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Posts published in “Day: September 19, 2014”

On the death of newspapering


Wallace St

A friend sidled up to me the other day and said his daughter wanted to get a journalism degree and become a newspaper reporter. My response was that he should just loan her his Smith & Wesson. The consequences would be the same and she wouldn't be stuck with all that college loan debt.

Newspapering used to be robust fun. That's because we used to be a two-newspaper-town country.

One paper would be the calm, conservative, business-community oriented rag; the other would be the fire-breathing, liberal-bent, crusading rag. They went head-to-head every day with their coverage, and whether liberal or conservative, there would be an editor at each who said to his or her reporters, “Chill out and check your facts.”

Get it first and get it right – that was the rule – because if you blew it the competition would clean your clock.

Competition: that's how we got to the root of things. The competition of ideas informed our debate about matters that were of import great or minor. Neither newspaper in a two-newspaper town got it right every morning or afternoon, but if you read both, you could arrive at a sensible middle and a conversation could ensue.

Most important, two newspapers independently owned and edited in a single circulation area kept each other honest. The publishers and editors could spin things, but they had to hew to the facts or they'd get called on it, mercilessly.

I started my newspapering career in a country with two-newspaper towns: Seattle, Spokane, Coeur d'Alene, Coos Bay, Salem, Anchorage, Elizabeth, N.J. and the Silver Valley. You woke up in the morning and dashed to the front porch, picking up the papers and dying to know who had kicked whose butt. Did we get it first? Did we get it right? Or did those other guys whomp us?

As a reporter you cared because your editors would drag you into a room with rubber hoses if you blew it. “Where the hell were you when this happened?” was a pretty common question in the morning's inquisition.

In a one-newspaper town, these inquisitions don't occur. Who cares? There's nobody out there with a different version of the truth. (more…)

On the front pages


All the talk for so many months now about a bum health insurance website and who did and didn't live up to contracts really has missed the point. The big Oregon story today (following on an OHSU study) does highlight the important development in the changes in Oregon's health insurance picture over the last year, since Obamacare has kicked in: The number of uninsured people in the state has fallen, from about 550,000 to 202,000 - by 63%. The state estimated that 95% of Oregonians now have health insurance coverage. That's still not perfect, and the system still has some bugs crawling around. But getting about 350,000 more people insured in the course of a few months is a massive achievement, a big success story, and a much bigger deal than whether a few hyperlinks work right on a web site.

Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

High occupancy in downtown Boise hotels (Boise Statesman)
Caldwell pays for study for future (Boise Statesman)
Washington state revenues shoot up (Lewiston Tribune)
New medical research clinic opens at Nampa (Nampa Press Tribune)
Stallings blasts Simpson on rural mail (TF Times News)
Hagerman faces sewer bond election (TF Times News)

Springfield mulls pot sales tax (Eugene Register Guard)
Task force has sexual assault ideas for UO (Eugene Register Guard)
New peaks for health coverage (Portland Oregonian, Salem Statesman Journal, KF Herald & News, Pendleton E Oregonian)
Completion of water project on Sprague River (KF Herald & News)
New One West Main building in Medford opens (Medford Tribune)
Medford may foreclosure on abandoned houses (Medford Tribune)
Medford may allow alcohol into city park (Medford Tribune)
Washington Co traffic turning nightmarish (Portland Oregonian)
New West Salem boundaries set (Salem Statesman Journal)

Pot tax revenues projected at $636m (Vancouver Columbian, Bremerton Sun, Olympian)
Reviewing Supreme Court decision on schools (Bremerton Sun)
Oso area highway back to full speed soon (Everett Herald)
Shelter may provide only food, fewer beds (Longview News)
Longview city manager Bob Gregory retires (Longview News)
State employee union works on new pay level (Olympian)
Seqium employee union ballot issue in court (Port Angeles News)
Tunnel work continues as Bertha sits still (Seattle Times)
Spokane diocese sues its own lawyers (Spokane Spokesman)
New earthquake detection system developed (Tacoma News Tribune)
Land developer, Vancouver port go at it (Vancouver Columbian)
Inactive Pot shops may lose place on list (Vancouver Columbian)
Moxee nutrient plans fined (Yakima Herald Republic)