Let’s start this edition of the Weekend Reader with a couple of items about journalism.
First, an interesting story from eastern Oregon with a link to the mid-valley. The Malheur Enterprise, the weekly newspaper that serves Malheur County, is owned by Les Zaitz, arguably Oregon’s top investigative reporter (Zaitz, who also is the editor of the Oregon Capital Chronicle, owns a ranch in neighboring Grant County.) Thanks to Zaitz, the Enterprise has considerably more horsepower in terms of in-depth reporting than you would typically find at smaller newspapers. Many of the Enterprise’s enterprise stories have focused on the work of Greg Smith, who represents the area in the Oregon House of Representatives, serves as the director of the Malheur County Economic Development Department and owns Gregory Smith and Co., which provides business and financial consulting services. (If Smith’s name rings a bell, it might be because his company played a role in the efforts by Linn County to get the green light from the state for that multimodal transportation hub in Millersburg; in 2019, the Gazette-Times reprinted a story about Smith from the Enterprise.)
In any event, it’s fair to say that the relationship between Smith and the Enterprise has been frosty, and the Nieman Lab at Harvard is reporting on the latest broadside: Smith recently made what appeared to be a serious offer to buy the paper for $35,000. Smith told the Nieman Lab that his intention was to return the paper to its local roots, and to make sure that the paper covers high school sports and activities of the Future Farmers of America and so forth. But, of course, as you have guessed, the Enterprise already does all that, so you can be forgiven for thinking there’s more behind Smith’s offer. It’s probably moot anyway — Zaitz has declined the offer and has said that, although he’d like to retire after a distinguished 50-year career in journalism, he’s in no hurry to sell the paper.
Now, onto the second journalism story: As alert readers of the Weekend Reader know, I’ve been keeping track of what likely will be a years-long effort by the hedge fund Alden Global Capital to take over Lee Enterprises, the owner of the Corvallis Gazette-Times and the Albany Democrat-Herald. So I’m grateful to the alert readers who sent along a story from the website Axios that detailed another side of the story: Since news of the takeover attempt broke, Lee has been laying off top editors and other newsroom staffers. (Full disclosure: I know something about being laid off by Lee.) To be fair, I have heard that the G-T and D-H newsroom has been given the green light lately to hire reporters to replace folks who are leaving. But if these cuts keep occurring at Lee, you have to wonder: Even though Alden has a well-deserved reputation for gutting the newsrooms at the papers it acquires, at some point, will it make that much of a difference who owns these papers?
A couple of weeks ago in the Weekend Reader, I linked to a “Deep Dive” newsletter from The Oregonian all about the price of gasoline. I noticed a big bump in my analytics for that particular edition of the Weekend Reader — and I guess the same thing happened at The Oregonian, because this week, it produced an all-new edition of “Deep Dive” about gas prices. Here’s the upshot: They’re still really high in Oregon, for a number of a reasons, but they’re higher in Portland. Do I include this item just to drive my online numbers? You bet; this ain’t all charity work.
If you’re a fan of Oregon State University baseball, you’re probably tracking the career of slugger outfielder Michael Conforto, an OSU graduate who’s played for the New York Mets but who now is, somewhat mysteriously, an unsigned free agent. One of the pieces of the mystery cleared up this past week when his agent, Scott Boros, revealed that Conforto suffered a shoulder injury during the lockout. Boros maintained that all is now physically fine with his client, but the news doesn’t to have reassured those teams considering signing Conforto. Bleacher Nation had the story.
Janet Eastman of The Oregonian/OregonLive reports that the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse, Oregon’s only offshore light station, can be yours for just $6.5 million. Prospective investors might be scared off, however, by its nickname — “Terrible Tilly” — and by the fact that the lighthouse appears to be a bit of a fixer-upper.
Maybe you watched Will Smith slapping Chris Rock at the Oscars on Sunday night and thought, “Wow. That’s really weird. I wonder what’s going on there.” Now, The Atlantic’s Olga Khazan has helpfully expanded the horizon to round up a handful of credible theories as to why Smith isn’t the only one acting weird these days.
Does it seem to you that the glory days of the guitar solo in rock ‘n’ roll are long past? If your answer is along the lines of, “What a stupid question,” you may not be interested in this next selection. But if you’re now scratching your head and saying, “You know, now that I think about it, it has been a long time since I’ve heard a great guitar solo,” you will want to check out this New York Times interactive feature.
That’s it for this weekend. It’s time to crank up some guitar solos and, uh, weed the backyard. Don’t sneak up behind me. I won’t be able to hear you. That would be weird. See you next weekend.