Sunday, July 17, 2005

Did I Miss Something?

I'm confused.

The Oregonian's Public Editor, Michael Arrieta-Walden writes a thoughtful piece of how a photo can distort a story and the reaction to that story from the point of view of the subject.

Then the subject writes an angry letter to the editor saying they felt "monstrously misused" by the reporter Betsy Hammond (who has an interesting rep), which is at the top of the Sunday letters heap.

Then the lead editorial, which talks about school funding and retirement pay, again, is run with the same picture again, as if to say to the Public Editor and retirees who felt had, so what?

I'll be there's losts of talk in the Broadway Beltway. What's being said?

It just struck me as if the editorial page editors couldn't care less about the people who felt lied to.

Please, let's limit this to a discussion about journalism and editorial decision making - not another discussion about teaching and retirement pay - okay?


Anonymous education professional said...

Okay. I'd just like to know why editorial decision makers continue to report on these topics in a way that casts educators as the perpetrators of some heinous crime? Can journalists modify the ways they describe and report the issues that are central to these stories to more accurately reflect what has happened and how we arrived where we are today?

Another question that should probably be asked is, is there a need for the way these stories are reported to change so that they do not provoke such intense and passionate emotions among the readership/viewership? It appears that there are many who do not feel that there is any bias in the way the issues have been covered or reported.

Another thing I'm wondering, is how do editorial decisionmakers arrive at their decisions about editorial content, especially content that is known to inspire a lot of response from readers/viewers? It would be enlightening to learn about how a decision such as the one that led to the linkage of the photo of the retired teachers beneath the headline, "Benefits Eat Schools' Cash" and the accompanying story describing the impact of employee benefits on school budgets was made. I find it hard to believe that those three elements could have been planned out and reviewed prior to finalizing the publication layout, without anyone noticing the likelihood that the combination of the photo and accompanying stories might collectively communicate some sort of ideas or messages to the readership.

Sunday, July 17, 2005 11:49:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought Michael Arrieta-Walden backed off way too hard. All of a sudden these teachers who are living large on the taxpayers' dime--and out of state so they're out of the tax base--are acting like the victims, rather than the beneficiaries (note I did not say perpetrators) of some notoriously bad decisions that have profound consequences. The story explained all of it quite clearly. The photo illustrated it nicely. A gutsier public editor would have said, it's the truth, deal with it.

It did seem sorta in-your-face that the lead editorial used the very same photo that Ariella-Walden spent his entire column apologizing for.

Sunday, July 17, 2005 1:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm no insider, but I doubt the public editor, commentary editor and editorial page editor coordinate everthing that's going to be in ther Sunday Commentary section. Nor should they. It's not uncommon for a paper's editorials, articles and columns not toe the some line. I'm not confused. However, I'm glad Arrieta-Walden made Bob Caldwell look kinda bad, albeit probably not intentionally.

It would be interesting to know if the photo was used today because of ther letter to the Tony Cuda's letter to the editor and/or the Arrieta-Walden column. I'm also looking forward seeing if next week's Public Editor column addresses what happened today.

Regardless of whether or not Cruda wrote a the letter or contacted the paper, the original choice to use the photo last week was a poor one.

This brings up something somewhat related: What's up with the use of art in Oregonian editorials anyway? It's bugged me since it started about a year or so ago.

Sunday, July 17, 2005 2:27:00 PM  
Anonymous irritated said...

I'm very surprised PDXMediaWatcher would make the following very common error:

"It just struck me as if the editorial page editors could care less about the people who felt lied to."

Please. It's "COULDN'T care less." If one could care less, then one does care, to some degree!

Sunday, July 17, 2005 2:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Jay said...

People are just plain nuts on this whole PERS thing. Bear in mind, if you can, that it isn't as though we're given an option: we're enrolled in PERS whether we want to be or not. And quite frankly, if I were to be granted the option of leaving PERS, I'd do it in a heartbeat.

But unfortunately, this is set up in much the same way as Social Security - you don't get the option. Just because you don't like the system doesn't mean you can leave it.

As a worker, you have no control.

IF I had a choice in the matter, I'd opt out of both PERS and SS, because I do far better when managing my own funds in a personal retirement account.

While there is doubtless a certain amount of luck involved, the 6% that I chose to have taken from my paycheck and invested in a self-directed 401k plan has thus far tripled the performance of PERS.

It really ticks me off when people decide to make participation in this or that MANDATORY, and then have the audacity to whine.

When you elect people who appoint people who decide to rip away our freedom of choice, you have no business opening your mouth. There's an old saying: Put up or shut up. And it really applies here.

