Your Weekend Reader for July 16-17

by | Jul 16, 2022 | Miscellaneous, Weekend Reader | 1 comment

To start this weekend’s edition, let me climb onto my soapbox for a moment and preach: I know many people who have elected to start tuning out the news, and they’re not alone, as Sara Fischer and Neal Rothschild report in this Axios story: Engagement with news content has plummeted over the first half of this year when compared to last year. Who can blame anyone for stepping away from the news in the face of such an overwhelming torrent of bleak headlines? Well, I guess I can: These are times that require us to pay attention, right? Following the news to some extent is an important way to pay attention. And it is possible — if not always easy — to follow the news without falling into a cycle of doomscrolling. This piece from The New York Times, written by an assistant clinical professor of psychology at UCLA, outlines seven suggestions to do that. (Do a little practice on this right now by ignoring the fact that the author works at UCLA; she had nothing — nothing! — to do with the whole Pac-12 thing.)

A handful of other pieces about journalism caught my eye this past week:

Fischer of Axios had an earlier piece, explaining that the percentage of Americans who say they have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of trust in newspapers and television news has reached historic lows. The only American institution that is less trusted by the public, according to this survey, is Congress. Most of the decline has been fueled by Republicans, this survey suggests. In a finding that perhaps is not unrelated, surveys also say that many Americans have difficulty distinguishing fact-based journalism from opinion content.

Meanwhile, there’s been debate lately in journalism circles about what’s called “bothsidesism” — the idea that journalists should always strive to give equal coverage to all sides of an issue. That’s long been a precept of journalism, but there’s a growing sense that “bothsidesism” offers refuge to disinformation. The Pew Research Center has interesting new work on the issue, and has found — among other things — that about 55% of the journalists surveyed said that each side does not always deserve equal coverage; only 22% of Americans overall said the same. Click here to dig deeper.

Enough of this doomscrolling. Let’s turn to Oregon:

Let me call your attention to the start of what looks like an excellent series by Jeff Mapes, the longtime Oregon political reporter. He’s launched on OPB a six-part series called “Growing Oregon,” about Oregon’s approach to growth and how it affects our lives today. The first part, which takes a deep dive into the state’s unique land-use laws, is available via podcast and on OPB’s website. So far, it has the feel of a project intended as a capstone to a distinguished reporting career — and it might help you understand why Oregon is the way it is today. And, in many ways, it’s a story that begins in the mid-valley.

The 82-year-old man who died July 7 after he was attacked at a Portland bus stop was Donald Pierce, a well-known Oregon State University professor and statistician who taught at OSU for three decades. Austin De Dios of The Oregonian/OregonLive reports that Pierce moved to Japan after his OSU work to research cancer risks in the wake of the dropping of the atomic bombs there. He was living in Portland when he was attacked on June 25. He taught at OSU from 1966 to 1996. Keffer White, 29, has been charged with murder in connection with the attack. The story is exclusive to subscribers to The Oregonian/OregonLive website.

Nick Daschel, who does an excellent job covering college football for The Oregonian/OregonLive, tracked down Scott Barnes, Oregon State’s athletic director, to ask about this Pac-12 Conference realignment that careful readers of the Weekend Reader may have heard about. Barnes issued the required reassuring noises — really, he has no choice — about how the 10 remaining members of the conference are focused on staying together. The truth is that’s the best option for OSU. The truth also is that Barnes has few, if any, meaningful cards to play if the conference suffers any additional splintering. Daschel also noted that Barnes side-stepped a question about how realignment could affect the Reser Stadium remodeling project. This story also is an exclusive to Oregonian subscribers. If you can afford it, you should have an Oregonian subscription.

Nicole Bales of The Astorian had an excellent story in last Sunday’s edition of the newspaper, about the infighting that has splintered the pro-timber organization #TimberUnity.

Did you see that researchers have recovered what they say are timbers from the remains of a Spanish ship that sunk more than 300 years off the coast of what is now northern Oregon? You say you don’t care? But you do: This shipwreck, the so-called Beeswax Wreck, was the inspiration for the movie “The Goonies.” The New York Times has the story.

The Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission, working with the U.S. Census Bureau, last week rolled out an online tool that shows average earnings and job placements for graduates of the state’s public colleges and universities, For example, the tool shows that Oregon State University graduates with engineering or information science degrees were making more than $100,000 annually some 10 years after graduation. If you studied visual or performing arts, well, maybe you don’t want to look at the tool — but you knew that going in, right? OPB had the story.

Elsewhere in the world and the universe:

Does it seem as if everyone you know is sick or has been sick with COVID? That turns out to be the current COVID landscape, as we continue to grapple with variants of the virus. Here’s Katherine Wu of The Atlantic to explain why that’s the case — and also, depressingly, to explain why we’re not likely to make the behavioral changes that would impede the spread of the virus.

As our democracy crumbles, first they came for the election workers. Next, with book-banning calls on the rise, they came for the librarians.

The accomplished poet Ada Limòn is your new United States poet laureate. I used a Limòn poem, “Instructions on Not Giving Up,” a few years ago as my selection on Poem in Your Pocket Day. I’m not saying that it’s necessary for me to select a poem by a certain writer for that writer to be named U.S. poet laureate — but still, could it be possible that this is more than coincidence?

Text your friends. New research suggests it matters more than you might think, according to this story from the Times.

As climate change continues to cook the planet, with little hope remaining that we’re serious about doing anything about it, it raises a plentitude of questions, both large and small. Here’s one of the small ones: What should we wear on our heads to keep us cool on those occasions when a baseball cap — everyone’s default choice — sends the wrong sartorial message? The New York Times’ Vanessa Friedman addresses this question, but I’m not sure I care for her answer: the bucket hat.

But, hey — that Webb Space Telescope looks to be making good on its promise, eh?

That’s it for this weekend. Now, I have to fret about what hat I should wear to the grocery store. What goes well with the mask?

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