The Oregonian, the newspaper based in Portland, Oregon and serving much of Oregon, is not widely held in regard, from my experience with its readership. Much has been written about the failings of newspapers in the United States, because of issues such as corporate control and conflict of interests between editorial and advertising departments; the replacement of serious content with "lifestyle" and entertainment, and the overall arrogance of some newspapers in deciding what people should and should not know about. Take all of what people on the left and right complain about when they talk about mainstream media, multiply it by several times, and then exagerate the arrogance and condescension into a caricature. That gives you a good idea of what the Oregonian is like.

Going into the full details of the Oregonians failings would take more time and research than it is worth right now, so instead I will just give one example of the Oregonian's banality, its latest advertising campaign "Still the best 15 minutes of your day". I will quote the pitch on a little advertising circular that ended up in my mailbox the other day, encouraging me to subscribe to the Oregonian's Sunday Newspaper.

When's the last time you immersed yourself in amazing true stories over a mug of hot tea? Or indulged yourself with art, dance, music, and theater - all from a front row seat at your kitchen counter? Well,say hello to your chance for some well-deserved relaxation. : The Oregonian. Refreshing as a trip to the spa. No appointment needed.

The picture accompanying this shows a woman in her mid-30s at a kitchen counter, of a home that seems to be upper-middle class. Behind her is a high chair and some children's toys, but no children are present. The picture shows that the woman is, quite clearly, relaxing from her busy day. There is an overlay of a brown ticket that says "Family Retreat"

The text of the ad speaks for itself, and the picture accentuates the text. I find this particular advertisement somewhere between stupid and offensive, and I will explain why.

First, the Oregonian is way overestimating its level of interest. Of course advertising is supposed to be promoting things, but it should still keep its claims in the realm of possibility. The Oregonian, even if we only treat the "entertainment" part of the paper, has a few interesting articles on local artists and theater, and some silly advice columns, and the same movie reviews you will have probably have read over and over again in all the other newspapers and magazines. It is mildly diverting, but describing it as "refreshing as a trip to the spa" would be like comparing a bowl of oatmeal to be like chocolate pudding with whipped cream spoonfed to you by a French Maid sitting on your lap. Its just not a realistic comparison.

The second issue, and the more important, is the fact that if you have read a newspaper recently, or at all, you will know that newspapers are not always pleasant to read. Even though the Oregonian seems to have even more "lifestyle" articles then the average city newspaper, it still has lots of actual news. The "amazing true stories" that are used to flavor our mugs of hot tea will often involve people getting hurt, tortured and murdered. It seems quite disrespectful to speak of news stories as entertainment, or else to suggest that people should be reading the newspaper not because they have a civic duty to keep informed, but because the newspaper has pretty pictures of dancers and artists.

There are many new directions a newspaper might take when negotiating the ever changing field of media, especially as more people use the internet as a news source. However, the Oregonian's campaign is likely to be both unconvincing, and also disrespectful to the role of the media in society.

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