Sunday, July 17, 2005 2:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a former ink-stained wretch and current public school teacher, I too feel betrayed by the story's graphics. Not to mention "a deal is a deal."

The overwhelming majority of PPS teachers and administrators (including the p.r. department) DESPISE The Oregonian because of its anti-teacher bias. I have spent years, in Monday afternoon meetings all over this town, trying to point out the positive stories the Big O has run about schools, to little or no avail.

Now, I'm thinking, the old timers were right!

Finally, every time Betsy gets out the ol' Royal 440 and slams teachers, and then gets whacked herself in the letters section, she cries out in defense, "But I'm married to a teacher!"

Who cares, Betsy. Who cares.

Sunday, July 17, 2005 3:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This has nothing to do with the topic, except for the item's headline.
What everybody missed was last week's "informational picket" by the union at OPB.
Where were all of you?

Sunday, July 17, 2005 7:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Bill McDonald said...

I’ve got bad news for “irritated” and the phrase, “I could care less.” I think that has crossed over from being “a very common error” to being part of the English language. It's a little like your use of the one word sentence, “Please.” That didn’t always have the exact meaning it does now, either. This is why we don’t write like Chaucer anymore; the language evolves. If it’s helpful, think of the phrase that irritated you as, “I could care less, but it would be damn hard.”

Sunday, July 17, 2005 8:51:00 PM  
Anonymous irritated no more said...

Thanks, PDXMediaWatcher!

Monday, July 18, 2005 8:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Rebecca said...

Back to journalism and editorial decision making and use of art in news stories:

If the point of the original story was to illustrate the reporter's belief that prior PERS commitments are siphoning $$ from the classroom, a different graphic should have been used. The teachers that were shown did not cut the deal, did not control the negotiations, and, as another poster here pointed out, do not have a choice about their retirement program. This photograph clearly left the impression that the teachers were gleefully milking the system. Add to that the teacher's assertion in his letter to the editor that he was not told the intent of the story, and this adds up to a clear case of a reporter having the story in mind before she did the reporting, however much she protests that she would not have chosen to put the photograph on the front page.

Therefore, I agree with Arrieta-Walden's analysis that the photo was inappropriate. I would extend it even further to say it sensationalized the story to such a degree that much of the real news value was lost.

I am at an utter loss to explain, then, why the editorial page ran the photo again. I'm quite sure the Public Editor does not dictate to the editorial page, but surely the editors were aware of the public outcry, and have some sense of fairness.

The way this was handled indicates to me that the Oregonian has an agenda that has clouded their editorial judgement to a dangerous degree.

However, I am willing to entertain other possibilities. I hope that someone with some inside information will post here and illuminate us all as to what actually happened.

Monday, July 18, 2005 10:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The "Sybil-like" Oregonian editorial board ran the LOADED image a second time for readers who never saw the original story.

The biggest joke about PERS (a signed and sealed contract) is Morgan Stanley paying a tall, handsome white moron (in a nice suit) more than $130,000,000 to go away after SCREWING UP THE COMPANY as much as humanly-possible given the limitations of time and space (please see Einstein's Theory of Relativity).

No educated person who understands numbers is really concerned with Ted and Tessy Teacher getting a PERS check that wouldn't cover a PGE/Enron lunch at the MAC club.

Focus, people, focus!

Monday, July 18, 2005 10:39:00 AM  
Anonymous Gal said...

Rebecca said: The teachers that were shown did not cut the deal, did not control the negotiations. I say: The union - the collective teachers group - cut the deal and controlled the negotions. Bad union! Cutting deals without the teachers' OK.... Oh, you mean the untion does ask for an OK from teachers? You mean the union in fact represents and speaks for the teachers? Well that's different.

Teachers who weren't smart enough to decline the interview (stated topic: retirement and PERS and how that's working out for you)deserve to have their happy mugs on the front page!

Monday, July 18, 2005 2:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My favorite photo-story disjunction was in the Oregonian back around 1990 or so. (I have it clipped somewhere, but not handy.) It was from Page A3, I think, where they would run international stories that didn't make the front page. The headline was something like "Belarus and Ukraine Take Steps Towards Reunification" and the article talked about how chummy the two countries were trying to be at the time. The photo that went with it was of a helmeted riot policeman, bent over and holding a demonstrator by the collar with his left hand while his right hand was caught holding a truncheon on high at the start of a swing.

Judging by the photo, a more apropriate headline would have been "Reunify, You Bastard!!"

