Hall Monitor 

Beseeching For Mercy

IT'S NO SECRET that Sam Adams' defenders in city hall have long been convinced the Oregonian has it in for the mayor—slamming him more, they believe, than a daily paper just doing its job.

The rationale I hear is that the O is still smarting after getting scooped on the city's holy trinity of scandals: Goldschmidt, Packwood, and Breedlove. That's why, especially since that last one, they say, the paper has taken such an interest in the mayor.

Normally, all that discontent might simmer quietly. But not always. Sometimes, Adams' people are plenty willing to speak up.

Because we find such things interesting, the Mercury obtained a string of emails between Oregonian Editor Peter Bhatia and Adams' chief of staff, Tom Miller. The messages concern a column by Anna Griffin, posted October 12, about the Sellwood Bridge.

In the column, she says Adams was pressured by commissioners to end his snit with Multnomah County—an assertion Miller argues is false. (In fact, Amanda Fritz later lodged the same complaint, publicly, on her blog.) At first, Miller and Bhatia mostly play nice. Miller demands a correction, and Bhatia declines.

Then they play less nice. "No reasonable person would suggest opinion—under any circumstance—is proof," Miller writes back. "Are you sure you want to stand by this decision?"

"Once again you choose to lecture me about journalism values," Bhatia replies. "Your bullying tactics and twisting of what my colleagues say and do does absolutely nothing to advance your arguments."

From there, the thread dissolves into plans for a tête-à-tête the next day that both sides say never happened. The only other interesting nugget is a list of grievances revealing this isn't the first time Adams' office has beefed with the O. Previously, staffers complained about coverage of gang shootings and Chief Mike Reese's decision to dump the police bureau's budget committee. Taken with the Sellwood complaint, it suggests Adams may have some sensitivities about coverage of his job as police commissioner or his dealings with the county.

Bhatia tells me, "There's no agenda there. We're not out to get anybody." His paper's job, he says, "is to be a watchdog for the citizens of Portland."

Did Griffin over-reach? Probably—especially if Fritz is saying so. Are Adams' backers right about the O? Again, probably. But is that so bad? Probably not. It is, after all, a newspaper's sacred duty to fuck with city hall.

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