Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

A new low for The Oregonian

Posted by on August 4th, 2008 at 1:08 pm

First, The Oregonian sensationalized an issue and created a dangerous, false dichotomy just to sell more papers (a fact they admitted to). Now, they’ve resorted to plain old disrespect.

When Senator Floyd Prozanski backed away from his idea to propose a mandatory, all-ages helmet law (in large part because of swift and copious stream of feedback left on this site), Oregonian reporter Michelle Cole responded with a story that opened with this line:

“Bicyclists who have their shorts in a bunch at the prospect of a state law forcing them to wear a helmet can settle down now.”

And no, that was not published on the Opinion page.

Her story went on to point out Prozanski’s bike-friendly efforts in Salem and then wrote:

“That didn’t seem to matter to many Oregonians who shared their outrage on blogs this week. One suggested Prozanski has his “head in a bucket.””

Of course, not only is characterizing the over 240 comments left here as “outrage” not accurate (since most of them offered thoughtful feedback and critiques), but the “head in a bucket” comment was taken out of context. If you read the entire comment, you’ll notice that it follows with, “I can’t believe he’s so unaware of the firestorm he’ll cause if he follows through on this” — a fact that turned out to be true.

The fact is, Prozanski did not realize at the time he proposed the idea that both the Bicycle Transportation Alliance and Cycle Oregon — two of his major allies on bike-friendly legislation over the years — were not in favor of it.

He might not also have been aware of how this issue played out in Vancouver Washington earlier this year (where public sentiment and bike advocates were against the measure, but the City Council passed it anyways).

Back to The Oregonian.

As if Ms. Cole’s article wasn’t enough, they then followed up with an Opinion piece yesterday.

Oregonian writer Susan Nielsen continued their negative characterization of those “bicyclists” who dared speak in opposition to Prozanski’s idea. Here’s the opening line of her editorial:

“Floyd Prozanski just got run over. It was a hit-and-run, carried out mostly online by people who called him a weak-spined politician and left tread marks on his back… The good senator from Eugene deserves better from the bike community…”

Nielsen then admits she picked “a few insults at random” to form her opinion. She wrote:

“To read the hundreds of online reactions to that initial post, you would see Prozanski swiftly pilloried as (to pick a few insults at random) an uninformed and spineless poor soul with his head in a bucket.”

Re-reading the comments, I do not think that is an accurate description of how BikePortland.org readers responded.

I saw many comments discussing various studies that have been published about helmet use, people sharing emails they wrote to the Senator, people sharing their gratitude for his support of such an idea, incredulity that a bike-friendly legislator would consider a law that is well-known to be poor policy, and so on. I only read one comment that I felt could have been taken as downright rude.

But that didn’t even stop Prozanski himself from name-calling. He reportedly told Nielsen that, instead of proposing a new helmet law,

“There may be some other ways to tell a few idiots that their head may be worth more to them that they think.”

Of course a state senator calling anyone an “idiot” even surprised Nielsen. But she responded by writing, “Perhaps using the word “idiot” is contagious.”

However, after searching all 242 comments I found not one that referred to Prozanski as an “idiot”.

The characterization by traditional media outlets that “the blogosphere” is full of ranting, knee-jerk lunatics is old and unfair.

And this is far from a case of me taking this too personally. Several readers also noticed.

One of them, a reader who goes by “wsbob”, posted thoughts in the Portland Bike Forums:

“I feel that Ms. Nielsen’s comments about the discussion on bikeportland irresponsibly indulged in an opportunity to take a cheap shot at the for the most part, thoughtful, respectful tone of the comments about this issue posted on this weblog.”

Reader Kris Schamp sent Ms. Cole a letter. He wrote that he found her “shorts in a bunch” statement to be “extremely condescending,” and, “not something I would expect in the Oregonian’s news section.”

Schamp went on to write that,

“Further, the overall tone of the article feels biased against those folks who are opposing a mandatory helmet law for adult cyclists.”

And Schamp also notices a trend in their handling of some bike-related issues:

“Overall, I find it sad to see the Oregonian continuing to depict recent news stories related to cycling and cyclists in a black-and-white manner, often stereotyping cyclists and framing the issues as “cars-vs-bikes.” I for one expect a much higher standard of balanced and responsible news reporting from my local, daily newspaper.”

I really don’t prefer to spend my time doing stories like this, but I feel I need to try and set the record straight when such a widely read media outlet decides to mis-characterize this site, its readers, and people who ride bikes in Porltand.

Now, let’s get back to creating quality content and keep our focus on the real issues, shall we?

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Donna August 4, 2008 at 1:12 pm

    I for one don\’t expect a much higher standard of balanced and responsible news reporting from my local, daily newspaper. This is why I will never purchase another copy of The Oregonian again.

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  • Russ August 4, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    More sputtering and wheezing from a dying medium. I\’m shocked.

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  • Ian August 4, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    Whats wrong with the \”shorts in a bunch\” comment. How could your shorts not be in a bunch after sitting on one of those little road bike seats?

