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Keep the ODE Independent

I’m issuing this as an editorial. I’ve talked with Guy, the publisher, and he is in agreement with it. If any of the staffers disagree, that’s fine. You’re welcome to write your own opinion and post it on the blog. Without further ado:

It has come to the Oregon Commentator’s attention, as it probably has to most of the campus, that the Oregon Daily Emerald is on strike.

In a front-page editorial and separate broadsheet issued this morning, the Emerald presented what it says are unacceptable conditions forced on it by its Board of Directors and stated that it would cease publishing until the board meets the staff’s demands.

The full substance of the Emerald’s argument will not be restated in this editorial, but we will summarize it for context: The Board of Directors, going directly against the wishes of the Emerald staff, hired Steven Smith to be the paper’s new position of “interim publisher” for a year while it searched for a permanent publisher.

Smith was hired at the exorbitant salary of $80,000 a year – at a time when the Emerald is in the red and desperately seeking to increase profits. The real problem, though, was Smith was given “supervisory control” over the student editors. The current equivalent position of general manager has no such control.

Furthermore, it was hinted at by the board that Smith might teach at the UO School of Journalism. The Emerald vigorously opposed Smith’s for all these reasons and more, and presented a list of four demands to the board, reprinted here verbatim:

1. Immediately rescind the offer to Steven A. Smith to serve as interim publisher April 1, 2009 through June 30, 2010.

2. Conduct a nationwide search for a publisher, as originally voted at the Feb. 10 board meeting.

3. Stipulate in the chosen publisher’s contract that he or she shall not be employed in any capacity by the University, including at the School of Journalism and Communication.

4. Stipulate in the chosen publisher’s contract that he or she shall not have immediate supervisory control over the editor; rather, the publisher and student editor shall remain equals in the organization, as the general manager and student editor currently are.

The board ignored the Emerald staff’s complaints, and, as a final insult, made the discussion of Smith’s hiring an executive session, which means it’s closed to everybody but the board.

Some probably expect us to use this opportunity to snipe at the Emerald or revel in its problems, but the Oregon Commentator fully stands behind the Emerald and its demands.

At a time when newspapers everywhere are struggling to maintain their relevancy – both as solvent businesses and a vital public service – it is more important than ever that they conduct themselves with absolute integrity and transparency.

With this in mind, we find the Board of Director’s actions disingenuous and harmful to the reputation of not only the Daily Emerald but also the University of Oregon. One would have hoped for better from a school with a nationally recognized journalism program.

However, we are not completely surprised by the board’s conduct.

Earlier in the year, Editor-in-Chief of the Oregon Commentator C.J. Ciaramella applied to sit on the Daily Emerald Board of Directors. Readers may chuckle at the idea, and the humor of the situation was no doubt part of Ciaramella’s motivation. But he was also motivated by a strong desire to protect and make student media better. For as much as the Commentator criticizes and makes fun of the Daily Emerald, it is ultimately due to our vision of how good a student newspaper can and should be.

In fact, the Commentator was founded in 1983 by two former members of the Daily Emerald with the lofty goal of making campus media coverage and discussion more diverse, more freewheeling and more fun. If readers will allow us a moment of hubris, we feel this goal has largely been accomplished.

But we can’t do it alone. Just as the campus needs an opinionated, right-of-center publication, it needs an unbiased paper of record. Just as it needs a good arts and entertainment magazine like the Oregon Voice. Just as it needs a good radical leftist paper, unlike the Student Insurgent.

Ciaramella, who has about three or four years of college journalism experience, was denied the Board of Directors seat without being granted an interview. The board balked at allowing someone who writes for a “rival” publication to sit on the body. In an email exchange, Mark Blaine, a journalism professor Watson, former chair of the ODE Board of Directors, wrote (emphasis added):

“Your assurance that ODE Board business will not be covered by you for the Commentator helps, and it sounds like you probably have the best interests of the ODE at heart; however, as I’ve continued to think about this, the crux of the matter is that you will face an unavoidable conflict of interest. The Board has ultimate legal and moral responsibility for all acts of the corporation, and individual Directors, as fiduciaries, are legally and ethically required to be loyal to the corporation. You run a publication that competes with the ODE in several ways (e.g., for readers, student funds, etc.), and I have trouble with the idea of placing anyone in a position where their loyalty is or can be divided. Given your position at the Commentator, I don’t see how this can be reconciled. I assume you are not interested in signing a notarized affidavit or anything like that. Can you see my problem?”

The Commentator can certainly see the board’s problem. What it can’t see is how, after rejecting Ciaramella on the grounds of conflict of interest, it can justify hiring Smith, giving him supervisory control over the editorial staff of the Emerald and allowing him to teach in the School of Journalism.

