By Kirby Neumann-Rea • Of the News-Register • 

Back, and Forth: Criticism is fine, but our content is original

Words challenge us. They do so in trying to find the right ones — the ones to craft a news story or feature that is interesting, informative and, where appropriate, evocative.

Our news staff works hard at it, from the gathering of the news through hitting the final “Send” button before publication.

And 95 percent of what we publish in this newspaper comes about just that way: original content, developed through phone calls, e-mails, sit-downs and other good old-fashioned shoe-leather reporting.

Words challenge us in other ways.

One recent source thanked me for the article, but admitted he had been scared when we sat down to talk.

We had never met, and he was speaking from the heart about a personal project. So that’s understandable.

I told him his perspective was a healthy reminder to me to be sensitive about how I do what I do. It’s a concept I plan to share with the rest of my staff as well.

Finally, words challenge us, or at least the people speaking them challenge us, with allegations that we’re biased, dredging up old news or interminably boring. These are all things I have heard personally, and just about any colleague anywhere can report the same, or similar versions, thereof.

It’s always refreshing when one day someone says you’re clearly of one political persuasion and the next day someone else says you’re clearly of the other. It makes us feel like we must be doing something right.

“There’s never anything in the paper, but I miss everything if I don’t read it,” one person told me many years ago. I should put that on a T-shirt.

I’ve heard every variation on the theme — or so I thought until recently.

Whatever your criticism of this newspaper’s news content might be, rest assured that what you are seeing is new and original. It is rare for us even to repurpose old material, though it’s a fairly common media practice.

Thus, it resonated recently when I met a man who, upon learning where I work, looked me in the eye and said, “I can’t stand the News-Register, haven’t read it for years.”

Imagine someone saying “I hate XYZ Restaurant, haven’t eaten there in years.” You don’t really hear that, because it makes no sense and most people realize that.

Two of the ironies of working for a newspaper include:

One, people who openly criticize the newspaper instead of hesitating or refraining, as they might when it comes to sharing their views of most other businesses. Most of us in newspapers get it, though, because our work is public work.

Two, people who criticize the paper, often in the harshest terms of all, then admit in the same breath to not having read it for years.

The whole realm of uninformed criticism of the paper is another thing I’ve grown accustomed to. It’s akin, though not quite as bad, as book-banners who haven’t read the book.

But the gentleman I reference took his complaint a step further:

“I call it the ‘News- Regurgitator’ because all it has is stuff regurgitated from online and The Oregonian.”

In a way I have to hand it to the guy. Not only does he admit he isn’t familiar with the product, but he says it to the face of a person he has just learned is part of its production.

At one point, all I could do was stammer, “You know, I just told you I’m managing editor. I think I’d know.”

Added irony is that a message such as this will never be read by the “News-Regurgitator” man; at least I doubt it, based on what he said.

As to “regurgitating,” looking at just a recent sampling:

* A reporter and photographer spent time at a Carlton festival while another pair from the staff spent a morning at an archaeology camp in Grand Ronde.

* Another reporter filled her morning by reporting on young people raising market goats, then going to photograph and interview a 101-year-old veteran. This newspaper has a demonstrated passion for getting out into as many of our communities as we can, so that’s not unusual.

* Additionally, our Viewpoints editor, Steve Bagwell, recently gained an international honor for his editorial comment.

* Finally, it made me proud to see a letter writer state that recent stories we published had instilled “an appreciation of our built history.”

That said, I’ll also cite a critique – and then attempt to address how, perhaps strange to say, they complement each other.

Another reporter’s recent coverage of public concerns over parks and county finances reported, accurately, Commissioner Kit Johnston’s recent mention of the idea of selling a county park.

Looking at the coverage critically, two things could have been better clarified the matter, and as managing editor, I claim responsibility. (Note, however, that there is a difference between a correction and a clarification.)

One, the comment was made more than a month earlier.

Two, some readers may have inferred commissioners had discussed the park sale in their official session. They did not.

The reporting was based on a comment made by Johnston in a public meeting, but not directly or in a session with the other commissioners.

But Johnston made the remark in a public meeting. And while we are not aware of a deep or broad conversation on the topic by the commissioners, the fact remains that it does amount to an official consideration of the idea of the park sale, thus debunking commentary about this newspaper spreading “misinformation.”

The way all this merges is that it’s another example of a reporter seeking out information and reporting an original story — finding new and interesting elements of life in this county to tell our readers.

The “regurgitation” fellow waved me off when I told him, “I would know, we don’t regurgitate anyone’s stories.”

Where the gentleman got the idea we do anything but publish predominantly new original material, is beyond me. But sometimes people just believe what they want to believe.

He was, of course, not interested in facts, or with learning from someone with direct knowledge. He stood firm in his own echo chamber.

I’m thinking, don’t those things give a guy a headache?

Contact Kirby Neumann-Rea at or 503-687-1291.



Actually, I frequently hear people give a restaurant a bad review followed by “I won’t eat there again.” Honestly, if the News Register had competition it would be the best thing for our community and would likely be good for the NR as well, since competition generally encourages people to try harder and do better. This paper has rapidly swung to the left from its so called cartoons to very biased reporting and that is sad but it is all we have so…

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