January 18th, 2010 5:33 pm | by HANK STERN News | Posted In: CLEAN UP

"Spadea Sunday" At The Oregonian on Measures 66 & 67

N. Christian Anderson

The Oregonian's new publisher had a busy Sunday on the paper's Web site defending the daily's decision to accept advertising in a "spadea" that opposes Measures 66 and 67.

By way of background, a spadea is an ad wrapped around a newspaper section, and spadeas have showed up increasingly in recent months on The Oregonian's front page as a way to increase advertising revenue. But a spadea coming in the middle of a hotly contested election on two tax measures —with quotes throughout from The O's editorials — is a new development that infuriated backers of Measures 66 and 67 as dirty pool, even if under the spadea's "Paid Advertisement" heading.

New publisher N. Christian Anderson III explained The Sunday Oregonian's decision to accept the latest spadea from the opponents of Measures 66 and 67 in a note on the Opinion page that said the paper "was and is willing to make the front-page spadea available to advertisers on both sides of these ballot measures, subject to our final approval."

He added that the daily agreed to let the advertisers quote from the paper's editorials, which oppose the ballot measures and that supporters of Measures 66 and 67 haven't tried to buy similar ads. (WW has endorsed both measures.)

And that in turn sparked a fierce debate in the comments section under the Web version of that note, with Anderson engaging readers throughout the comments.

Among the highlights of the 130-plus comments:

Accused by one reader of turning Portland into Orange County (Anderson's last journalism stop before returning to Oregon was at The Orange County Register), Anderson responded,

Turning Portland into OC: I seem to be failing miserably on the weather front. Other than that, let me remind you that I grew up in Oregon and far prefer it to Southern California. In my view, The Oregonian has not rapidly changed in the past two months since I arrived. If you have some examples to the contrary, I'd love to hear them. In the case of this election, I suspect the final outcome will be very close. So no matter what position The Oregonian had taken on the ballot measures, a significant number of our readers would disagree. That's the nature of an editorial opinion. The good news is that we provide opportunities such as this one for you to disagree and have our vast audience see what you have to say.

Several readers were not assuaged by Anderson's defense.

One wrote "the spluttering anger of the Editorial Committee's corporate blasts against Measures 66 & 67 is something new and disappointing to me, based on my reading of the editorials over, say, the past 6-8 years. One would have to speculate that this new ugly tone is calculated to resonate with some tea-bagger anger. It certainly isn't serving to elevate the discourse and help some tea-baggers--many of whom I recognize as the people I grew up with--get better informed about the issues. The Board has done better and can do better again."

And another: "Another daily subscriber signing off here. You lost me Oregonian on this one. I want to support local media and news gathering, but this is ridiculous. I was disappointed in the anti-Measure 66 & 67 stance, but the Sunday paper this morning encased in political garbage was stepping over the line."

One thing is clear from this flap: There's a new sheriff in town — It's hard to imagine Anderson's predecessor, Fred Stickel, ever accepting a paid ad on the front page for a political cause or wading into Web comments afterward to talk with readers about the decision.
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