that's even a measureable quantity - if I read DailyKos, SteveGilliard, and BlueOregon, then watch Tweety skewer someone on Hardball for a full thirty minutes, is my info half net, half idiot box, or do I have to factor in the richness of content, time spent at surf, etc.?)

    But there are a couple of mitigating factors that have to be considered to complete that picture.

    First, trends like this have to be measured over time. For example, when my mother was young, she was part of the mass public who received the vast bulk of her information from broadcast local and national radio news, and television was the new media devil. And from here, it's clear that the Internet, and with it, blogs, are trending toward dominance. I believe that's because it offers something more; namely, the opportunity to respond to "news" in real time.

    And that response, in the many creative forms it takes, is both frightening to old-media masters like Stickel, Murdoch, and their minions in print and on the air, who are used to proclaiming from on high, unchallenged, and ultimately empowering and encouraging to the folks who use blogs and the Internet to make that response.

    The Oregonian can dress itself up in any new technology it likes, but that still doesn't make it new media or protect it from obsolesence without the capacity to react and adapt to response. The Oregonian forums don't cut it, because the writers and editors don't participate, and don't react, so nothing changes from day to day in the content. Podcasting doesn't cut it, because there is no meaningful response.

    And Oregon's Republican newspaper will finally get the audience it deserves, consisting solely of those Republicans who still take their talking points from the paper hose, all 4 or 5 grr of them. Yay.

    That day is gonna come. And if you didn't know it, Paul, you wouldn't be here.

  • Sid Leader (unverified)

    Hi JT. I agree with you on Cut-and-Slime Davey Reinhard.

    But the Big O has to offer up some raw meat to the right-wingers.

    As for what Davey did before discovering Word's cut-and-paste function, I have read here on BlueOregon that he was an Assistant-to-the-Assistant-to-the Assistant Supervisor-to-a-Cabinet Secretary in the Reagan administration's era of small, teeny-tiny government.

    Trivia Check:

    Name the biggest government building in all of DC, by far.

    <h2>The Ronald Reagan Building, of course! I'm sure Dave has a plaque there, somewhere.</h2>
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