John Gunther, overseer of world culture after WWII, noted in 1944 two everlasting sources of power and influence in Oregon – the Bonneville Power Administration and The Oregonian.

Nothing has changed, it’s BPA and the O. Oregon is a one-newspaper state, and though the Newhouse’s own the paper, Fred Stickel, who came out here from a New Jersey paper owned by Newhouse after the 1959 strike to quiet things down, has kept the paper’s editorial content pro-business, pro-Catholic, anti-union, and stolidly non-progressive. Surprisingly, circulation maintains, ad rates maintain, and in a time when most pundits claim the financial model of paper news is fatally flawed, the Oregonian remains one of the most profitable – and powerful – ventures in the state.

By comparison with other, similar papers, the Oregonian’s local print news is bland, conservative, relying heavily on a predictable calender of local events; their national news comes from wire reports, it’s columnists are boring, it’s entertainment writers follow the herd (often several years behind), and most of it’s business and sports writers have a memory slightly shorter than a news cycle.

But their web site should receive special consideration for it’s fantastically stupid design. It seems to be a template created for all Advance Publication newspapers by someone far far away from Portland, and with only a crayon for creating a flow chart. The search engine does not work, the front page has recipes, the design is chaotic.

HOWEVER, there are good parts well worth review, often buried deep and far from the template. And most are multimedia.

A sliding panorama of Portland’s skyline, marking current high rise construction sites.

An interactive Google map of Portland’s bicycle collisions. Scary!

Don Colburn showed in Living To The End the courage of my friend Lovelle Svart, who chose to use Oregon’s unique death with dignity law and hastened her death.

Have your very own police scanner!

Finally, Doug Bates and his writing partner Rick Attig pushed the envelope of editorial writing in 2006 with a series about the Oregon State Hospital. The result, besides a Pulitzer, has been fast-paced reform at the hospital and the torpid Oregon State legislature promising $600 million to tear down the 100+ year old J building and create a contemporary hospital. In the video above, Doug skewers the tobacco industry, and Jamie Frances captures three children with a set of heartbreaking photos. Kudos, again, for speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves; and creating another vital public artwork.

But geez, the compression! Consider your audience. The pro-Measure 50 vid runs fine on my T-1 line, but must move like mud on a DSL line, and take an hour to download on a phone line.

EXTRA – A Brief History of Newspaper Publishing in Oregon

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