Your Weekend Reader for July 8-9, 2023

by | Jul 8, 2023 | Miscellaneous, Weekend Reader | 0 comments

Like many working journalists (and I am mostly grateful that I continue to be in that category), I still (somewhat) believe in the notion that good information crowds out misinformation in the so-called marketplace of ideas. Perhaps you believe that as well when you set out to correct misinformation that a friend or relative has posted in a social-media feed.

Nowadays, I’m not as sure as I used to be in the power of fact-checking to counter misinformation, especially in the face of social media. And a new story by Joshua Benton from Harvard’s Nieman Lab doesn’t do much to cheer me up. The headline of the piece — “When it comes to misinformation, partisanship overpowers fact-checking, again and again” — pretty much sums it up, although it misses some of the nuance.

One source of misinformation sometimes shows up in the comments that readers post with news stories. So I was interested to note that MediaNews Group, the publishing company owned by the rapacious hedge fund Alden Global Capital, has shut down online commenting on all of its stories as of July 1. Anyone who’s worked with these comments knows what a two-edged sword they can be — on the plus side, they can offer ways for readers to directly connect with reporters and editors and can be a valuable source for news tips. On the very substantial downside, they often disintegrate into hateful name-calling and generally useless discourse. They can work, but only with continual monitoring — look at the comments, for example, on The New York Times’ cooking site. But I can guarantee that any newspaper owned by Alden Global Capital doesn’t have the necessary personnel to effectively monitor comments, so pulling the plug on comments probably makes sense in those newsrooms.

As I was working on this edition of Your Weekend Reader, news broke that Iowa has set the date for its earliest-in-the-nation presidential caucus for Jan. 15, 2024 (yes, that’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day). It’s less than six months away. I think I can speak for a weary nation when I say … that’s too soon. Way too soon.

Nicholas Kristof is continuing his globe-trotting ways for The New York Times (he apparently is in no hurry to burnish his claims to Oregon residency) and has a new column from Ukraine in which he movingly reports on war amputees recovering from their wounds in a hospital in Lviv — and who plan to go back to the front when they recover. Kristof writes: “That’s where I think Vladimir Putin miscalculated when he invaded Ukraine last year: He underappreciated Ukrainian grit and resilience. I suspect some Americans make the same mistake.” Click here to read his column.

There’s some dispute about the numbers, but the University of Maine’s Climate Reanalyzer reported that the seven days ending Wednesday were the hottest on record globally in 44 years of record-keeping. The U.S. government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said it couldn’t immediately verify Maine’s numbers, but agreed that, in general, things were heating up. One culprit this year is an unusually mild winter in Antarctica.

The discovery of a prehistoric stone tool suggests that people were living in Oregon more than 18,000 years ago — and could be the oldest human occupation in all of North America. A team from the University of Oregon, working in conjunction with the Bureau of Land Management, announced Thursday that a blood residue analysis revealed animal proteins on a human-crafted scraper tool extracted from Rimrock Draw Rockshelter in southeastern Oregon. The Oregonian’s Janet Eastman produced a story on the find that explains what it all means — and provides the context. (The story is exclusive to Oregonian subscribers.)  

Speaking of the University of Oregon, former Duck basketball superstar Sabrina Ionescu will be the athlete featured on the cover of the WNBA 2K24 video game. Kobe Bryant will be featured on the cover of the NBA 2K24 video; as this Oregonian story explains, Ionescu and Bryant shared a bond. The games are scheduled to be released in September.

The struggling Oregon Shakespeare Festival has named a new executive director, Tim Bond, who logged plenty of experience with the festival before landing his current gig as the artistic director for TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, based in Palo Alto. Bond will start his new post in September; until then, Evren Odcikin is serving as interim artistic director. Nataki Garrett resigned as artistic director about two months ago. The festival is in the midst of a drive to raise the $7.3 million it says it needs to finish its current season. Lizzy Acker had the story for The Oregonian/OregonLive. (The story is exclusive to Oregonian subscribers.)

As a fan of “The X-Files,” I was thrilled to learn that Gillian Anderson, one of that show’s stars, is set to star in a Netflix series, set in 1850s Oregon. The series, “The Abandons,” is created by Kurt Sutter, best-known as the creator of “Sons of Anarchy.” The series also will star Lena Headey, best-known for her role in “Game of Thrones.” So that’s two strong female actors in a Western; it will be interesting to see if Sutter and company can subtly subvert any Western tropes. No word yet on where the show will shoot. The trade publication Variety broke the news, and Kristi Turnquist reported on it for The Oregonian/OregonLive.

This has been a bit of a downer edition of Your Weekend Reader, and I apologize for that. Maybe you’re thinking about taking a vacation to get away from the bad news for a bit. I couldn’t blame you. If you fly, though, here’s a tip: Maybe you shouldn’t check your bags.

That’s it for this weekend. Next week’s edition might get posted a little later than usual, so don’t flame me.

And remember: I’m still experimenting with allowing some ad sales on the website — I’m just seeing if I can raise enough money to cover the costs of maintaining the site. But if you see an ad that seems out of place or strikes you as offensive, let me know.

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