Eugene, Ore., my new (if temporary) digs, is a trippy kind of place. The kind of place where in the course of a single Sunday afternoon bike spin you’ll spy more per-capita graffiti, body piercings and 1968 Volvo Amazons than dear old Berkeley.
This town is abuzz under normal conditions (pun intended) but there is an extra good in preparation for Obama 2.0. Seriously, if the 2012 election were decided by dividing the number of registered vehicles by the number of Obama/Biden bumper stickers, the Election Commission coulda’ called this thing over last Christmas.
But wonderfully wacky Eugene is not America. In fact, it’s not even Oregon. Obama took the state’s seven electoral votes by more than 16 points last time out; but what with a chronically sputtering economy – and much ballyhooed “Ryan Bump” – it should be obvious by now that Romney/Ryan is not to be mistaken for McCain/Palin. (Even before the Ryan announcement a Public Policy survey pegged the gap at half that number.)
The good news is that, despite the downward spike, nobody, including the state’s Democratic brass, seems to think a red Oregon is in the works anytime soon. But if the Dems’ battle plan includes shoring up Obama’s Oregon odds with the aid of Big News, they’ll have to do it without the largest corporate outlet at their disposal, the Oregonian.
Turns out that the heavy-hitting Portland newspaper – which after throwing off its Republican identity in 1992 has backed every Democrat since (including Obama) – is sitting this one out. In a recent editorial, the award-winning paper, which is owned by New York-based Advance Publications, cited as its reason the candidates’ snub of Oregon and Oregonians.
After taking a shot at both candidates for appearing only at closed fundraisers in the Beaver State, the editorial board wrote in the Aug. 14 issue: “This year, The Oregonian will not be endorsing a candidate for president … [but] we’ll be listening closely for signs that any of the candidates have noticed the particular interests of Oregon.”
To be fair, you don’t have to be Ben Bradlee to appreciate the competitive, bottom-line culture of corporate print news; especially in an era of syndication, increasing costs of live reporting and ever-vanishing hard copy subscriptions. And the Oregonian is by no means the only marquee newspaper tacking toward state and local content in an effort to remain relevant and thereby solvent.
But there is the bitter tinge of the rejected suitor in what the Oregonian has done. Or rather not done. Its leadership rightly notes that this election will be all about funneling time and resources to swing states, thereby reducing non-swingers to electoral bit players; but this is another instance of encroaching colloquialism in corporate news, and it comes at a time when influential outlets should be fully, nationally engaged, not taking undue umbrage.
In a perfect journalism world, the big dogs would sell out to what in the end is the best service they can render this fragmented, threadbare republic: an informed, thinking citizenship. In that world there can be no abstentions in matters that affect us all.
Don Rollins is a Unitarian Universalist minister now in Eugene, Ore. Email email@example.com.
From The Progressive Populist, September 15, 2012
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