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Posts published in “Year: 2012”

Will the Oregonian remain a daily?

So here's a question the executives at the Oregonian ought to answer sooner rather than later, if they want to do right by a community that relies on them:

Will the Portland Oregonian end 2013 as a daily newspaper?

There's been persistent chatter that it won't, that it will be cut back, maybe to three days a week, and the staff may be cut by something like a third - a massive transformation, even after the many slices and dices of recent years. If the people at Advance Publications are planning to do something like that, they owe it to their readers, advertisers and other economic and social partners to say so before it becomes a fait accompli (assuming it isn't already), to allow for some feedback, alternatives and suggestions.

This isn't idle rumor or speculation. There's plenty in the recent record to give cause to, at least, wonder.

Advance Publications, based in New York and owned mainly by the wealthy Newhouse family (the papers in the group used to be known as Newshouse Newspapers), traditionally has done relatively well by the newspapers it owns, giving them some flexibility and allowing many of them to become as successful journalistically as economically. The Oregonian has been (my view) for years the best paper overall in the Northwest, doing more things better than anyone else. (The O is Advance's only daily in the Northwest.)

The economic climate, and the hard hits to the newspaper industry, have hit Advance as much as other newspaper companies. The company has owned eight daily newspapers, generally small in size, and in 2009 cut them all to three or four times a week, with commensurate big staff cuts; the move was called "digital first" by corporate.

This year the New Orleans Times-Picayune, a 175-year-old institution, was hacked down from daily to thrice a week. (The news was broken by the New York Times, not by the paper itself.) An article in a Cleveland publication by a former Times-Picayune reporter recounted how "The following four-and-a-half months were a blur of protests, rallies, petitions, letter-writing campaigns and yard signs. The New Orleans Saints billionaire owner Tom Benson offered the buy the newspaper, while everyone from liberal actor Ed Asner (TV’s newspaper editor "Lou Grant") to conservative suburban Congressman David Vitter publicly condemned the changes. But Advance was unmoved. “We have no intention of selling, no matter how much noise there is out there,” Advance.net Chairman Steven Newhouse declared to The New York Times in mid-June. About 30% of the newspaper’s total staff was cut, including almost one-half of its newsroom. Beginning Oct. 1, the previously daily newspaper began being printed on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays."

The same thing happened about the same time, to less widespread note, to Advance's three dailies in Alabama, at Mobile Huntsville and Birmingham.

Cleveland was interested because its daily paper, the Plain Dealer, is also an Advance paper, and is going through ... changes. They are large scale, and seem to be falling into the "digital first" pattern.

Rebecca Theim, the New Orleans reporter, outlined the pattern to observe in Cleveland, starting with: "Yes, you know something bad is coming, but The Plain Dealer’s management still has a lot of sensitive and emotional decisions to make, including who will be fired and who will be spared, when it will happen and how everyone will be told. Based on the New Orleans experience, expect off-site, super-secret meetings from which employees — even those not in attendance — may end up divining their own fates."

So, yes: Is the Oregonian on the chopping block?

Or is Portland's journalistic future going to be crafted behind closed doors as it was in New Orleans and is in Cleveland? Resolution for 2013: Don't let that happen.

Briefing pic of the week

briefing pic
TREES ON US 2: Falling trees laden with heavy snow and ice create hazardous conditions on US 2. (Photo/Washington Department of Transportation)

 
This week's front cover from the Washington Weekly Briefing. It seemed timely, as snow is actually falling outside where we are (just south of Washington).

10 sorta, semi-predictions for Idaho in 2013

idahocolumnn

Some highly hedged predictions (observations anyway) about Idaho 2013 …

1. As legislators hit the Statehouse, the health insurance exchange urged by Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter looks like Topic A. Best guess now is that they pass something that Otter would approve - but make that a highly hedged bet. There'll be plenty of pressure as well to re-up nullification efforts from sessions past; there's a strong never-say-die element. Topic B: A partial Luna Law resurrection.

2. No gun-related legislation this year, other than reaffirming more guns in more places.

3. The 2014 governor's race should take on clearer contours by the end of 2013. By then, incumbent C.L. “Butch” Otter ought to – fellow Republicans will insist - clarify whether he's on the ballot once again. He has said he plans to run, but there are reasons for saying that (political strength, fundraising, etc.) that may not translate to ballot status. A year from now, we should know who the major candidates are and aren't. Note: An Otter candidacy doesn't necessarily preclude a primary challenge.

