Under his 6 year tenure, Anderson transformed The O from the state’s most reliable news source into an untrustworthy media outlet.
This morning, The Oregonian announced that its right leaning, pro-business and anti-union chairman, N. Christian Anderson III, is leaving the paper to become editor and publisher of The Eugene Register-Guard.
If Anderson stood out like a sore-thumb in Portland as a climate-change-ignoring, anti-worker-stalwart, imagine how he’ll fare in the land of the Country Fair and student protests. Sounds like a reality TV pilot — you could call it “Conservative Publishers of Orange County on Tour.”
Who knows what the Register Guard did to deserve Anderson’s leadership. But based on how the Oregonian is doing on his way out, Eugenians have all the reason in the world to be concerned.
Under Anderson’s six year tenure, he transformed a paper that was once the state’s most reliable news source into an untrustworthy media outlet that prioritized profit over integrity and alienated its readership.
While Anderson was at the helm, the Oregonian’s readership plummeted. It’s now under 170,000 during the week and under 200,000 for Sundays. (In 1997, the paper reached 450,000 homes each weekend.)
And in favor of a “digital-first” strategy, which focused on clicks over content, he slashed home delivery to only four days a week. More from his legacy: He laid off nearly 100 staffers, including journalists with decades of experience. Others fled the paper like rats from a sinking ship.
In Anderson’s new world, comments and clicks outweighed the quality and depth of journalism. Veteran journalists were replaced with less experienced reporters, all of whom, according to leaked documents, were instructed to post surface-level click-bait. This included a number of stories around such compelling things like the “tournament bracket” of the best candy and another bracket to determine the “most intriguing” politico. Go to the Oregonian website today and the headlines scream bad BuzzFeed rip-off more than “state’s leading newspaper.” (Think we’re exaggerating? The lead story at the time of Anderson’s announced departure? Pets Hall of Shame! We cannot make this up.)
Other items on Anderson’s stellar track record? Under his watch, PolitiFact — the project aimed to help readers “find the truth in politics” — took to crowdsourcing opinions about facts they would maybe check in the future. He hired the Bend Bulletin’s ultra-conservative Erik Lukens as Editorial Board Director, ensuring that the Editorial Page would start omitting important policy debates, apparently to push its not-so-conservative readership even further away.
And when it came to subjects out of line with Anderson’s own personal values — say, making large and out-of-state corporations pay their fair share in taxes, or proposals to support school funding or fight attacks on workers, the paper routinely doubled down on trying to protect business interests over the people’s as advocates .
By dismissing — both literally and figuratively — the hard work and journalistic integrity of many of The Oregonian’s former journalists, by pandering to big business and failing to be a trusted source of impartial news for Oregonians, by underestimating and undervaluing its readership, and feeding it click-bait instead of actual news, N. Christian Anderson III leaves behind an outlet that would have been better off without him.
The Mighty O has fallen, and it’s hard to imagine how the Register Guard won’t endure a similar fate. At least Eugene has the U of O’s Daily Emerald (read it here – and you better get used to it). Here’s betting the ODE will be glad to pick up the pieces that Anderson will cut from the R-G. Eugene, it’s your turn, and we hope you’re ready for some Pets Hall of Shame!