Two months ago, standing on stage at the Aladdin Theater, Nick Fish went about dismantling his opponent's endorsement received from The Oregonian. A candidate for city council, Fish was attending the Oregon Bus Project's "Candidates Gone Wild" forum. When asked about the newspaper's endorsement of Sam Adams, Fish explained that only nine percent of voters are even aware of The Oregonian's opinion--and, of that group, half vote in accordance with the endorsement; the other half, he said, actually vote against the endorsement. He then threw his hands up, as if to say, "Does it really matter?"

But it does. Although voters may not flock behind The Oregonian's candidate endorsements, media watchers are adamant that newspapers' editorials are a major force in shaping public opinion--which is why a recent series of unsigned editorials in the state's largest newspaper are of particular concern.

Instead of doling out well-reasoned opinion pieces that are rooted in fact, recent Oregonian editorials have been filled with hot-air claims, fear-mongering and convoluted logic. (This, of course, is my opinion--but at least it's well-reasoned.)

Two weeks ago, for example, after Massachusetts began permitting same-sex marriages, The Oregonian's editorial board ran a piece opining that our state should support civil unions over same-sex marriage, claiming the latter choice would only cause civil strife. "(T)he idea of same-sex marriage," explains the editorial, "leaves [the] majority feeling uneasy, ambivalent, fearful--and pushed. Which means they will likely push back."

This assertion, that the majority will backlash against same-sex marriages, is--at best--a shaky premise that's dangerous and irresponsible.

According to Bob Caldwell, the editorial page editor, the information on which their opinion was based came from a widely circulated Pew Forum survey. But the Pew poll does not say that same-sex marriages leave anyone feeling "fearful" and "pushed."

What the study does say is that 68 percent surveyed do not support same-sex marriage; of that group, 45 percent found it morally or religiously wrong. Fearful? Pushed? Those words were never used in the poll or given as answers. Moreover, while 56 percent said that gay marriage would undermine the traditional family, 54 percent of the same group thinks that gay or lesbian couples can be good parents. Does that sound fearful?

Such loose regard for facts pulls community dialogue away from reality, and into the sphere of pure conjecture. Such misrepresentation can set the wrong tone for our state legislature to make correct and wise decisions.

Hiding behind the tradition of unsigned editorials, The Oregonian makes an even more unsettling choice in their opinion piece--twisting the language so as to be perceived as a friend of civil rights.

"Wouldn't it be better if we were debating civil unions right now--an idea that many Americans have learned to embrace?" posits the editorial. The editorial goes on to explain that Vermont adopted civil unions four years ago with a great deal of strife and bickering. But now, explains the editorial, civil unions seem like no big deal. Their point being that Oregon could adopt civil unions without much controversy.

But the comforting logic here is nothing more than smoke and mirrors. The Oregonian's message is clear: Oregon should not be a leader in civil rights, but should let other states blaze the trail for us. Oregon was one of the last states to roll back a ban on interracial marriages. Now, four decades later, residents in Oregon still point to that johnny-come-lately decision as evidence that racism is deeply rooted in the state.

For better or worse, newspapers lead public discussions and influence legislative decisions. Oregon residents should demand more accountability, responsibility, and truth from a newspaper that bears our state's name.