4. Don't expect other major non-incumbent candidates to surface during the year (unlike most recent off-years). Apart from the governor's race, 2014 isn't looking very exciting in Idaho.

5. But: Better than even odds another fairly high profile ballot issue, on some topic, arises for 2014. Non-conservatives had their biggest statewide win in many a moon in 2012 with the ouster of the three legislative “Luna laws.” There'd be a lot of political sense in going back to the electorate to challenge other things the Idaho Legislature may do next session, whatever those might be.

6. There are no partisan general elections in Idaho in 2013, but cities will be electing. One of the most interesting contests could be in Pocatello, where in 2009 Brian Blad came out of nowhere to defeat incumbent Roger Chase. What kind of opposition will he draw this time? Watch too the city races in Coeur d'Alene, where an emotional ideological battle in 2012led to a (failed) recall effort, and is likely to yield hard-fought, even bitter, races for some of those same offices in 2013.

7. A correspondent points out that in the coming year, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals likely will decide whether the Idaho Roadless Rule stands or falls. He suggests: “If it stays it becomes a success story in collaboration with the support of some conservation groups like Trout Unlimited and the Idaho Conservation League. ... If the 9th Circuit strikes it down the victory goes to the Wilderness Society and the Greater Yellowstone Coalition who were hold outs and did not want to work with the state on a state-based rule.” Real poliltical implications could emerge from all that.

8. Looks like a pretty good water year. As 2012 ended, every one of Idaho's water basins had above-average snowpack (the Little Wood River was at 172 percent of normal accumulation). As 2011 ended, most of Idaho's river basins were below-average; the Weiser River area, for example, was at 72 percent.

9. Chances are good that the Snake River Basin Adjudication may actually wrap up this year: As 2012 ends, it's getting close. In the context of big water adjudications, that would be a speedy success.

10. Overall in the change department: Don't expect a lot to shatter the earth. Idaho is not likely to be a great deal different as it approaches 2014.

How much change in 2013?

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

As a nation, it would seem the best we can say about the year 2012 is “It’s over.” I doubt few of us will recall it fondly. But the problem is it doesn’t look like 2013 is going to be much different.
I don’t recall another 12 month period during my long lifetime that whip-sawed this country so completely – top to bottom – as did 2012.
Few of us have escaped being touched by events – being shaken by some – disgusted by some – traumatized by others. It’s been an emotional year. It’s been a time when the direction of this country was fundamentally changed forever. Even our weather seemed to repeatedly conspire against us.

Perhaps the largest change – one easily documented – has been a recognition by most of us in 2012 that we’re no longer a white, Anglo-Saxon majority nation – that the racial pot simmering for the last 200 years has finally boiled over and we’ve become a multiple ethnic stew. Evidence is everywhere. From our city streets to corporations to our nation’s presidency. We’re a nation of color – of different languages – of different traditions. That should be a good thing in a nation in which all of us are – or are descended from – immigrants.

But, in 2012, for some unexplained reason, this has come as a shock to a lot of folks. Maybe that should read “frightening shock.” Bigotry that used to be whispered is now shouted from the front pages. Acts of racial bigotry in some of our nation’s legislative bodies have resulted in laws attempting to stop non-white citizens from voting – from qualifying for government assistance – from receiving health care. Some things they’re trying to legislate out of existence are freedoms going back to the end of the Civil War and the adoption of civil rights and voting right laws of the ‘60′s.

In those states and elsewhere, we’re seeing fear on a scale larger than ever before as millions of citizens clean out the shelves at gun stores and arm themselves against some sort of perceived threat from people who look “different.” Homes that have never seen a gun are being turned into arsenals. Requests for permits to carry concealed weapons are at an all-time high. And you can bet the farm thousands and thousands more people are simply keeping a gun within reach – law or no law – permit or no permit.