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  • bahueh August 4, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    this type of crap reporting, coupled with door to door in-your-face militant sales approaches?

    I stopped reading the Oregonian years ago…don\’t plan on ever starting again.

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  • BURR August 4, 2008 at 1:34 pm

    maybe the Oregonian should write an editorial criticizing all the motor-heads that post death threats and other openly anti-cylist rants on their own OregonLive blog pages…

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  • Anon. August 4, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    Old guard newspaper writer uses what they want from anonymously submitted comments on internet, film at 11.

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  • Ian August 4, 2008 at 1:49 pm

    I got an idea how about if you don\’t like the Oregonian don\’t read it or buy it. Sure they are supposed to appear transparent but they do have their own agenda. Every dollar is a vote is it not? Let the personal attacks start. Did I spell something wrong? I would love to be called a name and for someone to point out my poor spelling in the most rude way. Is my thhought process wrong? tell me so in the most rude way possible. I could use a good personal bashing!

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  • BURR August 4, 2008 at 1:55 pm

    I could use a good personal bashing!

    wrong forum, I\’m sure you can do better on the internet googling \’sado-masochism\’

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  • jonno August 4, 2008 at 2:05 pm

    Ms. Nielsen writes:

    \”Fair enough. Let\’s move on. Still, it\’s sad to see an interesting policy idea crushed with so little public policy discussion. You have to wonder where we\’re headed, if people need helmets to talk about helmets.\”

    1) A supposedly informed, well-intentioned state leader sounds off on a policy that he should already know has been repeatedly proven ineffective.

    2) Better-informed and outspoken members of the public not only beat the O to the scoop, but respond with facts, summarily crushing aforementioned state leaders\’ arguments.

    3) Scooped O cedes column inches to beaten state leader whining about his loss. O cherry-picks comments in a vain attempt to tar \’n feather those internet meanie-heads.

    Seems to me, though, this is effective public participation in a nutshell. Bad ideas should be mocked and quickly buried with the facts. If Floyd had done his homework in the first place (or simply called up the BTA for an informative chat), we wouldn\’t have been having this discussion.

    Why does Ms. Nielsen think we should waste time on bad ideas just for the sake of discussion? Is this that \”civility\” thing I\’ve been hearing so much about?

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  • Whyat August 4, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    The Oregonian has been bashed ad nauseum on this board. Why is anyone here still reading it? If it\’s so terrible then follow through on your threats and actually STOP reading it. I for one can make up my own mind as to what is news and what is not, what is editorial commentary and what is not, and I know how the cycling community will react to every alleged slight… so what IS the story here?

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  • matt picio August 4, 2008 at 2:22 pm

    Ian (#7) – exactly the point – people *are* voting with their dollars, and most of the commentors on this blog already no longer purchase the Oregonian. Does that mean we don\’t have the right to criticize when they masquerade as an unbiased source of news and continue to publish inflammatory crap under that guise? I don\’t think so.

    The Oregonian is trying to prop up readership – and failing. Perhaps if they made a serious attempt to present unbiased news rather than hearsay, fearmongering, and opinion, they\’d gain readership again. Of course, that\’d make their paper a lot thinner.

    Then again, a thinner paper is cheaper to print. Maybe they should look into that…

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  • Dave August 4, 2008 at 2:30 pm

    I will never pick up an Oregonian again. It\’s unfortunate their writing is so slanted and biased to an agenda as opposed to actual journalism, but I\’ve found in my two years here that this newspaper usually panders.

    I\’ve also found it to be generally substandard in all sections, and certainly in the caliber of their writers.

    Two words to sum up the Oregonian in general: weak sauce.

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  • Ian August 4, 2008 at 2:44 pm

    \”It\’s unfortunate their writing is so slanted and biased to an agenda as opposed to actual journalism,\”

    Every piece of journalism is biased and has an agenda.

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  • Mark August 4, 2008 at 2:45 pm

    Has anyone noticed how thin the Oregonian is lately, every day?

    It is failing, their staffers know it (and will tell you if you ask), and they are trying to capitalize on anything that looks like a controversy. Their decline over the last year has been precipitous.

    We\’ll be lucky to even HAVE a daily print newspaper in Portland a year from now. If lucky is the word.

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  • KT August 4, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    I read the Oregonian for the comics section and the science section.

    I get my news from other outlets.

    I too was taken aback by the tone of the opinion piece… it makes everyone who dares to ride a bicycle into an irresponsible child who doesn\’t know how to take care of themselves, or make grown-up decisions.

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  • Diogo August 4, 2008 at 3:15 pm

    So this Prozanski guy thinks I\’m an idiot… well, coming from him, I take this as a compliment. Because I think that anyone who believes that he has figured out all the answers for the misteries of life and death to the extent of imposing it to everyone else must have too shallow an intelect to appreciate the endless possibilities and choices that life presents to every individual, and the drama that this entails. Either that or they are just demagogues. In that respect, I group together Prozanski and the anti-abortion front.

