Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Compare and Contrast

Willamette Week and The Oregonian have always been studies in contrast. The scrappy alternative weekly routinely scoops and embarrasses the big, cautious daily.

Think Neil Goldschmidt and Sam Adams sex stories, both WW scoops.

Today both papers ran stories about the resignation of Matthew Hanly, the headmaster of Oregon Episcopal School. You can read the Willamette Week version here and The Oregonian story here.

In its story the weekly reports that it published events leading to Monday’s resignation in a story on-line last week.

Which raises the question of whether The Oregonian would have printed the “resignation” story if Willamette Week hadn’t published its prelude.

Someone hacked e-mails that Hanly foolishly wrote on his school computer. Then the messages were anonymously sent to the papers.

The papers handled the e-mail contents in a markedly different way.

The e-mails revealed Hanly, who has been separated from his wife since September, to be gay. More than that, the e-mail correspondence included some on-line “pillow talk” between Hanly and Michael Hulshoff-Schmidt, the headmaster of the International High School in Portland.

Willamette Week chose to share explicit content with its readers in a graphic — to which I say, “Give us (to say nothing of Hanly and Hulshoff-Schmidt) a break!”

The Oregonian simply referred to the content as “flirtatious conversations with a man.” Unlike Willamette Week, The Oregonian didn’t name the man.

The resignation and the reason for it was news enough. Which is pretty much the way The Oregonian played it.

Still, curious minds wonder about The Oregonian’s omission of Hulshoff-Schmidt, who was e-mailing from work too.

The other major difference between the coverage is that Willamette Week included Hanly’s eyebrow-raising salary: $243,500 a year. No salary figure was given for Hulshoff-Schmidt.

When the dust settles from this tabloidesque yarn, it would be instructive to see how the salary of the headmaster of a private school compares to that of public school principals.

Now that has the whiff of serious news.

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