Mass killings are no longer rare. We’ve got ‘em regularly in shopping malls – elementary schools – movie theaters – college campuses – city streets – police stations – neighborhoods – doctor’s offices – roller rinks – high schools – play grounds – churches. There’s no sanctuary. There’s no city – no town – no place safe from armed destruction of human life. And we’re doing nothing. Not in 2012. Since 20 children were cut down in Newtown, Conn., Dec. 14, more than 280 Americans have been killed. By guns.

Also in 2012, while that esteemed private enterprise politicians delight in talking about was beginning to restore our national economy, those same politicians spent much of the year doing their damndest to kill it. With one manmade crisis after another – ignorant attacks on government – personal political savagery directed at a president of mixed color – roadblocks deliberately placed to stop lawful efforts by those trying to solve issues – we’ve got a Congress actually undermining our way of life.

It’s also a Congress that’s turned its back on its own constituency and the majority instructions issued by that constituency in November elections. In 2012, we’ve found “representative government” is not that at all. We’ve told ourselves for 200 years those we elect “serve at the will of the people.” In 2012, more than any other time, we’ve found that is not true. The difference is influence in the hands of a few. The difference is money and terribly gerrymandered congressional districts.

We’re continuing an undeclared war for which there is no victory – only more killing until an artificial end date on the calendar in a year or two. We’re continuing to throw treasure and young lives into a bottomless pit for no national goal – with no rational meaning. Who will we send to be the last to die? And for what? (more…)

What next for Idaho public schools?

carlson
NW Reading

When Idaho voters in November decisively killed the 2011 "Luna laws" on changing Idaho public schools, what did they intend - to kill all of the changes in them, or just some of them, and if some of them, which? Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter, one of the prime advocates of the laws, detailed his views on that question in a just-posted piece.

After voters on November 6 rejected the process, pace and policies for improving Idaho’s education system enacted in 2011, it became the task of everyone who cares about the quality of Idaho public schools to constructively continue that conversation.

My staff and I spent the next several weeks reaching out to educators, business leaders and Idaho citizens about staying engaged. Now that I’m optimistic we have a critical mass of interest, I’ve asked the State Board of Education to shepherd a statewide discussion about school improvement.

I’m asking the Board to guide the work of a broadly representative group of concerned Idahoans in studying best practices in school districts around the state and using data and experience to drive sound decision making. The group is likely to be large, but only large enough to include the diversity of opinion needed to properly study such a complex issue.

I’m not going to direct the discussion or the issues covered in any way. There must be no “third rail” in this conversation. But I am asking participants to come to the table ready to speak openly and candidly, and to bring ideas. I will not be prescriptive other than to say I remain committed to equal access to opportunity for our children and to increasing support for our educators.

The goal is to move education in Idaho forward for our students, our educators, and the businesses, colleges and universities that receive the product of our K-12 system. I do not expect this to be entirely about producing a legislative product. If participants find that best practices can be shared and schools improved without statutory changes, so be it. (more…)

Reader preferences

An unfortunate commentary on the news diets of the reading public - even what remains of the newspaper-reading public ...

A piece in the Slog recounts the 10 most-read (online) articles for the year in the Seattle Times:

"That's six stories about death [murder celebrity, blizzard], two about the weather, one about sports, and one about Microsoft's new logo. Those were the top ten stories in our state's paper of record. During a presidential election year."

Not a happy commentary.

More liquor adjustments to come

Preview from the next Washington Weekly Digest:

A new proposed rule from the Washington Liquor Control Board highlights some of the ongoing aftermath of the conversion of the state liquor sales system from public to private hands.

Rule 12-24-089 said that "The passage of Initiative 1183 and the privatization of spirits theft and product loss is significant and increasing. This is contributing to increased underage access to alcohol. Rules are needed to clarify reporting requirements of product loss due to theft and internal shrinkage."

They also serve

carlson
Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

“They also serve…”

The full quote from the 17th century English poet, John Milton (1608-1674; author of Paradise Lost), is "They also serve who only stand and wait." It’s from another of his writings, On His Blindness, made poignant by the poet’s own blindness.

It’s a reminder that most are supporting cast on the stage of life to a few star players whose light outshines others and who are more noted by historians. That said, their roles, seemingly insignificant, are necessary to fill out the drama. Every star needs a supporting cast to help them stand out in life’s movable parade.

