Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Freedom of Speech. (No advertisers)

Citizens can say what media companies cannot. Greg Walden had a deceptive advertisement.

Greg Walden is the incumbent congressman. I don't expect critical or investigative news coverage of him. I especially don't expect the media to give a close look at whether his ads are honest.

They have businesses to run.  

Greg Walden is a skillful politician. He has communicated a moderate, nice-guy brand and he has the money to sustain that brand image. He has been extraordinarily successful at raising money for his campaigns and the campaigns of others. As head of the Republican National Congressional Committee his job was to get Republicans elected to Congress, and he was good at it. 

Walden's campaign money is not a secret. Monetary gifts of campaign money are reported promptly, and a website, www.opensecrets.org, compiles and publishes it. Anyone can review it: citizens, campaign opponents, reporters for media, me.  

His primary sources of funds: 

Here is how much cash he has on hand, $3,520,691. 

A war chest like that has consequences.

   ***It impresses friends and allies. People like winners. Candidates with huge war chests are presumed to be able to saturate a District with ads and win no matter how big ones mistakes or how good the opposition. Many people consider him a sure winner.

   ***It gives pause to the opposition. His actual opponent, Jamie McLeod-Skinner, would likely be energized by the prospect of doing political judo on such a giant, but the intimidation affects others, including people from whom she might get support  They may be reluctant to speak up. For example, the Board Members and managers of rural hospitals in the District have strong reason to be unhappy with Walden, and want to shout it from the rooftops, but they may also think he will win. Best stay quiet.

  ***It signals strength to individuals and businesses. In Walden's position as Chair of a key house committee Walden has enormous power to make trouble. It is best to be on the side of the winning team.  Amidst all the money Walden has raised from national PACs, he still held a fundraising event in Medford last month. Why? Because he needed more money?  Of course not. It was an opportunity for local businesses to pay tribute, for being seen paying respect to the man of power.  Local businesses wanted to be noticed and recognized as being on the Walden team.

  ***it is a honeypot for local media. Jackson County media reaches 35-40% of the District's voters. The Walden campaign does not need any one TV station, nor any one newspaper. Walden has alternatives. There is every reason for media outlets to treat the Walden campaign the way any business would treat a valued customer, one who has multiple alternatives, not as a public figure. There is over a million dollars to spread around locally, and lots more where that came from. 

Maybe the local media will prove me wrong. Let's see what they do.

Local media is in transition, and this is a complicated time. People are watching TV differently than from my youth. They record it and zip through commercials. They watch Netflix and Amazon Prime. They listen to podcasts. There is a Youtube channel and others. There are a million ways to get entertainment without traditional TV or radio.

At work, Tuesday, June 12, 8:22 a.m.
I personally still read newspapers, but I am an example of the problem. I am 68. Younger people read news on line. For many, their first news source is Twitter. Or Facebook. Or "pushed" news from some national source. Newspapers have lost most classified ad revenue, display ads are rare, and they have to do heavy discounting to try to get and keep subscribers. I feel sorry of the Mail Tribune and their problems, so I won't bring up a sore subject for them other than to say that if you just renewed your subscription at a high price, great. You are likely paying much more than your neighbor but you are supporting local journalism. Good for you. 

So, there are twin problems. Thinned out news departments mean local reporters are scrambling to find quick stories to meet their quotas, and a careful campaign story about Greg Walden would be slow to create. No time for it.  Plus, a story about deceptive ads in their own media would be criticizing an advertiser and bad for business.  

Besides, the readers and viewers don't want to hear discordant things about the guy they are probably going to vote for. Best look elsewhere for stories. They are businesses.

I personally have a different business model. I am not a business.

Citizen journalism and commentary has a place. That is what I try to do--write honest comments about politics and culture on my own--but I have no illusions about the danger of citizen commentary.  People like me are independent, but we have little accountability.  Citizen commentary via Facebook or elsewhere is notoriously inaccurate. We did not need Russians to create and spread "Pizzagate" because American citizens themselves believed it and spread it. Lots of citizen journalism is garbage--dangerous garbage. 

This blog attempts to be reasonable and fair-minded and accurate.  About a thousand people read every day. I try to fill a gap that local media no longer attempts--close looks at local candidates and their campaigns.

I can be wrong, but I cannot be bought or intimidated. I have no boss. No employees. No debt. No shareholders. No advertisers. 

It is just me, and it is still a free country.


  1. The backwards direction the society is taking should alarm journalists most of all, but as you say it comes at a time when investigative reporting is at a low point, except for WSJ and WAPO. Even the other big city papers can't (or won't) spend the resources to dig into what most assuredly are some shady dealings going on out of view. Where are the LA, San Francisco, Chicago and Miami news organizations at time when it should be all hands on deck.

    Broadcast media while timely, lacks depth and tends to the trivial. Witness the absurdity of covering Dennis Rodman as relevant to the North Korean situation.

  2. Peter, your expose of Walden is on the front page of Reddit. Comments are uniformly negative about Walden.

    Good job my friend. With you, citizen journalism is alive and well.


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