Your Weekend Reader for June 11-12

by | Jun 11, 2022 | Weekend Reader | 1 comment

Fifty years ago this month, a team of generally inept crooks staged a break-in at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. The anniversary has prompted a well-deserved victory lap for Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, who doggedly followed the narrowest of leads from the burglary and ended up writing stories that helped prompt the resignation of President Richard Nixon. The two made a recent joint appearance on “Reliable Sources,” Brian Stelter’s CNN show on the media, and had a piece last weekend in the Post that was based in part on a new forward they’re writing for the anniversary of their book, “All the President’s Men.” As Tom Jones of The Poynter Institute notes, the two veteran reporters compared Donald Trump to Nixon, but with at least one key difference: “Unlike Nixon, Trump accomplished his subversion largely in public.”

The appearance by Woodward and Bernstein prompted Jones to revisit his 2019 list of the greatest movies about journalism ever made, and there’s little dispute about the film in the No. 1 slot: “All the President’s Men.” I don’t have quibbles with his No. 2 and No. 3 choices, either: “Broadcast News” and “Spotlight.” But no place for “Ace in the Hole,” Billy Wilder’s savage media satire? Or “Sweet Smell of Success?” I invite my alert readers to nominate their favorite journalism movies in the comments section below.

Speaking of Watergate — and it looks like we will be, all month — you might not read a better piece about how the Post covered the growing scandal than this essay by Joshua Benton of Harvard’s Nieman Lab. Benton laments how a key member of the Woodward-Bernstein team, city editor Barry Sussman, was written out of the entire Watergate story. To some extent, Benton notes, this might have been inevitable — editors don’t get the kind of credit that reporters do because their work tends to be invisible, and they rarely get bylines. But some of this was just unfair — as when “All the President’s Men,” that great journalism movie, completely omitted Sussman, who died recently at the age of 87.

Here’s a new story from The Atlantic’s continuing excellent coverage of the pandemic, and it’s about a COVID scenario that has played out in my household: Increasingly, Katherine J. Wu explains, COVID patients who are showing symptoms are getting negative results from their rapid tests for days — until, inevitably, a positive result shows up. Scientists are not yet clear about why these delayed positives are occurring, or what they mean. As Wu explains, experts are “operating in a vacuum of evidence.” But this might have deeper implications for isolation protocols — and experts urge you to test with caution and view negative tests with a grain of salt. The Atlantic has placed its coronavirus coverage outside its paywall.

Although it’s hard to imagine this as we work our way through another wet weekend — this one fueled by a so-called “atmospheric river” — we’re only a few weeks away from fire season. To that end, Bradley Parks at OPB put together this handy guide to fire season, including links to sites that allow you to track the progress of fires throughout the West and also ways to keep tabs on air quality. Here’s a good rule of thumb, though: If your skies stay red all day long, and not just at sunrise or sunset, you might have bad air quality. Also, a new state law makes it a misdemeanor to say “Hot enough for you?” any time the temperature hits triple digits. (OK, that’s not true, but please –a little compassion?)

Speaking of widlfire: Scientists at Oregon State University were part of a 10-year study to determine the best ways to mitigate the danger posed by wildfire to the Great Basin’s historic sagebrush ecosystems. It’s not just an academic question, as Alex Baumhardt of the Oregon Capital Chronicle reports: Nearly half of those ecosystems — 200,000 square miles in Oregon, California, Idaho, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming — have been lost to fires and invasive plants and wildfires. The scientists concluded that thinning vegetation across the sagebrush landscape was the most effective long-term method for mitigating the impacts of wildfire. Here’s a link to the study.

We tend to blame social media for misinformation about important scientific matters such as the coronavirus — in particular, we blame wacky cousin Lou for his Facebook posts about how the COVID vaccine allows Bill Gates to track your every movement. But a new piece by Boston University writer and researcher Joelle Renstrom identifies another culprit: Scientists themselves, who face increasing pressure to publish work in a climate that prioritizes quantity over quality and who increasingly cram their studies with dense, jargon-heavy language that can even baffle experts. This piece, originally published in Open Mind, was picked up by the Nieman Lab.

It’s been a bad year for stocks — you know that much every time you glance at your retirement accounts. (I can barely bring myself to look these days.) But if you invested heavily in regional Northwest stocks, you’ve likely really taken a bath — as Mike Rogoway explains in this piece from The Oregonian/OregonLive. Of 26 publicly traded companies in the region, 21 have fallen faster than the S&P 500, which is down 15%. Tim Duy, the savvy economics professor at the University of Oregon, says it’s not unexpected: In many cases, he says, it’s a matter of reality finally catching up to over-hyped stocks. (The story is exclusive to Oregonian/OregonLive subscribers.)

You know how one response some lawmakers have in the wave of the latest mass shooting is that we don’t need new gun laws — instead, we just need to enforce the ones we have? Noelle Crombie of The Oregonian/OregonLive has a good new story that adds a bit of credence to that argument: The Oregon State Police used to have a task force that investigated cases in which somebody failed a background check to buy guns. The State Police, citing workforce shortages, eventually disbanded the task force and handed the investigations over to local jurisdictions, which have been spotty at best at following through. Now, Gov. Kate Brown has asked the State Police to “immediately” look into reinstating the task force, which a retired officer says was effective. The State Police says it may ask for more money to tackle this — and wasn’t the state swimming in cash last time we looked? This story also is exclusive to Oregonian/OregonLive subscribers.

Here’s a good Q-and-A session with Michelle Zauner, the Eugene-raised musician and author you might know best as the leader of the indie band Japanese Breakfast. Or maybe you know her best as the author of the best-selling memoir “Crying in H Mart.” I like the format of these “Talk” interviews in The New York Times Magazine, which allow for a number of useful annotations. Japanese Breakfast, by the way, is due in Portland on Oct. 7 for a show.

If you want to know more about how municipal codes prevented a Portland-area restauranteur from relocating her acclaimed Sammich food truck to Corvallis, click here. It turns out that the truck is longer than the maximum allowed by Corvallis rules. If you’re curious to check out the cuisine offered by Melissa McMillan, though, there’s no need to leave the mid-valley: The Sammich truck has found a home at The Landing cart pod at Lebanon’s new Tallman Brewing. The truck is scheduled to open at the Lebanon location, 2055 Primrose St., on June 23.

Finally this week: Faithful readers know that I encourage people to maintain subscriptions to a local news outlet, a statewide news outlet and a national news outlet, if their finances so allow. I also believe that news organizations are perfectly justified in maintaining paywalls — somebody has to pay the bills for this kind of reporting, and it increasingly isn’t advertisers. But I also understand that you can’t possibly subscribe to every news outlet — and I try to not include too many links to paid sites. But I have noticed that The New York Times allows me to “gift” up to 10 stories each month to others — well, I’m down to eight stories for June — but here’s an offer: If I link to a Times story, and you’ve hit the paper’s paywall, send me an email or post a comment below, and if I have any Times stories yet to gift for that particular month, I’ll send you an email with a link that should work.

That’s it for this edition. See you next weekend.

1 Comment

  1. Cristina White

    Will always miss you at the Gazette, Mike. Glad you’re still at excellent journalism, good, clear writing.


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