    I would find it ironic if I didn\’t feel offended that he would, in the same sentence, regard me as an idiot and at the same time attribute seemingly great value to my head. Politicians… what a bunch

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  • Joe Rowe August 4, 2008 at 3:17 pm

    Let\’s take this moment to learn that news and opinion should not be mixed by those who want to be considered journalists. I\’ve contacted the author of the biased comments and plan to write a story on indymedia.

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  • Dave August 4, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    The quality of their \”journalism\” as related to writing is on par with the quality of tripe as related to fine dining.

    Substandard rag on all accounts, and these rabble rousing, grasping pieces of aggrandized editorializing paint them as such.

    But hey, everyone need TP, no? Take it camping!

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  • Ben August 4, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    comment 14 \”It is failing, their staffers know it (and will tell you if you ask), and they are trying to capitalize on anything that looks like a controversy. Their decline over the last year has been precipitous.\”

    I suspect that you\’re right. I used to respect and admire The O (with the exception of it\’s pro-developer, pro-GOP editorial board). But The O is in financial trouble, as are most of the newspapers all over the country, and tabloid-style sensationalism and confrontation sells better than balanced reporting. I guess we better expect more tabloid style journ-animal-ism from them and carry ourselves accordingly.

    Which, IMO, means be noisily shocked and outraged at their biased reporting so the public is aware of their bias and future such incidents will fit into an already established frame.

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  • Cruizer August 4, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    The Oregonian didn\’t resort to ridiculing the opposition when the city council rescinded the plan to rename Interstate as Cesar Chavez Avenue. Nor did they use condescension against the Mt. Tabor residents when they successfully squelched the plan to cover the Tabor reservoirs during the post 9/11 hysteria. But cyclists apparently don\’t rate objective reporting from the Oregonian.

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  • Torfinn August 4, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    The Oregonian is for old people.

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  • P Finn August 4, 2008 at 3:28 pm

    \”We\’ll be lucky to even HAVE a daily print newspaper in Portland a year from now. If lucky is the word.\”

    Lucky is, indeed, the word. Or perhaps \”justifiably fortunate\”. Out with the Old Guard of journalism.

    I should also like to take this time to advocate for emptying sidewalk bins of their contents whenever displaying \”full frontal fearmongering\” headlines.

    my $.02

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  • amanda August 4, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    I got to say, I have even more respect for Prozanski for backing away from this idea. Floyd is a responsible and avid cyclist who was acting out of best intentions to keep all riders safe on the road. It sounds like he listened carefully to the what the opposing side was saying and took that into consideration when revising his stance. Are we so indoctrinated in \”stay the course\” politics that we can respect that in our senators?

    Anyway, not buying the Oregonian is one way to voice your opinion but I think it\’s important that the most prominent media outlet be held to task when it comes to serving the public good.

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  • gus August 4, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    Jonno @#9: a round of applause for you. Well stated.

    Ms. Cole: I\’m sure the ghost of Mr. Hearst would be proud of your (feeble) attempt to create (another) false polarity for the sake of sales. Don\’t you think it\’s rather pathetic to go after cyclists though? Seriously there has to be someone scapegoat group thats better.

    Perhaps it\’s a sign of the continued irrelevance of your employer and the impotency of your medium…

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  • Dennis August 4, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    Thank you Jonathan,

    I realize that when you created this site, it wasn\’t to deal with issues such as this.

    To be honest, I wouldn\’t have even known about this issue, except for bikeportland. I haven\’t picked up an issue of The Oregonian in a decade. Why purchase a newspaper, that is 75% ads, and seriously biased reporting.

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  • Graham August 4, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    I was approached by a guy selling subscriptions to the O as I wheeled my bike into my house. I would have thought the reason I turned him down (nicely) would be self-apparent. I was tempted to remark along those lines, but I figured why make life hard for a guy with a job that\’s got to be pretty depressing as it is.

    The other reason I turned him down was that it\’s such a waste of all that paper. There\’s a reason William Randolph Hearst was also a lumber baron.

    If I read the O, I read it at coffee shops, or online.

    I\’d love to see a breakdown, in column inches, of the O\’s advertisers. I wonder how much of their funding comes from car dealerships, or others whose businesses are directly threatened by folks choosing bicycles as transportation.

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  • Michelle August 4, 2008 at 5:51 pm

    I found it very strange that Ms Nielsen mis-characterized (on the first page) the objectors to a mandatory helmet law as \”anti-helmet\” (not, more accurately, as \”anti-helmet-LAW\”) but then later conceded that, after some reflection, she might turn out to be anti-helmet-law too. If she is open to that position, why misrepresent it initially as \”anti-helmet\”? That\’s like describing someone who doesn\’t approve of state funding of religions as anti-religion.

    Surely she has realized in her thinking about this issue that \”anti-helmet\” and \”anti-helmet-law\” are not at all equivalent?

