Journalistic Negligence At ‘The Oregonian’

Yesterday for The Oregonian, Joe Freeman penned an advertorial for Portland International Raceway, a 2,000-word uncritical hagiography.


“This is bigger than just a race in North Portland,” Jim Etzel, the CEO of SportOregon, said. “We’re just starting to scratch the surface of what races can be from an economic impact, and we have an opportunity to establish these races as part of our sports calendar. That’s what’s exciting to me. When it’s race weekend, the whole city knows and benefits. People take trips downtown, they check out places around the city. It’s kind of like it was back in the day in the ‘80s, when Champ would roll into town. It was a show. It was a big deal.”


The one-of-a-kind track quickly gained a reputation for photo finishes and fun races. That, combined with the picturesque Northwest setting, distinguished it from more traditional venues and made it a prized stop for the top drivers of that era, including the Andrettis, the Unsers, Bobby Rahal, Danny Sullivan and Sebastien Bourdais. All the while, Pacific Northwesterners embraced the excitement, flocking annually from as far north as Vancouver, B.C., and as far south as California.

You’d never know from Freeman’s free sponcon that there’s any opposition to the raceway, let alone substantial, and has been for some time.

Coincidentally, published the same day for The Guardian was Emma Pattee and Stuart Henigson‘s look at the dangerous lead levels in adjacent neighborhoods.

Based on the research, the Guardian calculated that third graders – students aged eight or nine – who have grown up within two miles of Portland International Raceway could experience more than a six-percentage point decline in their standardized test scores.

The city doesn’t care:

The city of Portland – which owns and operates the track – does not share this conclusion. It has rebuffed years of calls by residents to address the lead emissions. In response to the Guardian’s findings, it said: “Portland Parks & Recreation’s highest priority is public safety by following the guidance of public health and environmental protection agencies.”


In October 2022, residents of North Portland appeared before the Portland city council, asking them to ban the use of leaded gasoline at Portland International Raceway. In January, the Kenton Neighborhood Association met with Dan Ryan, the new commissioner in charge of the parks bureau. When the Guardian reached out to Ryan for comment, his office said: “The city takes public safety very seriously and works diligently to comply with all public health and environmental protection regulations, and we will continue to do so.”

Maybe there’d be more concern on the part of city officials if the important news appeared in our newspaper of record instead of in The Guardian. Surely there’s room for it amongst 2,000 words of marketing for a city-owned business.