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Sunday, September 20, 2015

Foyston's Follies and the Imploding Oregonian

John Foyston has left the Oregonian. Rather, he was shown the door over what the paper describes as a breach of journalistic ethics. Hmmm. I'm actually surprised to learn the Big O knows anything about journalistic ethics, but I'll get to that issue in due time.
Foyston foto

In a story published on the Oregon Live website the other day, editor Mark Katches explains why the paper cut ties with Foyston. It's a simple business, really. Foyston lifted passages from press releases and brewery websites and included them in posts without attribution. Very shoddy.

Not to get too far afield, but let me just say that what John did is fairly common among beer bloggers. We get a lot of press releases. Many who blog simply regurgitate these releases on their sites verbatim or with minimal change and without attribution. That's not to say it's okay. It isn't. But it's common.

I've actually talked about the fact that many bloggers are nothing more than shills for the industry. You write friendly stuff and you get free beer. Viola! It gets better. Some hacks write about breweries and events in which they have a financial interest as if they're objective observes. That's the virtual black hole of beer writing. But never mind.

I make no excuses for Foyston, And neither does he. In a Facebook post, he took responsibility for errors in judgement. There was a mitigating circumstance in the case of the piece that got him axed, but nothing excuses the pattern of lapses described by Katches.

In case you're wondering, and you should be wondering, I've known John for five or so years and consider him a friend. He's your prototypical nice guy and also a renaissance man,..a painter, writer, musician, motorcycle mechanic and more.

More to the point, Foyston is easily the most read beer writer in Portland. He built a following over the years by updating readers on the local scene and storytelling. John knows everyone in the industry and is much beloved, partly because he doesn't write critical pieces.

The riff between John and the Oregonian is bizarre. Sure he violated the rules of journalism, apparently more than once. But why sever ties with the area's most renowned beer writer? Why not issue a firm reprimand and move on?

The answer is simple enough. The Big O has been in deep decline for many years. As Jeff Alworth suggests in his take on this mess, out-of-state owners mostly botched efforts to join the digital revolution. With print in free fall, they have been hemorrhaging cash hand over fist.

As a result, they've been dumping senior level talent as a way to stay afloat. If you wonder why the paper's content is wafer thin, look no further than the fact that they no longer have the people to investigate and report. Talk about a lapse in journalistic integrity.

Foyston spent 28 years with the paper. He suffered the indignity of being demoted from staffer to free lancer as the Oregonian began to circle the drain a while ago. He bit the bullet and carried on. That's the kind of guy he is.

It wasn't a match made in heaven, that's for sure. For that last few years, Foyston has been writing blog posts and occasionally for print, essentially loaning his name and following to the Oregonian in exchange for next to nothing.

You might say dumping Foyston says a lot more about the paper than it says about him. The big shots probably think they have or can easily find someone who will write flashier copy and better click bait for the website and social media. That's the way of the digital world these days.

But you really can't replace a guy like Foyston. No one has his connections or his depth of knowledge. As one of my media friends quipped, "John's replacement won't even know which press releases to copy and paste." Pretty funny, but sadly true.

Foyston was one of the few bright spots at the Big O. His columns drew traffic to the clunky Oregon Live website and kept some reading the decrepit print version. Getting rid of him was a dumb move. He can write for anyone now and his readers will follow.

It won't take long for the paper to realize it needed John more than he needed them. But fading media outlets are prone to dumb moves like this. Oh well. Time moves on.


  1. Yeah, it's the Oregonian's fault. Shit-ass newspaper, sure, but Foyston is a lazy-ass plagiarist and gets what's coming---and he knows it.

  2. "John's replacement won't even know which press releases to copy and paste."


Keep it civil, please.