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  • Drewid August 4, 2008 at 6:21 pm

    Before my wife and I moved here we made a list of the things we liked about Portland and the things that were not so good, and the local paper was on that not so good list. Since then, they have indeed hit rock bottom and have begun to dig.
    A reporter needs to have perspective. Are they so blind as not to see that lots of bikers drive too? And lots of drivers would like to bike if it didn\’t seem that scary out there, as the paper would like you to believe. They are flinging mud at all of us.
    How about an article that explores the studies that have been done on helmet use, and the way other countries have managed this issue. Is that so hard to do… I thought it was the reporters job.
    Instead, the Oregonian is trying to agitate all of us. I don\’t care why. What can you say about the quality of their \”reporting\”. You can only shake your head.
    Portlanders are by and large more intelligent than their hometown paper, and can see how unprofessional it really is.
    The silence of community leaders on this subject is deafening.

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  • Donna August 4, 2008 at 8:14 pm

    The Oregonian is for old people.

    Torfinn, that\’s insulting to old people.

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  • torfinn August 4, 2008 at 8:59 pm

    I meant people so old they couldn\’t read or formulate ideas 🙂

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  • Donald August 4, 2008 at 10:05 pm

    Gotta get my two cents in here.

    I know people at The Oregonian and OLive who hold positions at both the reporter and editor level.

    They\’re community members, just as I am.

    One, I know, has been riding bikes much longer than I have. In fact, when he was racing with founding members of the American bicycle racing scene in Boulder, he perhaps unknowlingly inspired me to become the cyclist I am today. Well, him and Breaking Away.

    I sincerely feel that blanket-stating anything about a group, be it fixies, rollerbladers, unicyclists or journalists accomplishes nothing.

    That said, I\’ve often hated the sin. But I refuse to hate the sinner.

    The Oregonian and it\’s odd second cousin OLive isn\’t a floating undefinable entity. They are operational collectives of folks who have differing ideas, merging ideals, loving families, small apartments, double-parked Cadillacs and stolen Colnagos.

    Journalism, in its many forms, is, in my opinion, the backbone of a competitive and democratic society.

    Lest anyone forget, this site traces its orgins to opportunities offered by OLive.

    Message/Messenger can be parsed and argued without generalities.

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  • ijones August 4, 2008 at 10:06 pm

    The reporting on bikeportland.org on bike issues is head and shoulders above The Oregonian, Jonathan seems to put more care into writing itself as well.

    The Cole article is some pretty obnoxious writing. Those blogosphere bashing comments are particularly ironic if you read any of the vitriol in the comments on their own site.

    The tone here is far more civil and thoughtful. Not everyone all the time, obviously. This is the internet after all 😉



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  • wsbob August 4, 2008 at 11:06 pm

    The O does have some good writer/reporters. Either through personal ethics or supervisory direction, not all of the O\’s writers allow their work to wander far afield into the territory of opinionated commentary. A good deal of factual reporting that at least attempts at some level of objectivity, occurs within the O\’s pages. Andy Parker, METRO/Suburban Columnist, Matthew Preusch, REGIONAL/ Central Oregon, Maxine Bernstein, PORTLAND/Police and Fire Departments, are a few that come to mind.

    There are many others writing in other departments of the paper, that steadfastly do their job without launching into a dissemination of their own personal views on the subject of each assignment taken, with every other paragraph they write. Unfortunately, the integrity of their work is increasingly camouflaged by the O\’s increased use of personality driven writing by such O employees as S. Renee Mitchell, David Reinhard, and now Susan Nielsen.

    I think Portland needs a good daily print newspaper. So, it bothers me to note how many people commenting in this thread are increasingly distanced from The Oregonian due to its concession to the appeal of opinionated personality influenced reporting rather than solid, factual writing that seeks to convey news to readers as objectively as is reasonably possible.

    Incidentally, Susan Nielsen\’s Sunday piece wasn\’t all bad. Despite the fact that, as she mentioned in her column, Senator Loyd Prozanski first introduced his idea for a mandatory helmet law in an interview that became a story here on bikeportland, for whatever reason, Senator Loyd Prozanski\’s comments in that story did not clearly state what he felt to be a compelling need for such a law.

    It was in Susan Nielsen\’s that his feelings about a need for such a law were at last clearly stated:

    \”In mid-July, Prozanski proposed expanding Oregon\’s bike-helmet law to cover adults, not just children under 17. His three reasons were: the number of new riders with limited skills; the vulnerability of all riders, including experienced ones; and the persistent anecdotes about near misses and serious injuries.\” O story/Susan Nielsen

    Not that I personally consider those reasons sufficiently compelling on their own to draft and implement a mandatory bike helmet law for adults (though they certainly are important points to consider…). I am curious why it was that his reasons to move for a law wern\’t so clearly stated before Susan Nielsen\’s column. Had they been so in the interview with editor Jonathan Maus and the bikeportland story, the discussion might have been considerably different than it was.

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  • Donald August 4, 2008 at 11:41 pm

    That\’s funny, wsbob.

    I personally blanched at maxine bernstien\’s tone in her coverage of the recent driver/bike conflict in SE Portland.

