Is Oregon Capitol News an “Independent” News Outlet?
Earlier today, in announcing its new "Oregonian News Network," the Oregonian proudly trumpeted its new partnership with Oregon Capitol News as a provider of online content. In justifying its new relationship, the Oregonian proclaimed the Oregon Capitol News an "independent" news operation.
This statement left many in the capitol scratching their heads, since most political insiders know what we know: that the Oregon Capitol News is a project of Cascade Policy Institute, a right-wing think tank that pushes for "free market" solutions. That typically means they advocate against environmental regulations, for the privatization of schools, and against tax increases, particularly on corporations and the rich. Recently, Cascade Policy Institute has made a name for itself politically by opposing legislative efforts to ban Bisphenol-A in baby bottles.
The Oregonian appears to be breaking its own rules. The guidelines for prospective members of the Oregonian News Network explicitly say "organs for institutions such as government agencies, political parties, non-profits" don't qualify.
On its website, Oregon Capitol News is described as "A Project of Cascade Policy Institute." In other words, the operation is entirely dependent on the CPI--an advocate for policies that help big corporations--for its very existence.
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.
In the year and a half since the Oregonian was taken over by N. Christian Anderson III--who came to Oregon after running the Orange County Register and another right-wing publication in Colorado Springs--the newspaper has lurched to the right. First, the paper famously flipped its opinion on ballot measures 66 and 67 after its new publisher took over, then opened up its front page to advertising by opponents to the measures, and has since tried to censor political advertisements from the Portland Schools Bond campaign that Anderson also doesn't agree with.
N. Christian Anderson III is also on the board of the Portland Business Alliance, the very politically active chamber of commerce in Portland--an apparent violation of the Society of Professional Journalists' code to "shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity."
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.