The Saturday, Sept. 4, 1982, edition of the Oregon Journal, Portland's second daily newspaper, left no doubt it would be the last.
"FINAL EDITION," the headline blared. The spin from the Journal was it wasn't really closing, it was being merged with The Oregonian. The move, the dying paper said, "can serve the readers with greater resources than either newspaper has had before."
The afternoon Journal had for 80 years provided competition with the morning Oregonian. "The Oregon Journal served as the feisty younger brother," says Ken Doctor, who served as editor of the Willamette Valley Observer in Eugene in the late 1970s. "You had your coffee with The Oregonian. You came home and had a beer with your Oregon Journal."
In reality, the fight between the Journal and The Oregonian turned decades before when newspaper magnate S.I. Newhouse took control of both papers.
The Journal was started in 1902, and the founding editor, C.S. "Sam" Jackson, took immediately to warring with The Oregonian's hidebound editor, Harvey Scott.
"The truth of the matter is that Mr. Scott has a pine burr under his crupper, and is 'rattled,'" Jackson wrote in a typical early editorial. "The more he swishes his tail, the more irritation is set up, and Mr. Scott is hardly responsible for his own shrieks, shouts and emissions."
The Journal always scrapped as the city's runner-up paper. In 1947, the Journal gained a brief advantage with a helicopter nicknamed "The Newsroom Dragonfly"—an experiment that ended after Jackson's grandson died when the whirlybird crashed into a golf course.
Newhouse bought The Oregonian in 1950. His cost-cutting sparked a typesetter's strike at both papers. As WW publisher Richard H. Meeker recounts in his biography of Newhouse, Newspaperman, the Journal agreed to collude with Newhouse and not to interfere with his efforts to break the union.
The Journal, meanwhile, struggled financially. William Knight, Nike co-founder Phil Knight's father, was publisher for a time and tried to buy The Oregonian from Newhouse. When that effort failed, Newhouse bought the Journal for $8 million in 1961.
When it folded, the Journal merged its staff with The Oregonian's, and the lack of competition lulled the morning paper into a moribund time. In 1992, the newspaper failed to report allegations of sexual misconduct by U.S. Sen. Bob Packwood—even though the newsroom knew about his behavior, and the lascivious senator had planted a kiss on one of its own reporters. The Washington Post got the scoop, humiliating The Oregonian and eventually forcing Packwood's resignation.
The O rebounded from that embarrassment by hiring Sandra Mims Rowe as editor in 1993 and embarking on a long run during which the newspaper won five Pulitzer Prizes.
The Oregonian since then has laid off employees, slashed costs, dropped daily home delivery and switched to a tabloid format. Its circulation has collapsed, but the paper's "Web first" strategy on OregonLive draws millions of hits every month.
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