The specter of Neil Goldschmidt hovered over last week's endorsement interviews for the editors of the East Oregonian Publishing Company's newspapers.

The interviews for Attorney General, Secretary of State and Treasurer candidates were salted in the middle of a day of pro and con interviews on the six ballot measures all voters will face when ballots arrive in the mail Oct. 16.

The process of having the company's newspaper editors in one room at a hotel in Portland and having contestants interview together is a model approach that promises efficiency. It is very difficult to get candidates, individually much less in tandems, to places such as Enterprise, John Day or Pendleton. Astoria is not much easier.

After the interviews were completed, 50 minutes for each race, 10 hours of interviewing, each newspaper was left to go home and craft its own position in terms of recommending a choice to readers.

The statewide candidates in Oregon are running races on merits and issues. Missing is the rancor and vitriol we're seeing in some states and some national races - even in some local races.

And when the question of how former Gov. Goldschmidt's fall has marked all public officials, the six candidates interviewed last Thursday were careful not to turn that question around on the newspaper people across the table.

Just how does CBS and Dan Rather's amateurish reporting affect all of us who report on public affairs? Just how damaging is it when a "reporter" of national prominence abandons his experience and basic training and rushes to air bogus information without a clue?

It's pretty damaging no matter how careful you might be in your own world.

No matter how strict your ethics may be, as a state official in Oregon you get a different look since Goldschmidt's exposure. How did you not know? Were you part of the cover-up when you worked with him? Are any of you innocent if Goldschmidt is not?

The same kinds of questions can be expected by reporters and editors in the wake of Rather's confession.

One of the many things that marks journalism as a bit different from other endeavors and careers is that the journalist potentially shows his worst work to his best customer. There are no "second tries" in writing. A misspelled word in print is the writer's. An error in fact is the writer's. They happen because writers are as capable of a brain fart as the next human, but the journalist shows his to his readers.

But if you were going with a story about the president of the United States during a very close election, wouldn't you make sure your tradecraft was impeccable? Rather didn't. And neither did his editors at CBS.

Rush to be first or personal ideology makes no difference here. He blew it, and all of us in the media will suffer for a time.

Most of the people who accuse newspapers and individual journalists of twisting the truth or spinning stories are really revealing what they would do, without appropriate training and obligations, if they were in the position to do it.

Others just can't conceive of an honest opinion different from their own.

But now, thanks to Dan Rather's inflated ego and CBS's deflated editing process, those critics have a new charge that the rest of the media will have to live through just as Oregon's elected state leaders are living through Goldschmidt's legacy.

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