    I found it trite and sloppy.

    Had she been a columnist such as Mssr. Reihard or the good Ms. Mitchell, I probably would have given her some intellectual slack.

    As it was, all I could think was \”If I had handed this in as a piece during my stint in journalism school, I would have been laughed out of the classroom.\”

    Ain\’t it a funny world?

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  • wsbob August 5, 2008 at 1:00 am

    Donald, which story was that? Just checked the archives…she wrote stories about both the Mississippi St run-in and the one where bad driver James Millican caused bike rider Jason Rehnberg to wild ride the hood of Millican\’s car.

    Anyway, my inclusion of Ms Bernstein as one of the O\’s better writers is just my opinion. I\’m no professional authority on rules of journalism. She\’s written a lot of stuff over the years, and I\’ve always found it to be to the point and free of extraneous fluff.

    I think I might understand what you mean, in that, as I just now scanned over the stories, they may have been written in a \’play by play\’ style rather than a strictly report the facts style. That may not always be appropriate, but it seems alright to me to use it as long as the incident reported isn\’t overly muddled by the writer/reporters bias and personal opinion.

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  • Donald August 5, 2008 at 1:31 am


    insomnia rules the night tonight…

    I should have been more specific.


    First, if you\’re going to use \”surreal\” in your lead, expect the unexpected in reader response.

    Second, if you\’re going to go into detail enough to name the brand of car driven, but then you go on to say an assailant appeared \”out of nowhere\” prepare to be accused of writing dramatic tripe from public record. Where is \”nowhere\” and how do I get there? Or, did the reporter just not have enough information to make a defensible observation?

    Third, and I don\’t want to fall into the same trap, if you\’re going to say so and so did this and then so and so did that, it\’s either because you saw it or someone else saw it and you can attribute it. Can you tell which is which is this story? Mass media law is one those courses I barely passed, so I\’ll leave it to AOs of the world to decide.

    There are pieces of this work that seem to be from a 1st person perspective. And there parts of it that give lie to that assumption.

    To me, it\’s a trite and poor attempt to bring immediacy to a scene at which the reporter was not attendant.

    I may be wrong. I have been before. But that\’s how I read it.

    I feel Maxine took a police report, attempted to doll it up and got lost in the process. Putting lipstick on a pig can be a messy afair.

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  • Cøyøte August 5, 2008 at 8:45 am

    The Eugene Register Guard ran a similar snarky article on Prozanki\’s change of plans. Either the RG copied the O article, which would not surprise me, or Floyd really does have red ass over this.

    If the latter is true, then that is a shame. Floyd showed some leadership in this issue by listening to feedback. I would have thought that after 13 years as a legislator he would have a little thicker skin.

    At any rate, Floyd thanks for listening to this idiot.

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  • Illa August 5, 2008 at 10:07 am

    you do realize that this type of journalism is a last gasp and generating sales. print media is dead and resorting to the \”Hearst\” method of reporting is a last ditch effort to make people talk about the article and buy papers. The Oregonian is unreadable.

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  • Steven J August 5, 2008 at 10:34 am

    \”I feel Maxine took a police report, attempted to doll it up and got lost in the process. Putting lipstick on a pig can be a messy affair\” – Donald

    Well put.

    Perhaps she shouldn\’t call the story in from her cell phone while driving…

    Now there\’s a good bill to introduce to the legislature Mr Prozanki.

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  • Donald August 5, 2008 at 10:36 am


    Both papers are part of the AP collective.

    I haven\’t read the RG article, but in joining the collective, papers do gain the right of access to and reprint of the work of other members of the collective.

    Resistance is futile. 😉

    BTW, did you know that the RG is one of the few remaining privately held dailies in the country? And it\’s a union shop at both the production and editorial levels.

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  • JE August 5, 2008 at 10:46 am

    Jonathan & gang,

    Stop regarding the Oregonian has a newspaper or anyone in their employ has journalists. They are to news what Gomer Pyle is to the Marines. When viewed has sad, pathetic and trying to be comedic the Oregonian will suddenly make sense to you all.

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  • Donald August 5, 2008 at 10:52 am


    While I\’m positive you hold this opinion dear, I just have say I feel it\’s a generalization.

    But I\’m not a disinterested party. I forked over a lot of dead presidents for my journalism degree. And, like my favourite prez canidate, I just got done paying it off…

    To me, hearing that the newspaper is in its death throes is akin to an architect listening to someone say that buildings are really an outmoded method of shelter.

    The form may change, but the role of the fourth estate remains. At least in my opinion.

    Read deep, is all I can offer. The rewards are often hidden but can really be worthwhile.

