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Oregon Small Town Journalism Shines

This story contains a little classic American newspaper humor and a lot of classic American newspaper heart.  It all began when the editor of the Coquille Valley Sentinel discovered that a seemingly mundane story turned out to have legs.  There was more about it than first met the eye.  We loved the piece and put it on our AroundOregon news page.  The editor of the Cottage Grove Sentinel saw the piece in the magazine and decided to use it to remind his own staff that hidden in some standard journalistic fare there are stories of great importance to the community.  

Oregon Magazine contends that some of the finest editorial reporting and analysis done in this state takes place in regions distant from chrome and concrete Portland.  Far out there where the elk and the antelope play, where coastal fogs blanket towns with twenty buildings, where wild mustangs still roam free, are small newspapers staffed by people of suberb professional ability.

So, the email reproduced below is about an article one small paper did, and the use another small paper made of it.  The truth of it resides in the simple fact that both of these papers are edited by people who are very good at what they do.  They may have the great fortune to live in small town Oregon, but they do their job like they turn out the Washington, D.C. Times.  Enthusiastic, hard-nosed pros in places sans traffic jams, usually unheralded, they are the very core of American journalism.   For what it's worth, they have the admiration of the editors of this publication.

From: Oregon Magazine
TO: Janet Richardson of the Coquille Valley Sentinel 
RE: A note received from Finn J. John of the Cottage Grove Sentinel. (In italics, below) 
ABOUT:  Coquille Hospital Administrator article 

Hey Larry, I haven't thanked you yet for bringing to my attention the 
Coquille Valley Sentinel's ass-kicking job on the hospital  administrator. I printed that story  out and passed it around to my whole newsroom: Here's something to remember next time you're bitching about doing a boring story like "Welcome new hospital administrator!" It could turn out to be huge. 


Oregon Magazine: Richardson's work was a classic piece of investigative journalism. Sam Spade as a reporter.  And, Finn?  Can't you just see him in a classic 40's black and white film about a big city newspaper?  The news room is an ear-rattling din of teletype machines and ringing phones. Over there is the cynical old reporter in his snap-brim hat, his trench coat flopped over one corner of his desk.  He reaches inside a top drawer and retrieves a pint of whiskey.  Pulling a swig from it, he looks at Finn and says, "This isn't a city, it's a war zone.  There are more crooks at City Hall than there are in the state penitentiary."
    The diva with the giant hat, the society reporter at the next desk, says, "And they were all at the opening of the symphony season."
    The young, naive fellow, fresh out of J-school, slams down his phone, looks at all of them and says, "Some old guy in a retirement home crawled into a box and mailed himself to a movie star!"
    Finn, without removing the fat cigar stump from his mouth, growls and says, "If you people wanted nice, clean work, you should have gone into advertising.  Now cut the crap and get me stories!"

God bless the founding fathers for the First Amendment, Gutenberg for the printing press and small town Oregon editors for the tales of our times. (LL)

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