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Posts published in August 2008

After the paper

After a community's newspaper is shut down, what's the community to do? Here, another effort to set up a community web site - a blog, mainly - to help take the place.

We wrote a while back about the effort in Orting, Washington, after the weekly newspaper there was shuttered - the on-line Orting News, which includes a mix of hard news, features, business reports and more, with a fair number of ads in support.

After our post about the shutdown of a number of papers (four weeklies among them) recently in Idaho's Magic Valley, a reader advised us to take "a look at what Marsha Hiatt took upon herself to do after the Journal was closed down" in the small community of Shoshone. We'll pass along the advice.

The Lincoln County Chatter blog - it is mainly blog - is so far less ad-developed than the Orting site, but its sense of purpose is just as solid: A mix of news (a substantial story on the county budget, for example), features, light community discussion and more, ith several ads cropping up. Hiatt was the editor of the Lincoln County Journal when it was closed, and since then, she told us, she has continued much of the work of a weekly paper onto the new site.

Hiatt said she'd still like to see a local (print) paper at Shoshone, and has some optimism that, managed right, it might work. In any event, she's carrying on the effort now on line. We'll be checking in there, as we have at Orting, to see how it progresses. All those communities out there left behind by newspapers are going to need journalism coming from somewhere, and these examples are worth a close look as we all search for answers.

The Kempthorne papers

The governors of Idaho have long been prompt about making their gubernatorial papers available for the historical record. Idaho's most recent ex-governor, Jim Risch, turned over his papers right away - no fussing and no excuses for delay. But his predecessor, Dirk Kempthorne, has yet to do that, and for a while was talking about keeping them sealed for 25 years before the public (for whom he worked, which paid for the development of those records) could see them.

What could be in them to justify all that?

Maybe we'll start to get some answers this fall. News today is that Kempthorne now is working out arrangement for transfer of the records to the Idaho Historical Society, which would be a good custodian.

Some assessment and organization time will be needed before they're all released. Here's hoping that's a lot less than 25 years, and hopefully less time than since Kempthorne left office (about two years ago).

The importance of Pierce

From time to time, we've suggested that Pierce County, because of the relatively close partisan split there and the substantial number of swing voters, is one of the political keys to Washington (much as Washington County is in Oregon).

There's a useful piece on just this today in the Tacoma News Tribune, pointing out how both main gubernatorial candidates have been visiting Pierce with a vengeance:

"In the span of a few days in July, [Democratic Governor Chris] Gregoire launched a Puget Sound boat tour in Tacoma, greeted Washington National Guard soldiers returning from Iraq, addressed teachers at a Tacoma convention and broke ground on a pedestrian overpass at Chambers Creek Properties in University Place. [Republican challenger Dino] Rossi visited the area four times in June, then returned for a Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Puyallup last month. He kicked off August with a Lakewood fundraiser on Friday."

ID: Papers going away

The city of Burley, which has had a daily newspaper for somewhere around a century and at least one local paper longer than that, will not for much longer. The South Idaho Press will publish for the last time on August 16.

In Jerome, the North Side News, the latest in a series of Jerome paper stretching way back, will publish its last edition on August 14. The Gooding County Leader, with a similarly long history, will come to an end on the same day.

We make a point here of putting it this way specifically because the Twin Falls Times News leads its story on the changes this way: "South-central Idaho will have a new, expanded newspaper consolidating all features of the Times-News, the South Idaho Press and weekly newspapers in the region . . ." The point of view, in other words, of a corporation trying to pitch the sale to subscribers.

Not that an argument against what Lee Enterprises, which owns all of these papers (at Twin Falls, Burley, Gooding and Jerome - and previously the papers at Rupert and Shoshone shut down earlier this year), is doing would be especially easy to make. At least from a business standpoint. These are tough newspaper times. The circulation at Jerome and Gooding, according to the Times News, was only about 600 each - very difficult to sustain. Is there a reasonable journalistic argument for folding what was a year ago two daily and four weekly newspapers into just one daily? In terms of resource allocation, sure, you can make the case. It may be that, as a practical business matter, it was unavoidable.

