Media Watch: That’s not what “balance” means

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Under publisher N. Christian Anderson The Third, even the Oregonian’s business reporters have become partisans, whose orders are apparently to embarrass Democratic leaders at every opportunity while giving away credibility to Republicans.

The latest example comes from tech reporter Mike Rogoway. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi recently visited Portland to meet with technology startup leaders, joined by Rep. Earl Blumenauer and Rep. Suzanne Bonamici. Their goal was to find ways that Congress can help tech companies thrive.

But here’s how Rogoway described the visit:

Politicians love technology.

Not iPads, or Twitter, or Facebook – though, to be sure, politicians use all those. No, it’s technology companies that politicos really lust after.

Tech companies – startups in particular – are full of economic upside, new ideas and the promise of tomorrow. Facebook, Twitter, Amazon and Google turned startups into cultural icons, celebrities of the business world that seem to create jobs out of thin air.

So tech entrepreneurs are irresistible to office seekers, and to office-holders, who love to associate their political brands with that kind of excitement.

Get it? “Politicians” (by which he means “Democratic politicians”) lust greedily after the perceived success and star power of tech companies. They’re not interested in—heck, they probably don’t even understand—the industry they’re throwing themselves at, they just want to co-opt their popularity. Like drooling tweens trying to get backstage at a Jonas Brothers concert.

To underline the fact that he’s talking just about Democrats here, Rogoway throws in the fact that Portland tech companies have also been recently courted by President Obama and Senators Ron Wyden and Maria Cantwell.

That level of political bias masquerading as journalism isn’t enough for today’s Oregonian, so they doubled down, following the Pelosi piece by calling up Oregon GOP Chair Allen Alley in the name of “balance.”

So in search of a little balance, I called Oregon GOP Chairman Allen Alley for the view from the other side of the aisle. "Everybody jumps to the front of the line when there's a little of flicker of success," Alley joked Wednesday from Tampa, where he's preparing for the Republican National Convention.

Before Alley was a candidate for the GOP's gubernatorial nomination, and before he was the Republican Party's state chair, he was founder and CEO of Pixelworks, one of the last Oregon tech companies to hold an IPO (it raised $58 million 12 years ago).

Success among Portland's new generation of startups is extremely heartening, Alley said, and it's impressive that they've established themselves without the big investments that an earlier generation of startup required.

The partisan storyline here is so cliché that I hate to even repeat it, but it’s obvious that Anderson want readers to see Democrats as starstruck dolts with no business experience, and Republicans as the only ones who understand the industry.

That’s not balance; it’s transparent partisanship. It’s also become par for the course at Anderson’s Oregonian. A balanced piece might have pointed out that under Alley’s watch, Pixelworks tanked in a big way, leading to his resignation as CEO in 2006. Under Alley, the company managed to take peak income of $22 million in 2004 and turn that into a loss of $42.6 million the next year by being late with new products. The next year, just before Alley’s departure, saw even more meteoric losses.

The result was big layoffs and outsourcing of Pixelworks employees to San Jose and Shanghai. As of 2010, only 12 of the company’s 230 employees worked at the company’s Tualatin headquarters.

So while the Oregonian is busy propping up Alley—who is rumored to be considering a run for governor in 2014—the rest of us should remember that his alleged business record is one of pretty deep failure. But that won’t stop the state’s newspaper of record from ignoring those inconvenient facts and signing his praises… all in the name of “balance,” of course.

Comments

My name is Steven Amick. That comment from a retired reporter for The Oregonian is mine. I stand by it firmly and absolutely.
Here, in part, is my request to Our Oregon for attribution, conveyed after I submitted the comment (for which I was offered no way online to sign it other than as Anonymous,) but before the comment was posted on the Sockeye Blog:
"I just submitted a comment on your "Media Watch: That's not what 'balance' means" piece and was unable to figure out how to attach my name to my comment, identifying me as its author.
It's against my principles to shoot from ambush. So please, if you publish my comment, attribute it to me."
This is the response I received from Alina Harway, of Our Oregon, which publishes the Sockeye Blog:

"Hi Steven,

"Thanks for your comment on Sockeye. And for your commitment to transparency! Unfortunately, we don't actually have the ability to add attributions to submitted comments.

"But, pending your permission, we'd love to re-publish your statement (with attribution, of course) as part of its own blog post. Media bias and slant is obviously a big concern of ours, and it would be wonderful to share your opinion on what we view as a growing problem.

"(And just so you know for the future, we've actually been working with a web developer to restructure the blog commenting system. Hopefully next time you choose to comment, we will have sorted this problem out!)

Best,
Alina"

Although I gave my permission for publication on condition that proper attribution would be included, apparently the problem wasn't sorted out before my comment was posted. I regret that.
I loathe anonymous postings; they're cowardly. So I'm correcting the oversight that took place in this instance -- entirely by accident, I believe -- with this similarly and unavoidably "Anonymous" posting now.

Here's my opinion:
As a retired reporter for The Oregonian, I'm appalled at the obvious and unconscionable bias infecting the news columns of what was, under the leadership of Fred Stickel, one of the finest newspapers in America.
I'm proud to say that for nearly a quarter-century I worked for a publisher with impeccable journalistic standards, who insisted on the highest level of professional objectivity from every reporter and editor on his staff.
Mr. Stickel made it clear our mission was to inform, not indoctrinate.
This new gang of propaganda-spewing hacks can't tarnish Fred Stickel's legacy, but they can't look their dwindling number of readers in the eye and honestly claim it, either.
Several excellent journalists still work for The Oregonian, but since Fred retired and Sandra Rowe -- one of best editors in the business -- left, their numbers also have shrunk.
I feel sorry for the ones who remain; grateful for them, too. They and the work they're doing are why I haven't cancelled my subscription to this miserable rightist rag.
Every morning, though, when I'm assaulted by The Oregonian's blatantly slanted headlines and "news" stories that can't pass the smell test, I wonder how much longer I can take it.

Huh?

Wow, you're working hard to find slight.

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