The Oregonian Gets a New Editor

Amid mass layoffs, strict quotas about online posts, a new “digital-first strategy” that slashed delivery days, and a dramatic new print redesign, the Oregonian has hired a new top editor.

Mark KatchesMark Katches comes to the paper after leading the California-based Center for Investigative Reporting, and a long history of leading investigative teams at various papers for decades—including at the Orange County Register, where conservative Oregonian publisher N. Christian Anderson III was his boss.

Katches appears to be a respected journalist with a deep commitment to investigative reporting. Which leads to the question: How in the world is he going to fit into the Oregonian’s new business model?

Investigative journalism, when done right, is time-consuming and expensive. Reporters can spend months, or even years, running down a story—and sometimes come up empty. It doesn’t come with daily updates or rewards. That’s also why newspapers—as well as TV and radio outlets—have largely slashed their investigative efforts. Investigative reporting can be a money-loser that most news companies no longer care to float.

If the Oregonian is a model, modern journalism is about clicks, clicks, and more clicks. Content has to be fast and provocative enough to go viral. It also has to be easily recycled into more content, like polls and reposts of blog comments. In other words, the exact opposite of the investigative model.

Last spring, Willamette Week got their hands on some of the internal documents Oregonian officials were using to roll out their new performance / payment model to their writers. Here’s how WW outlined it:

The new policy, shown to the editorial staff in a PowerPoint presentation in late February, provides that as much as 75 percent of reporters’ job performance will be based on measurable web-based metrics, including how often they post to Oregonlive.com.

Beat reporters will be expected to post at least three times a day, and all reporters are expected to increase their average number of posts by 40 percent over the next year.

In addition, reporters have been told to stir up online conversations among readers.

“On any post of substance, reporter will post the first comment,” the policy says. “Beat reporters [are to] solicit ideas and feedback through posts, polls and comments on a daily basis.”

The metrics are focused on clicks and “engagement,” with little mention about the quality or depth of the journalism that would be expected. In fact, one could convincingly argue that the new model is largely incompatible with in-depth investigative journalism.

It’s not that the O doesn’t have good investigative journos; it’s just that the new business model doesn’t make a lot of room for their work. So what does that mean for a veteran journalist like Katches?

9 Responses to “The Oregonian Gets a New Editor”

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Monica Wehby’s tax plan: It’s even worse than you might think

We crunched the numbers on Monica Wehby’s tax plan, and it’s no wonder she’s hoping voters will just forget it even exists.

Over the past week, Republican Senate candidate Monica Wehby has been taking heat for her campaign’s tax plan. Critics have been pointing out that her “plan” is a massive giveaway to big corporations and the very wealthy—with no hint as to how she could possibly make up for the trillions of dollars of revenue lost through tax cuts.

Monica Wehby's Tax PlanFor her part, Wehby has refused to even defend her plan. Her handlers have responded to media inquiries with vague, unsupported attacks on Sen. Jeff Merkley, prompting responses from the press that are somewhere between bemusement and incredulity.

Wehby’s plan is heavy on Republican rhetoric, but light on specifics. One concrete idea she floats, however, is even more extreme than the plan floated by Mitt Romney in 2012. In a campaign email from April, Wehby suggested “reducing corporate and individual tax rates to 25%” to stimulate the economy—a typical trickle-down economic policy that’s been discredited since the ’80s.

We decided to analyze just the personal income tax side of this proposal, leaving aside, for now, the impact of cutting corporate taxes. What we found is even more alarming than we originally thought.

First, the technical stuff. To get a sense of who would benefit from Wehby’s tax cut, we looked at IRS income tax tables from 2011, the last year for which full numbers are available.

Based on 2011 figures, here’s what we found:

• Wehby’s tax plan would cost the federal government at least $107 billion—and likely much more—every single year. Wehby has offered no plan on what programs she would slash in order to pay for those tax cuts.

• For married couples filing joint returns, you’d have to make more than $148,851 a year to get relief from Wehby’s tax cut. If your family makes less than that, you get bupkis.

• The vast majority of this tax cut would benefit not just the wealthy, or the very wealthy, but the very, very, very wealthy. More than 85% of Wehby’s tax cut would go to the richest 1%, with most of that going to filers making more than $1 million a year.

• In fact, $91 billion of this tax cut would go directly to the richest 1%.

• Of that amount, $19 billion would go just to the richest 1% of the richest 1%–filers making more than $10 million per year.

• Working families bringing in less than $150,000 per year? They get no benefit from Wehby’s tax giveaway. Instead, they’re the families who will be shouldering the cuts to federal programs required by Wehby’s tax cuts.

Keep in mind that these estimates are conservative, as the gap between the very wealthy and everyone else has continued to grow since 2011. If 2013 or 2014 data were available for analysis, we’d conclude Wehby wants to give away even more in tax breaks to the wealthy.

Also keep in mind that the federal tax system is already designed to benefit the ultra-wealthy. The tax rate on capital gains—which is where the richest 1% get most of their income—is already much lower than the tax rate on earned income. Wehby’s plan would skew the system even further in favor of those at the very top.

There’s no other way to see this than as a massive giveaway to the very wealthy at the expense of everyone else. When it comes right down to it, Wehby’s proposal looks a lot less like a serious economic policy, and more like a plea for donations from hedge fund billionaires.

Stay tuned for an analysis on Wehby’s plan to cut taxes for the nation’s largest corporations.

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Unbelievable: The Spam King—Now Running for Governor—Is at it Again

Rep. Dennis Richardson (R-Your Inbox) is now using his massive political spam email list to bolster, and even fund raise for, his campaign for governor.

His campaign got its hands on 418,958 email addresses by using a public records request into his legislative office. Keep in mind, that’s the equivalent of about one out of every five registered voters in Oregon. And he’s using that list to bring his gubernatorial campaign literature right into your inbox.

Spam King for Governor

For more than two years, Richardson has been known as Oregon’s Spam King. In 2012, he used public records to gain the email addresses of around 500,000 Oregonians—and then flooded their inboxes with unsolicited right-wing political diatribes.

He even managed to crash the legislature’s data servers in the middle of a legislative session when he sent a deluge of unwanted emails to every corner of the state.

And when anyone had the audacity to complain about getting bombarded with a bunch of unsolicited political emails from Richardson, here’s the classy response the Spam King sent back:

Do you realize that you are not in my district and cannot vote for me. If my motives were political, I would not waste my time contacting those who cannot vote in my district. For just a moment stop and consider that I may be sending this information to you for the benefit of informing Oregonians about what is taking place in our state.

Your email address will be deleted, and it will be your loss not mine. Too bad your skepticism overpowers your ability to accept information from one who offers it for free and expecting nothing in return.
Best wishes and good bye, Dennis R.

He answered the charge at the time by declaring that any political communications outside of his district would be wasted, since those recipients couldn’t vote for him anyway. Of course, anyone even remotely paying attention assumed that he was going to run for governor, and this was his invasive way of artificially creating a statewide reach. And that’s exactly what happened.

Perhaps, in the way that Monica Wehby has tried to turn her multiple stalking and harassment allegations into a campaign asset, Richardson will claim that spamming half a million Oregonians shows that he has persistence. Or maybe it will just backfire and everyone will see it as creepy and invasive.

BTW, here’s what the spam folder in my inbox looks like. Those are all emails from Richardson’s campaign.

Richardson Campaign Spam

28 Responses to “Unbelievable: The Spam King—Now Running for Governor—Is at it Again”

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