Your Weekend Reader for July 15-16

by | Jul 15, 2023 | Weekend Reader | 1 comment

It’s been my privilege over the years to work with gifted sportswriters, so I was startled to learn this week that The New York Times has dismantled its Pulitzer Prize-winning sports department and turned its sports coverage over to The Athletic, the sports website the Times bought a few years ago. In retrospect, as Tom Jones of The Poynter Institute noted in this piece, we should have seen this coming: The Times generally hasn’t been that interested in game coverage, but focused instead on deeper stories — which is also what The Athletic does. Also, Times leaders probably are interested in justifying the $550 million they spent to buy The Athletic.

Lost in the furor over the Times was an announcement, on the same day, from the Los Angeles Times to the effect that it was reworking its sports coverage to focus less on game coverage in favor of more in-depth coverage. In a sense, I understand the impulse behind these moves, considering that there are so many other sources on the web for game coverage. But it still strikes me a little bit like trying to cover city government without covering the meetings of the city council.

Poynter has another interesting story on its website examining how newsrooms across the country are losing employees because new hires can’t afford housing in the communities they’re covering. Of course, this is a problem with two prongs: First, housing prices are on the rise. Second, journalism jobs typically don’t pay that well.

At a recent town hall meeting in Joseph (that’s a town in Northeast Oregon, up in Wallowa County), I asked U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden about the rural-urban divide in Oregon. The question seemed particularly timely, especially since Wallowa County voters had just narrowly approved one of those Greater Idaho ballot measures. These measures, which now have passed in 12 Eastern Oregon counties, typically call for county commissioners to discuss the merits of aligning their counties with Idaho. Such a realignment is an unlikely outcome, of course, but that’s not entirely the point: Many of the voters in favor of these measures don’t actually think it’s such a good idea to cast their lot with Idaho. Instead, they say, their voices typically go unheeded in Salem (a position that is not without justification) and that the ballot measures offer a way to send state government a message.

In any event, Wyden told me he thought common ground still could be found between urban and rural Oregon. As an example, he touted his latest attempt to get Congress to pass a bill that would protect the so-called “Grand Canyon of Oregon,” the Owyhee Canyonlands in Southeast Oregon. Wyden and Oregon’s other senator, Jeff Merkley, recently introduced what they call the Malheur Community Empowerment for the Owyhee Act; it’s their third attempt to pass legislation about the Owyhees. The bill would protect more than 1.1 million acres of federal public lands in the Owyhee Canyonlands in Southeast Oregon and a 15-mile stretch of the Owyhee River under the protection of the National Wilderness Preservation System and the Wild and Scenic Rivers System. 

But Wyden was particularly jazzed about the variety of stakeholders that had worked on the bill, including state and federal agencies, ranchers, tribes and representatives from fishing industry and advocacy groups. The bill, he said, offered a framework to ensure that rural stakeholders have a say in shaping the future of their localities. If this is the first you’ve heard about this, Alex Barnhardt of the Oregon Capital Chronicle has the details about the Wyden-Merkley bill.

OPB had a troubling story this week about an increasing number of Oregon homeowners struggling as their water wells unexpectedly run dry. Nearly 1 in 4 Oregonians rely on a private well for their potable water supply.

Here’s a fascinating story from High Country News: A new study shows that the sound made by bugling male elk varies depending on where they live. As the headline on the story puts it, elk calls have regional dialects.

Were you surprised when 160,000 unionized actors went on strike this week, joining members of the Writers’ Guild of America, who have been on picket lines since May? You shouldn’t be, and you should probably be prepared for a long walkout. As Brooks Barnes of The New York Times explains in this piece, the issues at stake tie closely into the existential challenges facing the entertainment industry.

Elsewhere in the entertainment industry: This week’s nominations for the Emmy Awards had a lot of love for critical favorites like “Succession,” “The Bear” and “The Last of Us.” But some of the shows winning Emmy nominations have Oregon connections, and Kristi Turnquist of The Oregonian/OregonLive had the rundown in this story.

Are you among the thousands of people across the United States who plan to watch both Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” and Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” on the same day? The two movies share a July 21 release date, but you need to reserve nearly five hours to watch both films. Nevertheless, the phenomenon known as “Barbenheimer” is a real thing and has inspired memes and T-shirts — and has delighted the studios that have invested at least $100 million for each film. It’s the kind of publicity that you can’t buy, or so they say. The Associated Press’ Lindsey Bahr has the inside scoop. But can you think of two movies that are more different than those two? If so, post them in the comments section below.

Finally this week: Maybe you really like a glass of red wine as you absorb the day’s news or just to unwind, but are hesitant now because of recent studies that suggest that any amount of alcohol is bad for you. Take heart, urges economist Emily Oster in this new piece from The Atlantic: Those studies, she argues, fail to properly take into account the sheer pleasure that a glass of wine can provide. But, as with all things, moderation still s important. (Alas, Atlantic stories are available to subscribers only — but every other story mentioned in this week’s Weekend Reader is just a click away.)

That’s it for this week. Let’s plan on meeting here at about the same time next weekend.

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