The abrupt loss of so many editorial voices, which not so many years ago were operated by various owners who liked to say all sorts of different things, is nonetheless a tragedy. No matter how new, expanded and consolidated, or even improved, the Times News may turn out to be.

The legitimate, and the hatemongers

The ever-shifting field if political communications could give the fits to a student of advanced geometry, but one comment about it this week calls out for a little review.

The comment grew out of reaction to a video posted on 43rd State Blues, a Democratic-supporting group blog; it showed Lieutenant Governor (and Republican Senate nominee) Jim Risch speaking, with his voice speeded up to a whine, and with a dunce hat added. (We don't note it on every Senate-related post but will here: Your scribe worked on the 2002 campaign of a candidate who ran against Risch.)

We couldn't find Risch's personal comments, but his son Jason (who works on the Senate campaign) offered this by way of explanation to Idaho Statesman blogger Kevin Richert: "(Jim Risch) draws a very distinct line between legitimate media and the bloggers that are left-wing hatemongers . . . The blogging done by legitimate media sources are not in the same category as the left-wing hatemongers. He considers the legitimate media, legitimate — regardless of the medium used to convey news."

What we'll note here is the dichotomy: Legitimate media and "left-wing hatemongers" with "a very distinct line between." That distinct line suggests that you're on one side of the divide or on the other. Trying to work out who falls where could make for quite a parlor game. We consider Ridenbaugh Press, for example, entirely legitimate and not in the business of hatemongering. Is the legitimate media legitimized by operating in a pre-Internet medium? By large-scale corporate ownership, as most newspapers and television and radio stations now are? Or something else? Or do some blogs (other than those under the aegis of "legitimate media sources") qualify?

What would the Risches make of Adam Graham, a conservative Republican who has been a counterpart to 43rd State Blues and its allies? He is a partisan on the right much as those others are on the left; using the Risch standards, would a Democrat have grounds for calling Graham a hatemonger? (And no, we would not call that reasonable, for the same reasons we think the term is ill-applied to all but a very few places on the left.)

The problem with such simple dichotomies, when you talk about political communications these days, is that it's not an either-or, not jut this or that, but a whole range, a spectrum. Even among the liberal or conservative blogs - those explicitly so - you'll find a wide range of efforts, some focused to a degree on news and breaking information, others focusing on putting ideas and opinion into the mix. And others heading into altogether different directions.

It's getting complex out there.

CLARIFICATION Received this from one of the bloggers that started the whole discussion: "The voice wasn't speeded up, it was pitched up. Also, it's not a dunce hat, it's a gnome's cap. As in, Angry Gnome Risch."

Issues on ballot

There's a tendency these days to group Oregon statewide ballot issues by their political godfathers - these are the Sizemores, these the Mannixes, and so on. There's some usefulness in that, in working out motivations among other things. But the approach can obscure the substance at had.

This year's Oregon measures number 54 through 65, a dozen that span less subject area this time than you might think. Three would amend the state constitution. Let's divide them this way: The emotional issues versus the non-hot button.

Four of them, including all of the proposed constitutional amendments (concerning school finance elections, property tax voting majorities and legislative reapportionment) are elections oriented. Within the political community, these are sure to be the subject of lots of interest, but in the broader voting community, probably not so much.

However. We can see at least three hot-button topics lying in wait.

You want to immigration debate? Got you covered with Measure 58 (this one's a Sizemore), which bans teaching any language other than English in schools for more than two years - structured within its language as an "English immersion" measure.

Taxes your thing? Measure 59 (another Sizemore) would create an "unlimited" deduction for federal taxes paid within the Oregon income tax (and shooting a big hole in state budgeting).

Worried about crime? You will be after the advertising for Measure 61 (this one' a Mannix), setting up another batch of mandatory minimum sentences. This one could generate some of the hottest debate since it comes complete with an alternative version, prepared by the Oregon Legislature (Measure 57).

The measures are about to go mainstream. We'll return to them soon.