The Oregonian Hall of Shame

Things are very bad there, monsieur. The devil has the people by the throat. -- "Casablanca"

Newspapers have a constitutional right to print (or not print) anything they want. People have a constitutional right to buy (or not buy) any reading material they choose. The problem in Portland and Oregon is the monopolistic dominance of The Oregonian, the largest-circulation newspaper in the Pacific Northwest, which distributes 300,000 copies daily and 450,000 copies on Sunday. Because The Oregonian has no real competition in most of this region, it is almost as important in many people's personal and professional lives as a public utility. Countless thousands of Oregon and Southwest Washington residents recognize and despise The Oregonian's biased coverage, yet feel obliged to subscribe simply because there is no other major source of Portland and regional news.

The Oregonian's bias and inaccuracy are nowhere more apparent than in its coverage of drug policy issues. The "Letters to the Editor" and other information that will be linked to this page demonstrate how the paper's editors actively misrepresent the facts in order to promote their prohibitionist agenda. When presented with evidence that they have misrepresented the facts, editors tune out the facts and renew their misrepresentations with fresh vigor.

The unpublished "Letters to the Editor" and other information to be linked to this page will remain posted until editors at The Oregonian adopt more fair and accurate standards. After you've read some of the material here, Portland NORML invites you to urge them to reconsider and to report the issues and evidence more fairly and accurately.

Terracore Productions made its original offer of web services to Portland NORML in mid-1995 in response to a Usenet rant by Portland NORML volunteer Phil Smith. Smith's examination of that particular day's biased Oregonian report did more than preach to the choir. It got the choir marching. Toward that end, this page will link other unpublished "Letters to the Editor" by Smith and others who can document the paper's biased coverage.

Several web sites have offered to post Smith's "Letters to the Editor." Smith himself would prefer that activists and others wanting to know more about drug policy first examine the superior strategy, tactics, writings and library of Clifford Schaffer and the Drug Reform Coordination Network, who inspired the better part of these "Letters."

  • Bill would criminalize marijuana once again, April 30, 1997

  • Geyer: Drug war was working before truce, April 9, 1996

  • Survey Finds Parents Unaware as More Teen-Agers Use Drugs, Feb. 21, 1996

  • Oregon sets high in '95 for drug-related deaths, Jan. 26, 1996

    What Others Say

  • The Oregonian versus an Oregonian. Marijuana offenders aren't the only ones who go to prison and have their lives ruined by The Oregonian's bias. A letter from a Friend of Randal Schwartz.

  • Battle of the Media Titans: KGW KO's the Big O - Transcript of KGW Program, from PDXS, Vol. 6, No. 17, winter holiday season, 1996-97. On Monday and Tuesday, November 25 and 26, 1996, KGW-TV News aired a remarkable two-part series on The Oregonian, featuring public figures lambasting the Portland daily newspaper.

  • To Lie For - A Tale Of Half-Baked Reporting, Rabid Right-To-Lifers & Deceptive Legislators, from Willamette Week, Sept. 17, 1997. The Oregonian's factual misrepresentation of a study from the Netherlands on assisted suicide obliges Oregonians to go to the polls again to reaffirm their support for death with dignity.

    Most of the "Letters" linked to this page are relatively lengthy. Generally, the intent of the author was not to be published but rather to acquaint Oregonian editors with the facts and to expose the paper's bias via the Internet. As that purpose still holds, the letters posted here may have been edited to add hypertext links or to correct or clarify certain points.

    Full disclosure act: Phil Smith was employed by The Oregonian Publishing Company for 16 years, mostly in the Arts & Entertainment section, before voluntarily giving two weeks' notice in January 1995. While Smith left the newsroom (and wouldn't return for a million bucks) due to the debilitating side effects from 10 years of FDA-approved antidepressants, and not because of any disagreement about the paper's biased news coverage, he admits to finding a little upliftment in pointing out the intellectual, moral and professional shortcomings at his former place of employment. Beyond that, he affirms that he is not motivated by personal feelings toward any individual or individuals.


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