Mass communication Professors Brad Thompson and Lisa Weidman weighed in on a recent story about Portland Metro practices. Metro hired a reporter to cover the tri-county regional government, said The Oregonian in a front-page story.
Since September, the Metro government reporter has written dozens of articles that appear on the agency’s website.
It’s an unusual and, to some, a troubling arrangement. Reporting on government is a big part of the news media’s self-appointed watchdog role, and it’s suspect for government to cover itself.
Linfield media experts believe Metro is blurring the line that separates journalism from public relations. The arrangement raises questions about how and where we get our news.
“This guy knows where he’s getting his paycheck from,” says Brad Thompson, mass communication department chair. “He’s not going to say something time after time that gets him in trouble. Really, I don’t think this is ultimately as independent as they would like it to appear to be.”
Lisa Weidman, a public relations professor at Linfield, says the disclaimer accompanying Christensen’s articles is “either misleading or confusing” and ought to be removed.
“An organization’s website is by nature a marketing and public relations tool,” she says. “It’s an interesting strategy, but they’re really crossing some borders.”