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November 17, 2014


Brian --

None of this is new. Back in the 1990s when groups of Salem activists were fighting to gain control over rampant development in the city -- a goal ferociously opposed by the S/J -- we occasionally got clandestine visits from S/J reporters who told us (sometimes with tears of frustration streaming down their faces) how stories they wrote about city politics and political figures would routinely be falsely altered or added to by Hughes so as to besmirch the reputations of pro-livability groups and individuals.

And I myself was told, by persons who had written pro-livability letters to the editor, that their letters had been altered in such a way as to reverse their meaning.

And remember that Richard McCord, author of the 1996 book "The Chain Gang" pointed out that no one can rise to a position of authority in the Gannett hierarchy until and unless he has proven his eagerness to violate the rules of ethics and of law, in order to serve the anti-social purposes of their papers' biggest advertisers.

Read "The Chain Gang" and you will come to understand that you are attempting to deal, logically and fairly, with a nest of vicious snakes.

Jack, I have indeed read "The Chain Gang." It paints a disturbing picture of how Gannett operated in the late 1970's, when Gannett operatives put Salem's Community Press publication out of business in an exceedingly sleazy fashion.

For those unfamiliar with what happened here, below I'll share an excerpt from the book -- a commentary written by the author that was published in the Santa Fe Reporter. The end is inspiring, and has a lesson for the current Gannett situation in Salem.

Decency and truthfulness can win out against giant money-hungry corporations like Gannett. We no longer have a genuine community newspaper, since the Statesman Journal has surrendered its journalistic integrity in the name of revenue maximization, just as happened in the era described by "The Chain Gang."

Top executives at the Statesman Journal still have to do what Gannett commands in order to keep their jobs. So likely nothing much will change with the paper. But the citizens of Salem who care about truth-telling and fairness are free to look upon the journalistic ashes of the Statesman Journal in any way they like.

In my view, the Statesman Journal is dead to me. Here's the excerpt:

"In Oregon's capital city, Salem, a few years ago, all the terrible might of the huge Gannett newspaper empire was brought to bear on a young weekly that tried to meet the needs of a town suffering under the arrogance of a Gannett monopoly. And once the Community Press was targeted, Gannett and its hired guns stopped just this side of arson in their efforts to eliminate it.

...In a world where most matters are colored various shades of gray, seldom does a record so rotten come to light.

...But based on the record in Salem, when Gannett decides to kill something, it turns readily to a number of weapons that clean competition abhors: greed, lies, deceit, fraud, intimidation, bribery, fear, pressure, illegality.

These are powerful weapons, fully capable of causing death, as the Community Press sadly learned. Yet when companies and individuals have no decency of their own, they do not realize that decency itself can be a weapon far more potent than anything in their tawdry arsenal.

What Gannett will learn in Santa Fe, if it tries any of that stuff here, is that the aroused decency of this fine city -- that the decent men and women here, on guard against the tactics that destroyed a good community-oriented newspaper in Salem -- constitutes a force against which not even the billion-dollar muscle of the largest and dirtiest newspaper chain in the land can prevail."

As you know, executive editor Bill Church has recently been replaced by Michael Davis. Since then, many Journal employees have been asked to submit their resignations. Presumably, some were accepted.
This suggests a shakeup, of sorts.
Since the beginning of the Taylor/Peterson administration, the goal of city government was to make Salem into a "big" city. That goal, despite many missteps and wasteful gestures, has predictably (if the sea were not so salty...) been successful.
This means that Salem may now be worthy of the attention of Gannett execs. Potential profits may be worthy of corporate attention. Also, there may be a perception that the Salem Weekly, the liberal leanings of the fairly well educated population, and the incisive and persistent reportage of youknowwho...

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