Saturday, January 23, 2010

Spadea decision: dumb and dumber

Today’s “Yes on 66 & 67” spadea begins thus:

“This is the wrong place for a political ad . . .
But we have to correct the record. . . .”

In other words, the ends justify the means.

The spadea slippery slope just got more slippery.

And just how did this ad appear in The Oregonian? Was it, per chance, invited in the name of "fairness" following "No" spadeas earlier in the week? Was it sold at a "fairness" discount rate? (According to Oregon Media Central, the going spadea price in a non-Sunday paper is $19,750.)

I wouldn’t normally ask such impertinent questions except that the hanky-panky surrounding the whole spadea fiasco has left me deeply suspicious.

There's another reason a discount might be in order.

Just how much good will today’s "Yes" ad do at this late date? The actual news on today’s front page (which we reveal after peeling back the spadea husks) tells us that 840,000 of Oregon’s 2 million registered voters have already mailed in their ballots. Remember, the election is three days away. Given that turnout will be well short of 100 percent, a last-minute Saturday spadea doesn't have many minds left to change.

Oregonian publisher Chris Anderson's decision to allow the dueling political spadea ads has now dragged The Oregonian, its ad policy, its reporting, its editorial position and Anderson himself into the political campaign.

The “Yes on 66 & 67” ad in this week’s Willamette Week begins with the headline:

“Wondering what’s happened to the Oregonian?
You’re not alone.”

That seems like an odd opening line to introduce the issues of taxes, inequity, job preservation, “job killing,” social services etc.

Deeper into the ad, the “Yes” campaign purports to explain “what’s happened to the Oregonian.”

The answer: Last October, the ad tells us, “The Oregonian’s out-of-state corporate owners named a new publisher for the paper, N. Christian Anderson III. For 27 years Anderson helped run two of the most conservative papers in the country, the Orange County Register…and the Colorado Springs Gazette.”

The ad invites us — now that we are armed with that factoid — to decide for ourselves whether Anderson has steered The Oregonian to the Right. The thrust of the rest of the WW ad is that “The Oregonian” is out to burden the lower and middle classes.

This ad, like those of the opposite side, plays on the public's media illiteracy. The fact is that “The Oregonian” is an entire newspaper with many moving parts. The Op-Ed page and the paper’s editorials are but one part.

The problem is that Anderson has permitted political, front page-engulfing spadea ads whose content is riveted on Oregonian editorial positions. It's a toxic brew of news content, advertising and editorial opinion. The foul swill is certain to drive more and more readers away.

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