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Posts published in “Day: February 3, 2019”

Idaho Weekly Briefing – February 4

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for February 4. Would you like to know more? Send us a note at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

Governor Little delivers two major executive orders on administrative rules, just as the Idaho Legislature is wrapping work on considering those approved from last year. Meanwhile, state budget hearings are heading toward closure as agency heads talk about stresses in some of their departments.

Governor Brad Little on January 31 signed two new executive orders aimed at reducing state regulatory burdens on Idaho citizens and businesses. Executive Order 2019-02, the “Red Tape Reduction Act,” requires state agencies that have authority to issue administrative rules to identify at least two existing rules to be repealed or significantly simplified for every one rule they propose.

Water Resource Board officials on January 31 lauded a recent agreement signed by 16 cities located in the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer region at its regular board meeting last week. In the agreement, the cities committed to contributing an average of 7,650 acre-feet of mitigation water to the board’s ESPA managed recharge program on an annual basis to do their part to restore the aquifer to sustainable levels.

A new study reveals Idaho endowment lands contributed $531.3 million in gross state product in 2017, including $315.4 million in wages from 7,641 jobs.

Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, along with Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski urged federal officials to deliver Secure Rural Schools (SRS) payments as quickly as possible in the aftermath of the government shutdown.

Attorney General Lawrence Wasden has announced a former southern Idaho sheriff was sentenced Friday, February 1, for one count of misusing public money. Fifth District Judge Ned Williamson sentenced 61-year-old Douglas McFall, the former Jerome County Sheriff, after he pleaded guilty in November 2018.

Governor Brad Little appointed Regina Bayer of Meridian to fill the Senate seat for Legislative District 21. Bayer’s son, Cliff Bayer, vacated the seat when he became Chief of Staff for Representative Russ Fulcher earlier this month.

The University of Idaho College of Law Library has launched a research and records repository that serves as the only online source for Idaho Supreme Court records and briefs as well as other legal documents.

IMAGE An image from the new state Fish & Game upland game management plan. (photo/Idaho Department of Fish & Game)
 

On southern Idaho newspapering

mendiola

During a week that saw major news outlets announce the layoffs of some 1,000 editors and reporters nationwide, including many veteran journalists, the president and publisher of Adams Publishing Group newspapers in eastern Idaho discussed the daunting challenges confronting his industry when he addressed a large crowd at a City Club of Idaho Falls luncheon on Thursday, Jan. 24.

The Florida-based Poynter Institute, arguably the world's most influential school for journalists, called Wednesday, Jan. 23, “another brutal day for journalism” after Gannett, which owns USA Today and 109 other local media companies, began slashing jobs throughout the country. “The cuts were not minor.”

Gannett's massive cost-cutting move impacted the Arizona Republic, including Pulitzer winning cartoonist Steve Benson; the Indianapolis Star, the Knoxville News Sentinel, the Tennessean, the Record in North Jersey, the Westchester Journal News, the Ventura County Star, the Citizen Times, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, the Argus Leader in Sioux Falls, S.D., the Fort Myers News-Press, the Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, N.Y. and USA Today’s travel section.

(Adams Publishing Group Regional President and Publisher Travis Quast, right, converses with longtime businessman Park Price at recent City Club of Idaho Falls luncheon. photo/Mark Mendiola)

CNN reported: “This week reaffirmed just how dire things have gotten within the industry, with about 1,000 jobs in media lost as the result of layoffs announced at BuzzFeed, HuffPost and Gannett -- the nation's largest newspaper chain. BuzzFeed announced Wednesday that it would lay off 15 percent of its work force, or about 220 employees; Verizon announced it would cut 7 percent or approximately 800 jobs from its media division, which includes brands like HuffPost, AOL and Yahoo News; and Gannett slashed dozens of jobs at newspapers across the country.”

It was noted at the City Club of Idaho Falls function that the newspaper industry's annual advertising revenue has plunged from $60 billion to $20 billion since 2000.

Travis Quast was appointed the Adams Publishing Group's regional president and publisher of its East Idaho Group last April, overseeing 10 newspapers, including the Post Register in Idaho Falls, the Idaho State Journal in Pocatello, the Standard Journal in Rexburg, the Teton Valley News in Driggs, the Preston Citizen, the Montpelier News-Examiner and the Herald Journal in Logan, Utah.

Prior to joining Adams, Quast served as publisher for five years at the Times-News in Twin Falls, a Lee Enterprises newspaper.

In October 2017, it was announced that the Seattle-based Pioneer News Group was selling its media division assets to the family-owned Adams Publishing Group, including 22 daily and weekly newspapers in Idaho, Montana, Washington, Oregon and Utah. The transaction was finalized the following Nov. 1, making Adams Publishing a dominant media voice in eastern Idaho and elsewhere.

Based at Minneapolis, Minn., Adams Publishing at the time owned and operated 100 community newspapers in 11 states, including the acquisition of five newspaper publishing companies in 2016. It also owned radio stations, outdoor advertising companies, a wine distribution business, label printing companies and a large interest in Camping World Holdings.

Its acquisition of the Idaho Press, formerly the Idaho Press-Tribune in Nampa, and hiring strategic seasoned journalists there is even giving the Idaho Statesman in Boise a run for its money in the Treasure Valley. The Statesman, a McClatchy newspaper, has been undergoing its own shakeup with the loss of two managing editors in recent months.

Quast told those attending the City Club of Idaho Falls meeting that media companies, including local newspapers, are for-profit businesses and require revenue to survive. Twenty percent of the Post Register's revenue comes from subscriptions and 80 percent from advertising, he said, pointing out that Adams Publishing did not exist six years ago.

Quast noted there were 20 newspaper printing presses operating between Idaho Falls and Boise 15 years ago, but now there are only four – and Adams Publishing owns three of them in Idaho Falls, Preston and Nampa. The other one is in Twin Falls.

Quast remarked that what was considered “fake news” five years ago has morphed into a label for anything with which someone disagrees. Cable news networks and social media the past 20 years have concentrated more on commentary than actual news as the nation has become more polarized, blurring the lines, he said, adding there's a danger that approach can filter into local communities.

“If I lose your trust, I lose you,” he said. “If we are not fair, we will not survive or exist.”

Hundreds of thousands of people regularly access one web site that blatantly admits its news items are totally fabricated and yet they view it religiously on a daily basis, Quast mentioned, lamenting that the more outrageous the news, the more some blogs and web sites make money.

Although the Post Register no longer prints a Monday edition, it still posts breaking news on its web site 24/7, he said, noting the Post Register no longer requires payments to view its content online. “The Internet is actually helping us to grow.” Marketing data can be accessed almost instantaneously. “It's scary what the Worldwide Web knows about you,” he remarked.

There must be a balance between competing with electronic news media and maintaining fairness and accuracy, he stressed. “We're not telling people what to think, but to think,” Quast said. “Democracy is at risk when people become complacent. Local journalism makes a difference.”

Adams Publishing's acquisition of groups of newspapers in Idaho and elsewhere allows it to consolidate operations and run more efficiently, reducing costs, Quast said, defending the use of an automated central call center. “We're trying to be all things to all people.” The company's newspapers only endorse political candidates directly interviewed and never presidential candidates, he said.

The Post Register is one of the few newspapers with a dedicated editorial writer – Bryan Clark, who serves on its editorial board with Quast and Managing Editor Monte LaOrange. Quast said he strongly advocates that governments be transparent and accountable, allowing unfettered access to public documents. It's a “slippery slope” when elected officials regularly conceal vital information. “It gets to the point they operate in secrecy,” Quast said.