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  • Vantuky Matthew August 5, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    At least you have public officials who pay attention to voters. Up here in Vancouver we have a mayor and city council that make decisions that disreguard public opinion, statistics and facts. Our new helmet ordinance is a result of their emotional response, totally going against what statistically makes cycling safer. Holland, The Netherlands and Germany all don\’t have helmet laws and have much higher rider mode shares and are much safer than the US for cyclists. I\’d think modeling what they do would be a no brainer. The Vancouver helmet ordinance also faces a lack of enforcement issue. For most police officers I\’d suspect it is a low priority issue but it does give just cause to stop someone. I have one friend who was told by an officer that helmets are required but no citation was issued and he gave my friend a copy of the ordinance and exceptions to the law. If it is against your religious convictions to wear a helmet you can ride sans helmet. How\’s that for a loop hole? Our local fish-wrapper (the Columbian) is just as bad if not worse than the Oregonian in it\’s lack of understanding and thoughtfulness on cycling issues.

    Many thanks for your blog Johnathan, and for being a voice of reason on these emotionally caharges issues. I drive as well as ride like yourself and really appreciate your candor and perspectives on the wide range of related topics.

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  • Vantuky Matthew August 5, 2008 at 12:21 pm

    sorry i don\’t proofread well… (emotionally charged issues)….

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  • Myra August 5, 2008 at 12:38 pm

    Black and white like

    Running a stop sign or not running a stop sign
    Holding up traffic or not holding up traffic
    Dead or alive
    Having lights on at night, not having lights on at night
    Splitting lanes of traffic not splitting lanes of traffic
    Injured or not injured
    Running red lights, not running red lights
    Riding where they are not allowed, not riding where they are allowed.
    Signaling when you are turning, not signaling when you are turning.
    Having a helmet on to protect your brain, Not having a helmet to protect your brain.
    Signaling when changing lanes, not signaling when changing lanes.
    Riding side by side in bike lanes, not riding side by side in bike lanes.
    Ignoring alternate routs for bike at rush hour and biking on Hawthorne, Alberta, Division, not Ignoring alternate routs for bike at rush hour and biking on Hawthorne, Alberta, Division.

    You are right how dare the Oregonian see this as a black and white issue. That makes no sense to me. Here let me take a hit from the stupid bong (Add in hit sound) yup that makes no sense at all.


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  • Huebert August 5, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    I think readers of this forum need to realize how they come across to others. While an avid cyclist, I find myself frequently at odds with opinions expressed on this forum. For example, I do not believe the automobile is the ultimate evil of society. I\’m not an Obama supporter and the CRC should be more than six lanes. Hence I typically read or skim the responses but rarely post anything and certainly use an alias. All that to suggest perhaps contributors re-read their contributions with the mindset of a non-cyclist, there are stronger words in this forum than may be realized, which may be why the O is printing what they print. And BTW, I don\’t like the O either, but the opposite reason of Ben #19. The O is definitely NOT a GOP friendly rag.

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  • DD August 5, 2008 at 4:14 pm

    Thanks, Myra, for confirming that you and the O think alike and for making explicit that you people are incapable of perceiving the nuances and relative value/consequence of things – but instead judge everyone through a extremist absolutist morality and deterministic beliefs.

    So, let\’s see: if you ride your bike on division street on rush hour or if you fail to signal when you turn, you must be a drug addict, godless nazi – and you will inevitably die because of that!

    Hey, at least you are conscious and akcnowledge what your world view is, whereas others have the same mentality but deny it and try to masquerade it.

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  • wsbob August 5, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    Donald #36, hey thanks for posting the link to the maxine bernstein story you were thinking of. I kind of agree with you about the points you raised: use of \’surreal\’ and \’out of nowhere\’ in the story.

    People commonly use that phrase and word in casual conversation as a short-cut to telling a story without providing specific details about what happened. They also use them to help describe the character of the incident the story they\’re telling is about. I\’m not sure which of the two Bernstein was doing. People reading the news have a right to expect the most accurate and precise account that the writer can provide based on facts known and available to the writer.

    I remember first reading that story and wondering who was the person throwing the punch. I believe sometime the day after the O\’s story was linked here in a bikeportland story, a reader left a comment reporting that the person throwing the punch was the son of the driver of the car. If I remember correctly, a day or two later, another O story reported also, that it was the son that threw the punch.

    JE #41, hey c\’mon….your comment is rhetorical nonsense, or is it simply your opinion that you\’re expressing?

    The O has lots of good reporting in all sections going on. The paper has some problems with the attention getting schemes it\’s been using, but to flat claim the O isn\’t a paper and that it has no journalists is just not accurate. The way the paper has been going lately though, your comment may be the next one an O high profile writer will choose to quote in a story.

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  • n8m August 5, 2008 at 6:05 pm

    I don\’t care for the Oregonian anymore, especially after the bike vs car articles and war metaphor. But I am bothered when they use their clout to damage the bicycling community. We ought to simply email her and other corporate journalists when we see unprofessional material such as this. Her email is right there on the article: michellecole@news.oregonian.com. I\’m sure she\’d appreciate constructive feedback. I\’m gonna get on my bike and bunch my shorts up right now.

