The O Disappoints Again

Chris Bouneff

I’ve stayed off this blog for quite some time because as befitting someone who describes himself as going Howard Beal, this political season is about to drive me over the edge.

But as I opened my ballot yesterday and looked at the ballot measures, it struck me that once again, my local fish wrapper The Oregonian has let me down. They spent months examining David Wu with a team of reporters over a possible sexual assault from 28 years ago. They spent two years investigating some statistics on meth and turned it into a weeklong borefest that should have been condensed into fewer days worth of coverage.

But they never dedicated any serious resources to the ballot measures I am about to vote on. Nothing beyond the typical "this side said it will help people; this side said it will hurt people." For some measures, just replace "people" with the environment, farms, forests, and you get the gist.

Some measures are easy to cover. Measure 36 is pretty simple. Either you want all people to have fair access to marriage, or you don’t. Not much to explain there. And the other issues that come with that are easy enough to report on and write about.

But Measure 34? Heck if I know what it’s all about. Sure, there’s the propaganda that I can read from either side, but I really wanted my newspaper to look at that measure in-depth and examine what it’s all about. Send a reporter to the forests. Do what’s today cliche in environmental coverage -- tour the forest with one pro and one con on Measure 34 and see firsthand what’s up. Go to and look over the Voter’s Guide and you won’t even find coverage of the measures listed beyond a couple of paragraphs on some roundup story.

Or Measure 33? I see the ads from the proponents. I’d like to know whether it’s true that there are hordes of people out there who have a medical marijuana card who can’t grow the stuff and can’t get it elsewhere. Didn’t see that and other questions addressed in The O’s coverage.

Or Measure 35, a measure I know a lot about from researching the subject for two years, The O did the same "he said, she said" story that it’s being doing on malpractice insurance rates for the past two years. Not one hard question; not one effort to get beyond the rhetoric. Heck, a reporter never even talked to an insurance company. If Oregonians vote to restrict their constitutional rights, how much would insurance companies lower rates, if at all? The same 200 percent to 400 percent that they’ve raised rates since 1999?

Hell, the Oregon Health News, a small monthly which only has a couple of staff members and runs on a shoestring budget, took on an in-depth report about malpractice and caps on jury awards. Guess what? The O quoted it because it didn’t do any independent reporting.

Or Measure 37. Couldn’t they at least make a stab at looking into how much this will cost taxpayers if this thing ever makes it into law? (Sidebar to Jack B. Any of your lawyer friends talking about the constitutionality of this monstrosity?)

So you get my drift. I’m mad as hell because while The O is willing to spend resources on some stories that they can enter into awards competitions, they can’t seem to spend the resources to analyze with any depth ballot measures that we’re voting on. These are measures that will change the landscape, literally, in Oregon.

You mean to tell me that The O couldn’t spare a couple of David Wu sex reporters for a couple of months to look into a measure or two? This is the best that the state’s supposed newspaper can do to inform voters?

It may not be as titillating as sexual escapades or worthy of an ASNE award, but to me, a newspaper’s job during an election season it to provide more than surface coverage about important political issues.

OK, rant over. Back to my hole until the election is over.

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