Monday, July 18, 2005 3:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What you said.
" a discussion about journalism and editorial decision making " [ ______el__blank-o____ ]

"What's being said?" What you said: "couldn't care less about the people who felt lied to."

You can't get blood out of a turnip or put think in a fossil. Let it go. Come back when the fossil is toast.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005 1:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Betsy is a fine reporter. Her name was on the story, so she becomes the target, but she clearly expressed concern about the way the photo was to be used. What this shows is how reporters' concerns are often disregarded by editors who have their own goals and agendas. Look no further than today's editorials to see how little reporters matter. The Oregonian editorial refers to Oregonian city hall reporter Anna Griffin as "Anna Griffith."

Tuesday, July 19, 2005 7:39:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Did the photo represent an anomaly? In other words, were the Cudas the exception? Does PERS not allow many teachers and other public employees to retire early at somewhere near their working salary? Or did the photo show the Cudas as a typical example of the PERS benefits at work?

If many PERS members are able to retire in their 50s and still earn their (very generous) working salaries, regardless of whether it's around a pool in Arizona or next to a fountain in Troutdale, then the photo was fair and the Cudas have only themselves to blame. If the Cudas are the exception, and most PERS employees have a retirement similar to the average Oregonian, then the Oregonian is guilty of picking and choosing its facts to illustrate a point that doesn't exist.

My guess is that the Cudas are representative of the majority of PERS members; thus, the photo is fair. I did not take it as a slam at the Cudas, but rather as a clear example of why PERS costs have driven benefit costs so out of proportion.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005 8:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I started teaching for PPS in 1996, so I am Tier Two.

After working some 30 years for the society we all live in, I will retire with a pension of about 2/3 pay, or $45,000 a year... less than 4 grand a month.

I know most reporters never went to college... so writing is hard... but try this... A DEAL IS A DEAL IS A DEAL.

Get it, Betsy?

Tuesday, July 19, 2005 9:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


And to hell with the consequences to the state or its education infrastructure.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005 12:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isn't Oregon the state where two-thirds of all businesses pay just $10 a year in business income taxes?

Thought so.

Gee, maybe your problem up there isn't expenses, but revenue.

A deal is a deal. So, deal with it.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005 1:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Sarah Carlin Ames said...

"The overwhelming majority of PPS teachers and administrators (including the p.r. department) DESPISE The Oregonian because of its anti-teacher bias."

Really? I've been there since December, and I don't think this is true. Obviously there are some reporters (in all media) we trust more than others, some who really know their stuff and others, well . . . But for an anonymous source to make such a sweeping statement is silly. The O's been trying to feature a lot of the good work that teachers are doing with kids in their In Portland section, in particular, and I'd guess that teachers have noticed.

And yes, at the risk of sounding like Betsy Hammond, my husband works at The O (I met him years ago when I was a reporter there myself), so I have a little bias toward reporters. . . . And I don't, as a rule, post anonymously.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005 10:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


You work at HQ. I work in the schools. I must go to the Monday afternoon meetings from 4-6pm. I have attended those staff meetings in the Hood, the Hills and back again for 10 years now. We 3,300 PPS teachers are a bit tired of getting slammed in the morning with our coffee and muffin.

Also, everytime I meet with the suits in the basement at BESC and casually mention a Big O story, the suits (some are tall, balding department heads) actually get mad, table-pounding mad, as they go on and on about how much the paper s-u-c-k-s.

You and Lew and the folks in PR have a huge uphill battle to climb, especially after THIS story. I have talked to maybe 30 teachers (PSU classes, shopping, parks) since the story ran and they all agree that THEY WILL NEVER TALK TO THE OREGONIAN ABOUT ANYTHING EVER AGAIN.

Betsy and Carter and the gang at the Big O will be lucky to get a callback from the Teacher of the Year, for God's sake, because that winner will expect a SLIME and RUN attack, the kind that Betsy and The Big O are becoming too famous for.

Monday, July 25, 2005 11:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe Sarah will have a new take after she's been working here awhile.

She can't be expected to know very much after just a few months on the job.

Maybe Sarah can email a questionnaire to PPS teachers asking them their thoughts on:

Oregonian, local TV news, PPS' ever-growing PR department, PPS' teacher image in media, etc,...

Information, good clean, new information, is the key to better decisions down at BESC, or Cubicle Land as principals call it.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005 12:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Betsy Hammond has no credibility. She worked in Atlanta when Ben Canada was superintendent there and she knw all the dir about him. But did she share it with the school board. No. I was there when she acted like she knew nothing about him and look what the district got stuck with.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005 2:45:00 PM  

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