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  • Joe Rowe August 5, 2008 at 8:13 pm

    I called and sent email to Michelle who wrote the news story. Guess what, almost every time I call or email a reporter at the Oregonian, they call and email back. ( the exception is David Reinhard ) She replied with 2 calls and 3 email messages. She understood my concerns of adding opinion to news stories, and many concerns here. She explained that she was just trying to write \”shorts\” in a voice that was \”lively\” and \”conversational\”. I\’m new to teaching high school newspaper and I can testify it a common thing even in pulitzer prize winning journalists, and not always cut and dry. Even the best reporters are not always perfect. Ms Cole also agreed that the lawmaker got praise in addition to the pounding in cyberspace.

    I did not bother to contact the author of the Editorial, as some opinion belongs there.

    I must also point out the ignorance of comment #41 and many other ranters who make the cycling community seem irrational and unable to see or tell the truth. David Austin won the Pulitzer and came to my Portland classroom when invited, so have many other staff at the O and local news papers. If you don\’t like the media, become the media. Write a story and post it on portland.indymedia.org.

    Jonathan was correct to ask for checks and balances. Someone can ask the board of the Oregonian to explain the \”bikes v. cars\” inflated war on 3 front pages. Some will say the Oregonian created this false perception, others will say they just pointed it out. Either way it false perceptions need to be called out and extinguished by diplomats. Blame nobody, expect nothing, do something.

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  • wsbob August 6, 2008 at 12:15 am

    Joe, nice that you could get some direct input from one of the perpetrators of poorly reported news at the O. I hope Ms. Rowe really does give some consideration to the collateral damage that can occur when prioritizing \” \”lively\” and \”conversational\” \” copy before serious and accurate reporting of the facts firs.

    I really don\’t mind if an Oregonian writer chooses to launch into a creative, personal characterization of a discussion such as the one that revolved around Senator Prozanski\’s mandatory bike helmet for adults idea, after having first carefully and accurately reported what went on.

    I don\’t think that\’s what either Michelle Cole in her story, or Susan Nielsen in her column did. Both of them seem to have let the \” \”lively\” and \”conversational\” \” element take precedence over factual, accurate reporting of the news in each instance.

    That\’s crummy reporting in my opinion, and it does a disservice to the community that the Oregonian serves. Their having surrendered to style over responsible reporting in those particular stories is the kind of thing that can damage relations between people sharing the road in different modes of transportation such as bikes and cars.

    Also possibly damaged by what Cole and Nielsen did, are relations between the Senator Prozanski and people encouraging wider use of bicycles for transportation. Also possibly damaged, is the wider public\’s perception of the respect that people encouraging wider use of bicycles have for an accomplished state senator that supports wider use of bicycles for transportation.

    All of this for what? So those writers can have their stories seem more lively and conversational?

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  • 007 August 6, 2008 at 11:46 am

    The Oregonian is circling the drain.

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  • Susan Nielsen August 6, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    Hi, this is Susan Nielsen here. I\’d like to make a few quick points, mostly so you know The Oregonian is not a faceless institution.

    First, I\’m a longtime cyclist and part-time bike commuter from Southeast Portland. As I said in my column, I am *against* a mandatory helmet law for Oregon unless there is compelling state interest and a net public benefit. I\’m also in favor of looking at all the relevant research (such as whether helmet laws suppress ridership, what\’s the frequency and cost of head injuries for non-helmeted riders, etc) and having a thorough public discussion.

    Second, I wrote, \” … To be sure, not everyone lashed out. Plenty of people on BikePortland and in subsequent media coverage explained their positions thoughtfully and provided supporting data. …\” Jonathan\’s post told readers that I inaccurately described them and failed to mention their many thoughtful and well-informed comments.

    Third, Jonathan also said he couldn\’t find anyone using the word \”idiot.\” It was from the 5th commenter out of the 200-plus commenters to his July 22 article. (Steve –\”Who is voting for these idiots?\”)

    If you\’d like to read my original column, go to http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion and look for my name under Columnists. The original headline was, \”No need to lose your head yet.\”

    Susan Nielsen
    Editorial board
    The Oregonian

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  • some random guy August 6, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    Thanks, Susan, for posting in here. I find it charming that you would put your face for the Oregonian. I for one have a prejudice for the impersonal nature of most corporations but respect people in general, even when I disagree with their opinion.

    I have to say that I think you were unfair with you characterization of people commenting in this blog. So there was someone who said the word \”idiot\” – but to use that single case as you did constitute a false generalization. Besides, keep in mind the democratic nature of internet and blogs – we\’re the masses here and we don\’t always are 100% polite, but there\’s no reason for alarm. Its revealing for me that you would hold the anonymous commenters to such a high standard of politeness while excusing an elected politician for using the exact same word, suggesting that he was contaminated by the masses\’ \”disease\”. Somewhat elitist IMO – I personally would judge both \”sides\” with exact opposite standards than you did.

    Furthermore, I would say that I don\’t need no research to know that I don\’t want anyone forcing me to wear a helmet – regardless of the social and economic conditions. And I think I am in my right to express my opinion based solely in my personal experience and personal interest, since this is a personal issue, as I see it. So I don\’t like that you would ridicule me expressing my opinion as you did.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) August 6, 2008 at 4:35 pm

    I just want everyone to know that Susan Nielsen (from The Oregonian) and I had a long, civil, and constructive conversation on the phone this afternoon.

