PRSA Portland Metro Chapter

Meet the Media recap: Tom Maurer of The Oregonian

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Oct 13

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Don’t like the distribution and staffing changes at The Oregonian?  Well, sorry about that, but the newspaper is going to do whatever it can in an effort to survive and grow in the digital age.

That was the core message delivered by Washington County Bureau Chief Tom Maurer in a PRSA “Meet the Media” presentation in Beaverton on Sept. 18.  It happened just two weeks before the paper, in a transformational cost-cutting move, stopped home delivery on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.

In a straightforward and frequently blunt but cordial style, Maurer made several enlightening statements, including:

  • Reporters are posting news online as it happens and often are their own editors (Maurer, in fact, said he does a lot of his editing after the fact).
  • The paper is in such a rush to get news out that staff admittedly don’t wait until all sides of an issue can be vetted.
  • When asked who The Oregonian regards as its chief competitors, Maurer did not mention other newspapers or Portland TV stations, as might be expected.  He looked at the people in the room and said, “You.  Bloggers.  Whoever is posting information.”
  • Yes, you read that last bullet correctly:  The paper wants to get your news out before you do.
  • For this reason, think of The Oregonian more like the broadcast media now – liable to call or e-mail at night or on weekends as well as weekdays.
  • To those who miss the seasoned beat reporters who understood their issues, Maurer said many of them (though not all) retired or moved on for other reasons.  The newsroom now includes a much higher percentage of young college graduates, who are inexperienced but possess the digital skills the paper needs and are far less expensive to employ.
  • He said the public’s demand to know is fueling more public information requests – “readers are impatient and asking pointed questions.”  For media relations professionals, his advice is to cooperate with reporters on investigative stories; stonewalling will only lead to additional time-consuming requests (and the content may not even be used).

The session was PRSA’s first “Meet the Media” session in Washington County, and Maurer made it memorable.

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