When it comes to serious investigative reporters at The Oregonian, Jeff Manning was one of last ones standing. Until today.
Manning, who joined O's newsroom in 1994 from the Portland Business Journal, is leaving the newspaper to become the spokesman for Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum. The departure is another blow to the Portland daily that has seen a steady loss of its writing and reporting talent in the past few years. And his resignation has further rattled a grim newsroom that's already worrying about the possibility of major shakeups and layoffs.
During his 18 years at The Oregonian, Manning, 54, specialized in reporting on business and legal issues. He wrote about the wave of construction defects in new homes and apartments. He detailed the ties of the Enron scandal to Portland General Electric, then owned by the corrupt Texas energy giant. He led the reporting and writing of the newspaper's investigation into the dangerous design of all-terrain vehicles. And it was Manning and veteran investigative report James Long who peeled back the scandal known as Capital Consultants, a scheme that involved pension funds and fraud that brought down two business titans, Jeffrey Grayson and Andy Wiederhorn.
More recently, Manning investigated ex-AG John Kroger's office for the way it handled the investigation into whether Department of Energy officials steered a consulting contract to Cylvia Hayes, the companion of Gov. John Kitzhaber.
He was one of the last reporters who served on the newspaper's investigative team before then-editor Sandra Mims Rowe killed it in 2008.
Manning is now the second Oregonian reporter who has covered a campaign for attorney general—and then turned around and went to work as the flack for the winning candidate. (In 2008, Oregonian reporter Ashbel Green, known as Tony, covered John Kroger's campaign and went on to be Kroger's spokesman for three and-a-half years.)
During the 2012 race, Manning exposed Rosenblum's use of pot money—namely, her courting and for medical marijuana advocates, and her heavy reliance on campaign contributions from marijuana legalization advocates. Manning also broke news and raised questions about this newspaper's connection to her. (Rosenblum is the wife of WW publisher and co-owner Richard Meeker.)
Manning, whose last day at the paper will be Aug. 10, told WW he's excited about his new job but also said the decision to leave journalism was difficult.
"It's really a great opportunity," Manning says. "I'm also really sad to leave The Oregonian. I loved my time here and I wish them well. This state and country have never needed good newspapers more."
Here's what Rosenblum said about Manning in a prepared statement this afternoon:
âI am delighted that Jeff has chosen to join us at DOJ. Jeffâs reputation as a thoughtful and careful journalist will serve the Department and the public well.â