    We both shared why we wrote what we wrote and we now have a much better understanding of each other.

    Thank you Susan for getting in touch, for posting a comment, for being open and candid about your decisions, and for being open to feedback.

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  • wsbob August 6, 2008 at 4:48 pm

    Susan, thanks for taking the time to offer some input directly to a thread here on bikeportland.org.

    I\’d like to add a note in response to your reminder of how you introduced O readers to comments made on bikeportland about Senator Prozanski\’s mandatory adult helmet law idea. Though you did state that:

    \” … To be sure, not everyone lashed out. Plenty of people on BikePortland and in subsequent media coverage explained their positions thoughtfully and provided supporting data. …\”

    …in your article, you led your introduction to bikeportland reader comments, not with the quote above, but with this one: \”Who is voting for these idiots?\” steve

    You selected quote placement that would emphasize the sensational before the factual, to support your perception that Senator Prozanski\’s idea was a victim of knee-jerk response rather than lack of preparation for his idea, on the senator\’s part. Let\’s be reminded of how your article was headlined/titled in the Sunday edition:

    \”No need to lose your head yet\” (headline/Oregonian, Susan Nielsen article)

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  • a.O August 6, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    Susan (#53)-

    I agree with Jonathan that your column is fairly characterized as a \”new low.\” The Oregonian\’s coverage of the recent road rage incidents has been shamefully sensationalistic and represents an abuse of its position of public trust.

    Simply put, your column was a mischaracterization of the comments here. Based on The Oregonian\’s prior coverage of bike issues, I believe your mischaracterization was intentional. But even if it wasn\’t, it was poor journalism.

    FWIW, I likely won\’t have any future detailed comments for you like this. Because of this coverage, I have stopped reading The Oregonian. As you can probably tell by the popularity of bikeportland, there are far better – and, IMHO more ethical – sources for local news.

    I do have one final question for you though: Do you read the hate-filled comments that pervade the Oregonlive blog? And, if so, why don\’t you write about them?

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  • steve August 6, 2008 at 8:47 pm

    Perfectly said a.O.

    For the record, I said \’idiots\’ not \’idiot\’. I do so hate being misquoted.

    If it makes the editorial board over at the O any happier, they can include our Mayor elect under that heading as well.

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  • Eileen August 6, 2008 at 9:28 pm

    Well, the good news Jonathan, is that your blog is attracting their attention. If I were you, I\’d be careful about turning it into an adversarial relationship. I completely understand the outrage at their unprofessional journalism, but the article you posted here is almost like a counter-attack. If you don\’t want a war, maybe there is another way to go about it.

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  • JeremyS August 6, 2008 at 9:58 pm

    I see this as healthy, needed discussion. As Donald said, a free press is a big backbone of our way of life. But we, the members of the community, play a big role in defining the boundaries and expectations of that media. There\’s a natural give and take.

    You might argue that the O is fighting for readership, or dying, but I can\’t help but feel good that bit by bit, bicycling is coming up in the public consciousness. For those of who love to ride, I think this is good thing.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) August 6, 2008 at 10:22 pm

    \”I completely understand the outrage at their unprofessional journalism, but the article you posted here is almost like a counter-attack. If you don\’t want a war, maybe there is another way to go about it.\”

    thanks Eileen. I really appreciate those words and I agree that I could have used a more careful tone in writing this story…

    but like i said to Ms. Nielsen on the phone today, the emotions that led me to this story were created in a context way beyond just her story.

    the recent road rage stuff and my growing realization that one of biking biggest hurdles in this town is the negative perception some Portlanders have of \”the bike community\”… i was thinking of all that stuff and this was how I reacted.

    thanks for the feedback.

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  • a.O August 7, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    Today, I sent the following email to Bob Caldwell, The Oregonian\’s news editor (since Susan Nielsen\’s email address is not listed):


    After Susan Nielsen\’s negative characterization of \”bicyclists\” commenting on the proposed mandatory helmet law on bikeportland.org, I would like to know if The Oregonian has any plans for stories on the comments appearing on the Oregonlive site. Specifically, the comments posted in response to yesterday\’s story on the 69-year old man injured while riding a bicycle in Gresham would seem to offer The Oregonian an opportunity to characterize the views of their readership with respect to bicycle and transportation issues. Those comments can be seen here:


    Please let me know whether The Oregonian will write anything on this issue.



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  • TheA August 7, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    The Oregonian is losing and will continue to lose _business_ over conduct like this. Guess what? Many of the readers of this blog are active cyclists– and some just happen to be in positions within companies that get to decide which media channels are right for clients and their advertising. I wonder when the big 0 (looks like a zero to me) will figure this out, or if they even care. And frankly, there are many more useful, more remarkable ways to get my advertising and mktg messages out nowadays anyway.

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