These thoughts were prompted recently following a discussion with two of the four most noteworthy stars from the Idaho State Senate freshman class of 1961. This is the class whose stars and role players, with seasoning and maturity, four years later led Idaho into modernity by debating, then adopting and sending to the voters for ratification the first ever sales tax designed to better fund public education and meet the stated first goal of Idaho’s state constitution.

Fifty years later two of the "stars" who played critical roles in the sales tax debate and passage are still alive with sharp memories: former four-term Governor Cecil D. Andrus, who in 1961 was elected to the Senate as a Democrat from Clearwater County, and former Majority Leader Bill Roden, a Republican from Ada County.

Curious about the other lesser known members of their class and what each might recall of these supporting players, I called both recently.

Coincidentally, both Andrus and Roden started by recalling the same anecdote. It seems the Statesman’s then political editor, John Corlett, ran profiles during the session on new members from both the House and Senate. Corlett wrote up a glowing profile of Roden in 1961 in which he said Bill, at 29, was the youngest person ever elected to the Idaho Senate. (more…)

We are one family despite the NRA

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

While trying to fight back my anger at the National Rifle Association’s contempt for civilization the other day, I got to thinking about the concept the demonic LaPierre was spewing. He didn’t use the actual words I was thinking of but there was no mistaking they formed the irrational concept he was spouting.

It’s called “Mutually Assured Destruction.” Or maybe you remember the utterly accurate acronym: “MAD.” The world lived with that MAD sword hanging over us for some 60 years. To some extent, we still do.

It began in the 1950′s when both we and the Soviets – at that time -had nuclear bombs. The idea was, if one of us decided to lob a nuke over the North Pole, the recipient would return the favor – plus a dozen, dozen additional. The concept was simple:” You kill me – I’ll kill you more.”

It was taken to the lunatic extreme of us having some 2,000 nukes in the 60′s and they had about the same. So it got to be: “I’ll kill you a thousand times but you’ll only have time to get off enough to kill me 438 times.” I’d always thought being killed once was sufficient but – since I wasn’t asked to help with national security issues – I just sorta lived with it.

In the 50′s and 60′s, I was in the Strategic Air Command – the outfit that would do all the long-range killing for this country. Adding to the MAD irony for me was the motto of SAC emblazoned on the nose of every bomber and intercontinental ballistic missile: “Peace is Our Profession.” Looking back, you gotta admit that was kinda sick. (more…)

Why we can’t solve our problems

peterson
Martin Peterson
From Idaho

When Wayne LaPierre, the National Rifle Association’s million-dollar-a-year executive director, held his press conference on December 21 responding to the Connecticut school shootings, the national response was quick and largely negative. However, what was overlooked by both the
media and the public was the fact that in his response, LaPierre did a fine and concise — although entirely unintentional - job of demonstrating three of the major ills that are keeping this country from solving many, if not most, of the major problems it faces.

The first ill is to always blame someone else and ignore any contribution you may have made to creating a problem. We hear it day-in and day-out in the halls of Congress. Republicans blaming Democrats and Democrats blaming Republicans. Never accept personal responsibility for a problem when you can point the finger at someone else. Assault weapons and large capacity clips didn’t create this problem, according to LaPierre. It’s video games, movies and lack of armed guards that are the problem.

The second ill is to identify a problem and then ask the federal government to pay for it. That is the mind-set that has helped lead us to the serious fiscal problems the federal government currently faces. The NRA offices in Washington must be in a soundproof bunker. Apparently LaPierre is unaware that Congress and the President are currently dealing with serious budget issues that will likely make it impossible for them to consider his proposal that the federal government fund armed guards at every school building in the United States. If he is really serious about obtaining the support of Congress and the President for his proposal, and he really thinks that those guards will eliminate school shootings, while protecting second amendment rights, he should consider recommending the means of paying for it.

Two privileges the government gives me that I enjoy are driving motor vehicles and fishing. I drive on roads that are largely funded by persons like me who use them, with fuel taxes and registration fees. The same with fishing. I buy an annual license and those fees are used to support the state’s fisheries program. If you don’t want to enjoy the privileges of driving or fishing, you don’t have to pay. The same could be true with the proposal to protect the rights of gun owners by using armed guards at schools. (more…)