Press "Enter" to skip to content

Posts published in “Day: March 23, 2006”

The other meth crisis

The Willamette Week, like most alternative weeklies, usually takes only potshots at the community's dominant medium - the long, in-depth pieces usually take off in their own independent directions. As perhaps they should.

This week, they did something different, pointing an extremely barbed arrow at the editorial heart of the Portland Oregonian. For no single story has been closer to the heart of that paper than the abuse of methamphetamine. And much of the paper's reportage on that story, the Week says, has been badly flawed.

To back up for a moment: The O's coverage of this subject, led by reporter Steve Suo, has in many ways been remarkable. It has included some superb research - large portions of it reached a peak of journalism any newspaper would aspire to. And it has had substantial legislative effect, not only in Salem but also in Washington. For just one example, people won't be getting their cold medicines the same way, because of these stories.

But we have for some months pointed to flaws in this coverage as well: Its conception of the meth story, as insular and central to a much broader social pathology, has been distortive. Its sense of causes is weak, and its direct argument for solutions fails under slight pressure.

The Willamette Week, which decided to fact-check and critically consider the paper's meth coverage, covers some of those points and more besides. Consider its summary: (more…)

Late change

When a political campaign makes a change in staff late in the campaign, that's usually a sign of trouble. The locus of the trouble could be in several places, but it usually is somewhere in the area. And it doesn't bode well.

Rightly or wrongly, that's what popped into mind at sight of the Seattle Times headline, "Microsoft makes changes to Windows group." Only a few months ahead of the originally planned relerase of the new version of Windows, Vista, the corporate has held off on delivery of the consumer version (nothing terribly shocking in a delay) and, soon after, announced reorganization of the relevant sectors of the corporation.

Smells like trouble. In some way or another.

Billboard speech

The Oregon Supreme Court has taken some heat over the years for its strict intepretation of the state's constitutional ban on free speech. The new decision in Outdoor Media Dimensions v. Department of Transportation may win it some new critics from other angles. But those critics won't be able to argue that the court is being inconsistent in its rigorous take on free speech rights in Oregon.

Outdoor Media Dimensions owns billboards, many of them positioned along state highways, and it sells the advertising space on them. It has chafed under Oregon's restrictive rules on billboards, most of them included in a 1971 law, the Oregon Motorist Information Act, passed in part to meet the standards of federal highway beautification law. Some federal funds are tied to state adherence to that law.

The law includes a mass of provisions governing what is and isn't acceptable. The Supreme Court upheld most of them. But one aspect of the signage law was troubling: The law treated differently signs located on commercial property that related to the business at that location, from signs which are about anything other than the owner of the local property. That meant the law treated the signs differently based on what they said, rather than on some other consideration, such as safety or size or unsightliness. (more…)