Register-Guard

As we all know, Jeff Merkley beat out Steve Novick for the chance to be the Democratic challenger to Gordon Smith. In this clip on KCRW's Outlook Portland, Novick is interviewed by the Portland Mercury's Amy Ruiz and host David Bragdon. In it, Novick implies that his endorsements (or lack of endorsements) outside of the Portland area hurt him, noting that the "Eugene Register-Guard" didn't endorse him even though he was under the impression that they had "a long relationship." EW endorsed Novick.

The Register-Guard plans to reduce its workforce by about 12 percent, or 30 positions.

In a statement on the R-G website, the paper's publisher Tony Baker blamed a downturn in the local economy and an increase in newsprint prices for the cuts.

R-G Newspaper Guild Co-President Randi Bjornstad, a reporter at the paper, said that Baker told a general staff meeting today that the paper would cut about 30 workers due to soft sales and circulation in the economic downturn.

It’s unclear if the R-G’s newsroom will be impacted by the reduction. The newsroom is already “lean” with a few vacant positions left unfilled, Bjornstad said. “We don’t know.”

Management expects about half the reduction will come from not filling vacant positions and buyouts and about half from actual layoffs, according to Bjornstad.

The R-G has about 20 news reporters, not including sports, and the Newspaper Guild represents about half of the about 260 employees at the newspaper, according to Bjornstad. The Guild contract specifies that involuntary layoffs are done by seniority, she said.

Bjornstad said Baker mentioned the recent 10 percent workforce cut at the McClatchy chain of 28 dailies in his announcement.

Many of the nation’s newspapers, including the New York Times and Washington Post, have recently announced workforce cuts due to a decline in profits from the down economy and lost advertising to the internet.

“It’s pretty much like everywhere else,” Bjornstad said.

Baker “expects things to bounce back,” Bjornstad said. The paper has suffered similar cuts in the past, but not in at least a decade, she said. “It’s been a long time.”

Buried in the back pages of The Register-Guard today is the headline-making news that mayoral candidate Jim Torrey opposes an independent police auditor to examine complaints against police.

The paper attributed to Torrey this statement about whether he supports the police auditor:

"Torrey said he, too, supports the auditor, although he believes she should report to the city manager, not to city councilors."

The whole point of the new police auditor was that it was independent of the city manager and under the city council. The 2005 charter amendment creating the function stated:

"Under the Eugene Charter, only the city manager may hire or appoint individuals or boards to investigate or review complaints against city employees. This measure would amend the charter to allow the city council to hire and supervise an independent police auditor and to appoint a civilian review board to investigate or oversee investigations of complaints involving police employees."

Under the old system, a non-independent police auditor reported to the city manager along with the police chief. Under that system, EPD officers sexually abused more than a dozen women despite years of complaints that EPD officers ignored.

The 2005 ballot measure was opposed by the police union which made the same argument as Torrey that the function should be under the city manager. The measure to create the independent auditor passed with 57 percent voting yes.

Now the union is one of Torrey's biggest financial backers and Torrey is running for mayor against the independent police auditor.

The Seattle website Crosscut.com has singled out The Register-Guard for one of the worst websites among the many "bad" examples in the Northwest.

The R-G and other regional papers have the attitude of "It's not news until we get around to posting it: How dare you expect to read the news in the afternoon or evening. These are morning papers! That's when the news will be ready for you." Not updating a site continuously is "Not the best way to influence the regional agenda — or the D.C. congressional delegation," Crosscut.com writes. "The worst example of timelessness is the Eugene Register-Guard, which posts the news at noon. On purpose. Let that be a lesson to those of you who don't subscribe to the dead-tree edition."

Crosscut's criticism is actually not new. Two years ago The Spokane Spokesman-Review's Ken Sands blogged about the R-G web site: "the print content seems really old because the site isn't updated until noon Pacific time each day."

The R-G may be behind the times in locking up its content. The New York Times announced today that it would stop requiring paid subscriptions to read columnist articles and access the paper's archive. With so many people accessing news content through Google and links from other websites, the paper figured it could make more money in ads from the extra traffic than in charging for the content. Guess they just discovered what the "inter" in Internet means.

Meanwhile the R-G keeps its archive locked away for paid access. Seems kind of silly. Anyone with a Eugene Library Card can access it for free thanks to the city library.

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