I sat in the back. Since this wasn't an expressive gospel-spouting church service, I didn't jump up, throw my arms in the air, and yell "Praise be!" "Hallelujah" "Tell it like it is, Brother Michael" or such.
But I felt like it. Instead, I kept muttering to my closest seatmate Yes, Good, Absolutely, and other affirmations of the fresh vision Davis has for how the Statesman Journal will handle news and opinion.
Before the talk I'd told my new City Club friend (I joined recently, partly because Loustic Catering offers up a great lunch with a vegetarian option) that the Statesman Journal had refused to publish in its print edition an opinion piece I'd written with Carole Smith about the City of Salem's atrocious decision to approve US Bank's request to cut down five beautiul healthy downtown trees for no good reason.
So I listened carefully for signs that even though this time the Statesman Journal had said "no" to a well-written, timely, provocative opinion piece about a local issue that has attracted widespread interest, such won't happen again.
I came away feeling pretty good.
Davis said that he's only been in town for six weeks. That isn't long enough to shake things up at a newspaper that needs some rocking and rolling. I suspect Davis is feeling his way along, getting to know both Salem and the staff of the Statesman Journal.
Michael Davis previously was executive editor of the Lafayette Journal & Courier in Indiana.
This is another Gannett paper which, unsurprisingly, has a web site that looks almost exactly like the Statesman Journal's; so the SJ's online presence will look familiar to Davis, given that Gannett takes a cookie cutter approach in this area.
Along this line, at the City Club meeting Davis was asked how the items on the Statesman Journal's national page of news that comes from USA Today, also a Gannett paper, was chosen. Davis replied that it isn't the Statesman Journal's choice, though he wishes it was.
The SJ's web site design and USA Today's force-fed page shows that Davis doesn't have complete freedom to remake Salem's newspaper. But from his City Club remarks, it sure sounds like he is out to change the paper's "corporate culture."
Which hasn't reflected the moderate make-up of the Salem-area citizenry, almost equally divided between Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, progressives and traditionalists.
I agreed with most of his "newbie" insights into the town I've lived in or near since 1977.
Salem is cooler than it appears to outsiders, especially those who compare it with Portland or Eugene. Our creative class (not a great term; best I can come up with) is largely hidden away in isolated outposts of artistry, eccentricity, and cutting-edge expressiveness.
It sounds like Davis wants to expose this Other Side of Salem, which has mostly been ignored by the Statesman Journal's news and opinion reporting for as many years as my senior citizen mind can remember.
I'm reminded of the familiar humorous phrase, reality has a liberal bias. Yet it isn't funny when inconvenient truths get downplayed by what Davis correctly called our "paper of record."
Meaning, the Statesman Journal hasn't been nearly as passionate about reporting unseemly goings-on associated with conservative City of Salem or Marion County elected officials as the paper has, say, with the Willamette ESD -- which has been taken to task for a myriad of sins, many of them much less serious than, say, allowing Courthouse Square to fall into virtually complete ruin, or, say, conspiring to ruin downtown (I'm thinking Third Bridge, parking meters, and killing of trees, plus meddling with downtown association activities)
So kudos to you, Michael Davis, for saying all the right things last Friday. I believe that you really do want to make the Statesman Journal into a newspaper for all area residents, not just "the 50%" on the right side of the political spectrum.
Shake things up enough, and I might even be able to forgive the newspaper's extremely poorly argued 2012 endorsement of Mitt Romney for President. (Note: I said might; that editorial will be long remembered by me as an example of poor journalism.)