Wednesday, September 12, 2007

12. Open Letter to the Editors of Willamette Week

Portland Ron Paul Meetup group welcomes its newest member
(From left to right) Manuel, Alyssa, Steve M., Nadia, Ryan, that new guy,
Karen, some fella managing a crisis, Karl, Scott

"Modern journalism justifies its own existence by the great Darwininian principle of the survival of the vulgarest."
- Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

"A newswriter is a man without virtue, who writes lies at home for his own profit. To these compositions is required neither genius nor knowledge, neither industry nor sprightliness; but contempt of shame and indifference to truth are absolutely necessary."
- Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

As many of you know, the Portland Ron Paul Meetup group holds four weekly "Banner Brigades" across town during rush hour. At last Wednesday's event, a reporter for Willamette Week (our local, weekly circular) dropped in to interview the attendees. Click here for the online version of the article, which also appeared in the print version of Willamette Week.

Needless to say, local Ron Paul supporters were mighty displeased with the product. So this evening, I sent the following e-mail to the reporter and Willamette Week's editors.

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September 12, 2007

Mr. Zusman, Mr. Gillingham, and Mr. Leonard: Below, you will find my 'Letter to the Editor' regarding Mr. Leonard's article on Ron Paul in today's Willamette Week. An unfinished version with linked sources is posted in the online Comments section of the article (see

QUESTION: This evening, I've read more than 25 responses from Ron Paul supporters regarding today's article by Mr. Leonard. With few exceptions (including myself, at this point), these people believe it was something of a 'hit piece' intended to de-legitimize and undermine Dr. Paul's campaign. They primarily base this conclusion on the following points:
  1. The article's title of "Ron Co." is an apparent play on Ronco, a company perceived by many as a purveyor of cheesy infomercials, gimmicks, and cheap products -- a negative association.

  2. The article's dismissal of Ron Paul's chances, along with an interesting selection of quotes that convey the idea that even Dr. Paul's supporters think "he has no chance" (not true). While the 'no-chance' mantra is standard boilerplate in conventional media stories on Ron Paul, it's not something I expected to see in Willamette Week.

  3. Of the included quotes, one was taken out of context (Karl Huber's), and all were selected for use over substantive quotes regarding Ron Paul's track record, platform, and character -- I know because I spoke only of such topics in my time with Mr. Leonard. People participate in our group's activities because of their support for the ideas championed by Dr. Paul -- not because they see the Meetup as a social or singles club, which is the demeaning gist of your article. (Note: Mr. Huber's comment was a reference to the fact that Dr. Paul's supporters are not centrally organized or directed, but rather self-organizing and self-directed).

  4. The article failed to mention that Mr. Leonard witnessed many positive reactions to our signs, while including the comment that, "Most motorists whizzed past, though there was an occasional driver flipping the bird." This statement not only misrepresents what happened during Mr. Leonard's visit with us, it also implies that our 'Banner Brigades' fail to prompt any positive responses from motorists. (Far
    from the case - see below for further details.)
One person summed it up by saying that the piece "is a deliberate and uncharitable falsification of what the reader's neighbors think. Politics is perception, and the author intentionally and willfully lied to create in the reader the impression that most of the reader's neighbors are hostile to Ron Paul. The intent can only have been to suggest that the reader, too, should adopt that posture. At least, I can't think of any other possible motivation."

In Mr. Leonard's defense, I don't know how much of the piece was his work, and how much was the result of the editing process -- and it's quite possible that some of the article's shortcomings were simply the result of honest error and oversight. So, personally, I'm willing to give Mr. Leonard the benefit of the doubt -- although this piece diminishes my confidence and trust in Willamette Week. Taken as a whole, the preceding points (and those raised below) seem to indicate a lack of concern by Willamette Week for objectivity and accuracy in its reporting.

So my question for you is -- why should Ron Paul supporters trust Willamette Week in the future? What reasons can you give us?

With each passing day, the Ron Paul campaign gains momentum, and its national grassroots base continues to grow. This campaign will continue to be one of the hottest stories of the 2008 presidential race, and our group's activism will continue to make waves locally. Unfortunately, Willamette Week may miss some great opportunities to cover this story, since this article has alienated many of Ron Paul's local supporters -- which means that securing interviews won't be an easy task for your reporters in the future.

If Willamette Week's intent is to sway public opinion against Ron Paul, I suppose that may not trouble you. But if you value journalistic integrity and 'scooping' your competition, you might re-consider your approach.


Scott ...

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September 12, 2007

To the Editor,

I attended the "Banner Brigade" cited in Mr. Leonard's article, and I spent 10-15 minutes speaking with him about Ron Paul's unparalleled Congressional record in opposition to non-defensive US militarism, violations of our civil liberties, and state-corporate cronyism (i.e., Dr. Paul is an unflinching opponent of 'corporate welfare,' and has never voted for any measure that grants a special favor or privilege to corporate interests).

In the early stages of the 2008 presidential race, much of the limited, conventional-media coverage of Dr. Paul's campaign has distorted and misrepresented his views. Consequently, I was concerned that Mr. Leonard might do the same in this initial coverage in Willamette Week. I'm happy to say this concern proved unfounded, as Mr. Leonard's brief statements on Dr. Paul's record and platform are accurate.

However, while Mr. Leonard deserves some credit for this, his article suffers from two shortcomings. First, Mr. Leonard's piece gives the impression that people either ignore our signs or "flip us off," which simply isn't true. I've attended several Banner Brigades to date, and the predominantly positive response has really surprised me. Based on my experience, I estimate that 10-15% of people respond in some way to our signs -- and of those, about 90% are positive, as people wave, honk their horns, give a thumbs up, and/or, yell encouragement out their windows. Mr. Leonard saw many such responses during his visit with us.

Second, the article implies that our activities are an isolated phenomenon, while making no mention of the building, quantifiable wave of national support for Dr. Paul. In addition to Paul's well-documented dominance of the Internet, he:
  1. Consistently draws more people at public appearances than any other Republican candidate,

  2. Has finished in the top three in 17 of the 23 straw polls held as of September 4th (which includes nine first-place finishes),

  3. Has won three of the four post-debate polls run by the hosting network (including text-message polls in which users are prevented from voting multiple times),


  4. Is backed by an unmatched grassroots following, as evidenced by the existence of 886 Ron Paul Meetup groups consisting of over 38,000 members. The next closest candidate, Barack Obama, has only 68 Meetup groups with just over 4,200 members (see

Anyway, Willamette Week and Mr. Leonard, thank you for publishing a mostly fair (albeit somewhat misleading) piece about Dr. Paul and our local efforts in support of his campaign.

Scott Sutton
Portland, Oregon