Reporters, Editors Discuss the State of Media in Oregon

Mainstream and alternative media representatives discuss the challenges and changes that face today's news storytellers.

The state of the modern media is in flux. 

That was the message brought to the Pacific University Forest Grove Campus on Tuesday afternoon when seven Oregon journalists and editors joined a panel discussion on “The State of the Media in Oregon.”  

Sponsored by the Department of Politics & Government in Marsh Hall’s Taylor Auditorium, the program drew some 30 students, staff and community members.

Panelists appeared from several Oregon mainstream media outlets: Susan Nielsen from The Oregonian; George Rede from the Hillsboro Argus and the Forest Grove Leader; John Schrage from the Hillsboro Tribune and Forest Grove News-Times; and Nigel Jaquiss of Willamette Week. Other panelists included Israel Bayer, executive director of the Portland street newspaper, Street Roots, and Sarah Mirk, web editor of the feminist magazine Bitch. TV analyst and Pacific assistant professor Jim Moore also participated. They all spoke about their backgrounds, their views on journalism and answered questions from the audience.

Unlike most of the panelists, Bayer, director of Street Roots, noted that he never graduated from college; in fact, he never graduated from high school. Despite growing up in poverty, he said, “Newspapers were always things I absorbed.” Studying newspapers and having mentors eventually led him to street journalism, which he said, “puts a human face on journalism.”

He added later in the program that “no organization owns the news,” and that the future of journalism lies in different kinds of platforms for dispensing news. He also noted that Street Roots, unlike most media, is a nonprofit and relies on funding from other organizations.

The panelists agreed that financial issues and the competition from social media have impacts on the industry as a whole.

Advertising and how it affects journalistic storytelling provoked a lot of discussion among the panelists. Most in the group agreed that maintaining a “wall” between the newsroom and the advertising department is very important in allowing bias-free reporting, but it was noted that size of the company makes a difference.

Understanding the economics of putting out a newspaper, said Schrag, is often not understood. Advertising, he noted, provides the money to maintain the staff, and smaller newspapers, like the Tribune and News-Times, don’t have the resources to pay staff like the bigger newspapers in the state.

“I understand the reason for that ‘wall’,” said Schrag, but he added reporters need to know how advertising supports their business.  “The wall between advertising and news needs to come down a bit for us to survive.”

He noted that the newspapers he’s working for are in direct competition with Hillsboro Argus and the Forest Grove Leader, both owned by The Oregonian, the state's largest newspaper.

He noted that, because of the competition, “We’re a better paper than we were before.” But he added that he didn’t think the western Washington County area could support two different newspapers and eventually, one will have to fold.

“I’m betting on the small paper,” he added to laughter from the audience.


Posted by Jenni Luckett ( on Feb 21, 2013 at 9:13 AM

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