An experiment in journalism goes off the rails, on the first day.

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

"So it raises the question of whether the Oregonian is purposefully trying to pass off the front group as independent in order to mislead readers." - Scott Moore, Our Oregon

An experiment in journalism goes off the rails, on the first day.

On Friday, the Oregonian launched a new venture in journalism called the Oregon News Network. The idea is a good one - combine the creativity and in-depth coverage of niche bloggers and independent journalists with the audience reach of a major news site. It's a win-win all around. and its readers get more quality content, and the smaller sites get access to a much bigger audience (and $2500.)

The guidelines for inclusion were pretty straightforward. You have to do daily original reporting; opinion blogs (like this one) are not invited. And "organs for institutions such as government agencies, political parties, non-profits" are specifically excluded.

Many of the sites included are fantastic. BikePortland, Neighborhood Notes, the Skanner, the Lund Report and others are great.

But one addition raised eyebrows all over the place: Oregon Capitol News. OCN clearly identifies itself as "a project of the Cascade Policy Institute". And while their self-proclaimed "independence" as journalists is a matter of some dispute, there's no doubt: they're a house organ for a nonprofit organization.

Over at the Sockeye, Scott Moore is calling foul:

By definition, that makes the Oregonian's assertion that it's an "independent" news outlet verifiably false. The newspaper has printed guest opinions from CPI's Steve Buckstein often enough that it should know fully well who he and his organization are, so it raises the question of whether the Oregonian is purposefully trying to pass off the front group as independent in order to mislead readers. ...

So, given the more-than-convenient match between the right-wing politics of the Oregonian's new publisher and the so-called "independent" analysis of the Oregon Capitol News, we deem this statement Pants on Fire.

I suspect that the ONN project is actually a minor project buried deep in the news room somewhere. After all, we're talking about $17,500 in expenses -- and they haven't even bothered to integrate the project into their backend technology. (Each post looks hand-produced, and is authored by "Oregonian News Network" instead of the original author.) Heck, the BlueOregon news feed is a much more robust little news aggregator.

As a result, I'm inclined to give the Oregonian the benefit of the doubt. I'm hoping that they take this opportunity to review the News Network guidelines at a senior level - and jettison Oregon Capitol News as a partner. It's quite obviously a violation of their own rules.

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    I'm not sure it is fair to call OCN a "house organ" for Cascade Policy Institute. This is what the OCN website actually says:

    "Oregon Capitol News is a project of the Cascade Policy Institute, a 501(c)(3)(h) non-profit, non-partisan policy research organization. Although Cascade is a free market research organization, Oregon Capitol News functions independently and is dedicated to open government and transparency.

    "All Oregon Capitol News staff and guest writers are required to abide by the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics. Additionally, criticism of the Oregon Capitol News’s output is welcomed and strongly encouraged."

    It sounds to me like the intention is to establish more independence from Cascade Policy Institute in their operation and reporting than the term "organ" or "house organ" would imply.

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        True. Peter Bathia owes us an explanation, unless he's lowered the standards for his own reporters.

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        Agreed. Anyone who argues that Cascade is collecting donor money to pay people to write articles that may or may not be consistent with Cascade's mission has an uncanny and bankable ability to keep a straight face.

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      If Oregon Capital News had truly wanted to establish itself as a straight-up, independent news shop, doing so under the auspices of such a high-profile, politically and philosophically branded institution as Cascade Policy Institute is a pretty weird way of doing so. In addition to the formal affiliation with CPI, OCN’s political reporter has done stints with ideologically similar shops such as Heritage Foundation and the Cowlitz County Republican Party, and is still listed as a policy analyst on staff at CPI itself. I’m not sure I want to send you back to the dictionaries to look up “independent,” Jack, but, really….

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    Maybe Jack has read the boilerplate language Cascade puts on all its publications ("Nothing appearing in this document/commentary is to be construed as necessarily representing the views of Cascade or its donors. The views expressed herein are the author's/s’ own.") and fully believes that Cascade does not have an opinion on anything.

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      Like I said, while their self-proclaimed "independence" as journalists is a matter of some dispute, there's no doubt: they're a house organ for a nonprofit organization.

      And that violates the O's own rules.

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    Here are two definitions of "house organ." The first, from Merriam-Webster Dictionary, simply says "a periodical distributed by a business concern among its employees, sales personnel, or customers."

    The other, from the ultimate authority,, elaborates a bit more: "A periodical issued by a business or other establishment for its employees, customers, and other interested readers, presenting news about the firm, its products, and its personnel."

    I don't think Oregon Capital News qualifies as a house organ of Cascade Policy Institute under either definition.

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      From Oregon Capital News' website copyright and legal page:

      Cascade Policy Institute Copyright & Legal Agreement

      Cascade Policy Institute websites serve the public by providing education and information for their use. You may use this site only if you agree to abide by all federal and local laws of your jurisdiction, the laws of the laws of the State of Oregon, where Cascade Policy Institute is incorporated, and the following terms, which constitute a legal agreement between you and the Cascade Policy Institute (Cascade Policy). Cascade Policy reserves the right to change these terms without notice, at any time. If you do not agree to these terms, please leave this site and any other Cascade Policy owned site immediately.


      This Site and all of the information it contains (including, but not limited to, news articles, video, charts, graphs, graphics and photographs) is the property of Cascade Policy Institute, unless otherwise noted. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that Oregon Capitol News and the author are properly cited.


      Guarantee of Journalistic Integrity

      Journalists of the Oregon Capitol News, a project of the Cascade Policy Institute, abide by the Society for Professional Journalism code of Ethics.

      So can you explain why we should take your word over Cascade Institute/Oregon Capital News' word about itself?

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      I find myself curious: just when did become the "ultimate authority"?

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    The Lund Report is itself a non-profit organization (here).

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      The Lund Report is journalism houses in a nonprofit like ProPublica, but not just investigative in strategy like ProPubica and it is focused on news related to health care in Oregon.

      Unlike Cascade Policy Institute (and its Oregon Capitol News arm), the Lund Report as an entity it has no position on the Oregon Health Plan, does not have disdain for government, etc.

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    The (sic) "Oregon Capitol News" is the same group that attempted to link the West Linn-Wilsonville School District's attendance at a 2007 United Nations conference on sustainability to Animal Liberation front "terrorism."

    They are not independent in any sense of the word, even by their own admission, and they most certainly fail to fulfill even minimal standards of journalism. Again, by their own admission.

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