The email trail on a disagreement between Oregonian publisher N. Christian Anderson III and the group Portlanders for Schools, which is advocating for the passage of two measures on the May 17 ballot, is growing longer.
A post Monday detailed an email Anderson sent to Portland Public Schools superintendent Carole Smith. Anderson's email explained why The Oregonian wanted Portlanders for Schools to place a disclaimer on a print ad that the group wanted to purchase in the daily. The ad urged a "yes" vote on a $548 million capital bond and included quotes from newspapers, including a quotation from an Oregonian editorial back in November. Anderson wanted the ad to include a disclaimer making clear that the daily eventually recommended a "no" vote on the bond measure. Portlanders for Schools wouldn't agree and decided not to run the ad in the daily.
"In the context of allowing the use of our trademarked logo, we asked that a small line of type be placed below that logo," Anderson wrote in an April 28 email to Smith." We asked that it say: "The Oregonian has not endorsed the Portland School Bond." We were accused of censorship and the ad was withdrawn. I'm sorry that the campaign for the bond measure would choose to mislead voters about The Oregonian's position on the measure.
The Oregonian's position irked Mark Wiener, a political consultant for Portlanders for Schools, (pictured at left).
Wiener, who is a political consultant for numerous tax hike campaigns in Oregon, including the current school measures, says an Oregonian ad rep originally solicited the ad and accepted the language Wiener provided, without asking for a disclaimer. The daily then back-tracked from that approval, Wiener says.
Given that The O editorialized against the capital bond (while supporting a smaller companion operating levy that will pay teachers' salaries), Wiener says it's only fair that his campaign get to present their side of the story—even if it means paying to do so—without being "censored."
There is clearly some history between The Oregonian and Wiener's clients. In 2010, Wiener was part of the successful campaign to pass Measures 66 and 67, which raised income taxes. The Oregonian editorialized against those measures, and Wiener believes that the newspaper bent over backwards to use its pages to help opponents of the tax hikes. As evidence, Wiener notes that never in the past two decades had the daily sold "spadea" (advertising that wraps around the front page) to political campaigns but did so to the "No on 66 and 67" campaign. (After Wiener complained, the "yes" campaign was later allowed to buy spadea advertising as well). Oregonian Publisher Anderson responded by pointing out that "Never in the past two decades had The Oregonian sold spadea advertising, period, until the fall of 2009, shortly before I became publisher. We began to accept a variety of ads in that format. As there were no elections after I became publisher until the Measures 66-67 campaign, it is misleading to suggest that we suddenly began selling political advertising in the spadea format."
The emails between Wiener and Oregonian ad rep Jim Gay, reproduced below, capture the some of the communication between the two parties after the campaign submitted the ad language and art on April 25 and 26 for publication April 28.
From: Mark Wiener Sent: Wednesday, April 27, 2011 3:42 PMTo: firstname.lastname@example.orgSubject: Tomorrow's advertisement Jim: I must say it is shocking and dismaying that the Oregonianâs publisher (N. Christian Anderson III) has personally intervened to reject the advertisement that Portlanders for Schools prepared and purchased for tomorrowâs edition of the paper. The demand that we place within our ad a prominent notification that The Oregonian did not endorse the Portland School Bond (Measure 26-121) so clearly and obviously undermines the entire point of providing the information in the ad as it would render it counterproductive. To be clear: our advertisement provides, in part, excerpts from an Oregonian editorial (11/14/2010) that honestly and accurately represents the content of that editorial just a few short months ago. We do not claim in our ad that the Oregonian has endorsed the measure â we simply repeat what the Oregonian itself said about the Bond Measure when it was referred to the ballot. If Mr. Anderson no longer wishes to stand by what his own newspaper has said, that is an issue for him to take up with his Editorial Board, not us. It is also remarkable that this is a matter that has been subject to the personal intervention of Mr. Anderson. As you know, it is the Oregonian itself that solicited the campaign to run an ad; the content of the ad was reviewed and accepted earlier in the week. The demand to censor our entirely accurate advertisement is not only unacceptable to Portlanders for Schools, but raises serious questions as to The Oregonianâs status as an honest and impartial provider of information to the community it is supposed to serve. I must also say that based on my 25 years of working in the political and public affairs of Oregon, I believe this is a signal that The Oregonian has taken a new and disturbing direction in its editorial policy. It is the campaignâs hope that Mr. Andersonâs unreasonable and troubling demand be withdrawn. Mark Wiener, on behalf of Portlanders for Schools
Here's Wiener's follow-up email after that conversation:
From: Mark Wiener Sent: Wednesday, April 27, 2011 4:05 PMTo: email@example.comSubject: Clarification Jim:Thank you for your call. Just to reiterate the content of the call, while you had previously stated that the demand referred to in my earlier email had come from the publisher, your current information was that it was a demand by a committee that reviewed the ad, and that you do not know or were unable to say whether Mr. Anderson sits on that committee. Thank you for that clarification. If indeed Mr. Anderson was not a party to this demand, we request that he review the matter for a final determination on whether the Oregonian will insist on the unwarranted and unreasonable intervention into the content of our accurate advertisement. Mark Wiener, on behalf of Portlanders for Schools