Ah, it gives me great pleasure to scoop the Statesman Journal on a story -- especially since it involves one of the newspaper's top staff, executive editor Michael Davis.
Who is gone. Fired seemingly is a more accurate word.
I first broke the news on this last Wednesday, in a Facebook post.
Confirmation of Davis' departure comes from a comparison of the Statesman Journal's editorial board composition on consecutive days.
Wednesday, October 5, Michael Davis was listed.
Thursday, October 6, Michael Davis is gone. The reason(s) for his departure aren't known yet. They might have something to do with his management style, given the turnover of numerous competent reporters in recent months.
Despite my Facebook post-expressed worry about who is going to be appointed to replace him by the Gannett Corporation, on the whole I think Davis' departure is a good thing.
When he came to town in 2013, long-time readers of the SJ like me were optimistic about the changes Davis could bring. I blogged "Michael Davis promises to revitalize Salem Statesman Journal" after hearing him give a talk to the Salem City Club.
But that promise fell flat.
It didn't take long before it was obvious that Davis was a lot more committed to fluffing up the Statesman Journal with frothy reader-generated features like a Kid's Page and Holding Court (where Davis gets people to visit him at a Court Street restaurant and talk about stuff they want publicized in the paper), than to substantive reporting on important local issues.
By September 2014 I was so disappointed with what Michael Davis had failed to wrought, I gave his newspaper the dubious honor of being the first target of a Truth Bomb. In "The Statesman Journal is failing Salem," I said:
It has stopped being a reputable community newspaper. I've lost trust in the paper's executives. News is censored for "political" (using that term broadly) reasons.
I have first hand experience of this. Here's the story of how there came to be no story in the Statesman Journal, even though an important story was written and needed to be published.
...In May of this year I released my tell-all report about the outrageous removal of five magnificent trees in Salem's Historic District.
Entirely appropriately, I called it "Outrage: Salem's U.S. Bank tree killings. The true story of how City officials and the bank president cut down five large, healthy, beautiful downtown trees for no good reason, and misled citizens about why they did it."
...My report wasn't only about the untold story of how the U.S. Bank trees came to be cut down based on $726.61 worth of heretofore unreleased public records documents I paid to get from the City of Salem. It also provided a window into how big decisions are being made these days at City Hall: behind closed doors, kowtowing to special interests, ignoring facts and the law.
On May 2, 2014 I emailed Statesman Journal investigative and environmental reporter Tracy Loew. She, I want to emphasize, was a delight to work with. By and large I have no problem with the newspaper's worker bees.
It's the Queens of the journalistic hive, the editors and executives, who are failing Salem. After contacting Loew it didn't take long for me to realize this.
...I recall that Davis said a story should be published in the next few weeks. Again, I was encouraged. Until June came and went. Then July came and went. Nothing. Loew's story had been crushed, stomped on, suppressed.
This was deeply disappointing.
It told me that Statesman Journal executives weren't willing to challenge the Powers That Be who do their best to run this town from a suspected underground bunker that has direct communication connections to the newspaper's assignment desk (I need confirmation about the bunker; if anyone has photos, send them to me.)
There are, however, recent glimmers of hope.
Tracy Loew has been doing some excellent reporting on our local "Watergate" scandal, the attempt to get the City of Salem to reduce the water bill for the Creekside Golf Course (which is owned by Larry Tokarski, a big contributor to right-wing political campaigns) and other large irrigators while raising water rates on ordinary citizens.
(Click here to read my posts about the Creekside water rate debacle.)
Today Loew has a good story out called "Secrecy surrounds Creekside water deal." It's pleasing to see the Statesman Journal doing some excellent investigative reporting.
With Michael Davis gone, hopefully the next executive editor will be even more aggressive about holding City of Salem officials accountable for the crap they regularly subject the citizenry to.