Oregonian reporter Tony (Ashbel) Green told me once that Oregonians would rather read about Trimet (local transportation) issues than about Oregon lawyers and justice in this state. The following discussion is about how the media in Oregon reports on justice for their citizens beyond the criminal log.
Infamous reporter Lars Larson appeared before a group of lawyers years ago and sneered that lawyers don't even know what they may say to a reporter while their particular case is in the limelight. I watched in awe as he arrogantly derided the lawyers who had invited him to speak and even bought him dinner. The only thing he was dishing out that evening was dumb sarcasm.
In contrast, Paul Linman, another noted reporter, spoke to the same group a year or so later and dazzled the lawyer group with thoughtfully relevant anecdotes about his business. At the end of his presentation he outlined for the group how local lawyers could help the media learn about local stories of interest. It was a constructive and impressive session.
It is not well known that May is the time when local lawyers are supposed to help the public learn about Bar services and what lawyers can do for their citizens near and far. Our Bar does precious little at this time of opportunity or any other to communicate with the media about Bar services and programs. Our executive director, who is not a lawyer, takes more pleasure in reporting to the public on which lawyers are in trouble. Meanwhile, there are thousands of unheralded lawyers who do good things, for free, for the citizens of our state, yet these programs go unreported.
A startlingly successful program was KATU, Channel 2's lawyer Helpline. Attorney Shapiro, who once defended O.J. Simpson along with Johnny Cochran, was in town to help publicize this free-information televised event. Between regular programming, a bank of lawyers answer telephoned legal questions for free. One year I participated and learned how hungry citizens are for a vehicle to ask simple legal questions without having to go through a lawyer's office. The questions were astute, genuine and varied. The lawyer participants were enthusiastic about providing this free service. This program has died.
Several years ago Willamette Week ran several articles that were critical of Multnomah County court processes and judges. The presiding judge responded defensively and one could say even in an intimidating fashion. Willamette Week also produced articles on eccentric Judge (Baker) Dredd and a lawyer with a high volume of ethical complaints. This information was neither balanced nor insightful. When I advised Willamette Week of a criminal scam about a local notable, they asked me to write the article.
The Hillsboro Argus provided a glowing eulogy on a Washington County judge who had died. In reality, this judge was one of the worst on the planet. The Oregonian provides endlessly favorable reports on the Oregon Supreme Court, a court which is actually dysfunctional.
The Oregon State Bar Board of Governors is incredibly afraid of bad press. It was awesome to watch in the front row as they spun Robert Landauer of the Oregonian who was going report on the incredible delay in Oregon's appellate courts. The Bar diverted accurate reporting on this erstwhile reporter by forming a committee and coming up with their own transparent information that was opaque to the Oregonian. The Oregonian is without curiosity. There is a particularly cozy relationship between the Oregonian and the Bar's Kateri Walsh who is in charge of the Bar's spin machine. Doleful stuff.
When one looks at the national lament on how poorly the media performed in the run-up to the Iraq war, all can discern the problem. Reporters are lazy. There are no investigative reporters of worth in any media in Oregon of which I am aware. If there are any soldiers out there that are interested in furnishing truth and justice in Oregon would you please put them in touch with me. There are fourteen thousand Oregon lawyers who care and deserve to be heard and over two million Oregonians who deserve the information. It is a matter of justice. Gee, I wonder if one advertised in any of these media outlets if one would get attention from their reporters........................?!