As the Emerald pointed out, this creates so many conflicts of interest it’s not even funny (even to our twisted sense of humor). Imagine having one of your professors also be your boss. Conversely, imagine having your boss also be your professor.

Can you see our problem?

Perhaps its time to reevaluate just how independent or “student-run” the Daily Emerald can be while under the thumb of the Board of Directors and paid staffers. The Commentator’s Board of Directors and Board of Trustees are all students and alumni. Granted, we aren’t attempting to run a paper of anywhere near the size and scope of the Emerald’s, but we’ve managed to get along all right for 25 years with nothing but a dedicated, all-volunteer staff.

In any case, the Commentator urges the Daily Emerald Board of Directors to submit to the staff’s demands. The University of Oregon campus needs an independent newspaper of quality and depth, not beholden to the administration, faculty or the School of Journalism.

If our arguments still aren’t enough to convince the board, consider this: As long as the Emerald is on strike, the Oregon Commentator will be the only news publication on campus. You’ve been warned.

  1. nike urbanism duk says:

    My favorite Nike tidbit was from a Nike employee during a tour of the campus. She said “Phil Knight is just like Walt Disney except he is not dead yet.” Disney built a model masterplanned community in Florida called Celebration (featured in the Truman Show movie). Before the dust settles Nike will have its Nikeurban “village” in Fairmount to celebrate the lifestyle of the brand. We can all live the Nike way then. Betz, if you track down a copy of the book “Who’s Afraid of Niketown?” I think you will find it very interesting. I got a used copy from Powells books for $20.00. Unfortunately, The Duck junk/former bookstore refuses to carry it. There is a 50 page article posted online you will probably also find interesting. It is easy to find using Google. The title of it is Brandhubs. Digital clothing (with RFID etc.) will link to digital architecture like in the U-city now underway in Korea. The name of that place is New Songdo City.

  2. Betz says:

    Its true that the Mia Hamm building is where a lot of design and R&D work take place, and not many employees had access to the labs and work areas, but I just find it hard that some sinister conspiracy is taking place in those offices.

    I do agree with you that Nike has evolved from just a show company to something greater … its all about how Nike (and not just Nike; many other huge companies catering to the general public are doing this, too) is selling not just their merchandise, but a “brand”. The idea is that when you buy Nike, you’re not just buying a pair of shoes or a sweatshirt or a pushup-bra, but that the transaction really takes place the moment you enter the store / website, and the entire experience, from store enter to using the product, is the experience. Personally … sounds like alot of kool-aid to me, and that businesses should focus on turning out quality products rather than trying to be “more”.

    And as for digital clothing … I don’t see digital clothing as a major trend so much a personal digitization (or “nano-machines”, for all MGS fans). IBM released an article a few months ago about their predictions for the top 5 innovations of the next 5-10 years, and this was one of them. Small implantable monitors that can keep tabs on your vital statistics at all times, and alert you before a medical emergency occurs. Also in the same vein (no pun intended) was personalized genome mapping … now that scientists have successfully mapped the human genome, predictions suggest that the methods for doing this will get faster and more refined to the point where the individual can have their entire genome mapped analyzed, allowing medical doctors to pinpoint potential vulnerabilities to genetic diseases and defects BEFORE symptoms first appear, and what preventative measures you can take. I see this as much more likely than digital “clothing”.

  3. nike urbanism duk says:

    The Commentator’s OSPIGGesque “save the Emerald” hysteria is a laugh. This Youtube character at the channel palestrapac10 has provided a more thorough analysis of this bogus crisis. He interviewed Ryan K. who explained the whole conflict of interest journalistic integrity whining is a bunch of crap…..but in a more polite way. Palestra takes the place of the Emerald for free. Old media RIP.

  4. nike urbanism duk says:

    And to the paragraph police…… off or have a beer already.

  5. nike urbanism duk says:

    That is why Nike gets university engineering students to do their work for them (academic sweatshop style). You do not think all their R&D work happens at the Nike campus do you ? Additionally, I have read that the Mia Hamm building has restricted research space that very few Nike HQ staff are allowed to access. That would suggest that not all who work at Nike World know all the work underway there wouldn’t it ? Some years ago Wired magazine published a article with an interview with Ray Riley from the Nike “Techlab”. It is a easy article to find with Google and lays out some of the Nike forward looking smart/wearable computers related goals. If you look into the future nano and minaturization is likely to enable people to abandon their laptop computers and embrace clothing with embedded smart textiles. Smart textiles R&D is a business in it’s infancy but if you consider the folly of the consumer and the rapid rise of the now mandatory cell phone ownership you should not be surprised if smart clothes take off. Early, simple versions of this junk are already on the market-like Burton snowboarding jackets with buttons woven into the sleeves to control your music while you hit the slopes. Hubbins-you will be pleased that I just got some new flip flops. If you want me to wear Converse send down a pair with a gold finish and I will wear them. Tell God I would be willing to leave Eugene if PK shuts down the UO Foundation money laundromat and retracts the legacy gift. On the embedded RG Emerald board issue notice how the RG editor comments today(Saturday) fail to mention Rob Moseley’s Emerald involvement. Not a big deal but it is related to the subject matter of the column . Maybe they just forgot about his dual role ? Anyway there is plenty related to the dumb invention called “smart clothes” in the favorites section at the link I provided. I wish Nike were a shoe company……unfortunately they are a “experience” company/religion . I would categorize their goals as having some similiar interests as the movement known as the Transhumanists. The Transhumanists are a bit weird because their goals include using technology to live forever (or at least until age 250 or so) or other things like downloading themselves into a supercomputer. I have oversimplified them a bit but that is basically what they are about. The Nike “altitude house” in colorado has a certain Transhumanism-lite quality to it. If Nike athletes need that competitive edge they should get on a plane and head to the mountains instead of sleeping in weird chambers like Michael Jackson. That is my opinion. That opinion has also been shared by some in the World Anti Doping Association (WADA) too in the past. Did you see the University of Washington students report on stalkers and the Nike Ipod ? If you didn’t you might find it interesting.

  6. Betz says:

    Nike could only DREAM of putting gps and video / sound monitors in your shoes. Trust me … I was intern at their WHQ in 2007. While they did a very fine job of marketing and creating great shoes (I picked up 5 different pairs that summer … the most shoes I’ve ever had at any point in time), these people had a hard enough time managing their email. They were more interested in the summer wine sale and their thirsty thursday events on the soccer green than they were in some creepy fascist technocracy you describe.

    Personally, while the iPod shoes (Nike +) are pretty cool, my favorites that I own are the 3.0 ‘s. If you’ve never seen them before, they will blow your mind. Its a lightweight shoe designed to be as close to barefoot as possible … helps athletes in training strengthen their feet. The entire thing can be rolled up like a spicey tuna roll. Sometimes I forget that I’m wearing shoes … they feel like a thick sock.

    Totally beats the pants off of socks and sandals…

  7. Saint Hubbins says:

    Tis I, Saint Hubbins, patron Saint of quality footwear. Zaaaaach heaven is not so happy with you. I made it clear to the other Angels and Saints that in order to enjoy paradise your feet must be comfortable shoe. I recommend Nike and Converse, however the “big man” likes to show of in his original Air Jordan I’s. Listen here Zachary, the time has come to change your ways. Be rid of those horrible flip-flops and disgusting, dirty feet. Put on a pair of chuck taylors, Nike makes them now. Please make us all happier by shutting up and putting on some fresh kicks.


    Saint Hubbins

  8. Ossie says:

    Did anyone read the latest statement on the Ol’ Dirty’s website? It’s a pretty crappy rant if I’ve ever read one.

    After this current tissy blows over, the ODE will go back to being a mediocre student magazine posing as a newspaper. Hopefully, the newsroom staff will take this as a sign it needs to rethink its editorial direction, provide its readers useful and important information on a consistent basis and show its board it deserves the independence it’s crying for. Freedom isn’t free.

    Also, Nike is in cahoots with none other than Saint Hubbins, the patron saint of quality footwear.

  9. nike urbanism duk says:

    If you have any doubts about neo fascist governance of UO they can de easily settled here:

  10. nike urbanism duk says:

    Betz, Is it okay if I track you with GPS 24/7 with your I pod shoes ? You will always be safe that way. Your life can be recorded always . The techno-utopia dream world is within our grasp. Just buy some 200 dollars slave made smart shoes and we can all link together in a global network. It will be the next best thing since the Heavens Gate movement…..we all know what those visionaries were wearing for the pursuit of that comet don’t we ?

  11. Vincent says:

    I saw a broadsheet copy of this editorial posted on the bulletin board in the Bookstore. I assume it’s posted elsewhere around campus?

    In any case, good call on that.

  12. Vincent says:

    Nike put a worm into Bono

  13. Jan says:

    Damn them and their physical-activity-enhancing ways!

  14. […] warmed relations between us and our staunchest critics, the staff of the Oregon Commentator. Their excellent piece in support of us brought tears to our eyes. Their solidarity in refusing to produce content during […]

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