Your Weekend Reader for June 3-4

by | Jun 3, 2023 | Weekend Reader | 5 comments

Faithful Weekend Reader readers will recall an item from a month ago predicting that it was only a matter of time until the Corvallis Gazette-Times and Albany Democrat-Herald would be going to a three-day-a-week publication schedule. Quoting a story from the Daily Montanan, the item noted that the change would be part of a companywide strategy by Lee Enterprises (the owners of the G-T and D-H) to move all but its 20 largest papers to a three-day schedule.

So it didn’t come as much of a surprise on last Sunday, May 28, when G-T and D-H editor Penny Rosenberg reported that, starting on June 27, the print edition for the Gazette-Times and Democrat-Herald would move to a different publication schedule, with delivery days three days each week: Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. In addition (and I should have foreseen this), the print editions will be delivered by mail. (You had to get to the eighth paragraph of Rosenberg’s column to get to the news about the reduced print schedule.)

Clearly, Rosenberg’s orders from corporate were to put the happiest possible face on this news, and so she promised that the three print editions would be “expanded” and would offer “a ‘Sunday’ reading experience that’s bursting with local news and opinions, investigative and watchdog journalism, personalities and profiles, sports stories that take you beyond the results of a game played a day or two ago, and a deeper look at the businesses and market leaders in our community and the world around us.”

I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt on that — certainly, it’s possible to emphasize deeper local reporting if the paper is only filling three editions a week with local news. But, in my experience, that’s harder to pull off than it would appear at first: For one thing, the company still is going to emphasize getting fresh content on its websites every day — and that requires time and energy from reporters, photographers and editors. I would feel better if Rosenberg also had reported in her piece that Lee was reinvesting some of its savings from newsprint, press time and delivery expenses in hiring a couple of additional journalists, but I must have skipped over that part.

I understand newspapers need to be diligent about controlling their costs to stay viable: I certainly have personal experience with that. And clearly one of the company’s long-term strategies is to move as many customers as possible to digital subscriptions. But I worry that, instead of revitalizing the news operation by adding extra resources to the newsroom, this move will serve only as an additional blow to the G-T and the D-H (not to mention the company’s other smaller papers). Although, if you recall that story a few weeks ago from the Poynter Institute about how Lee is managing one of its bigger newspapers, the company isn’t really doing any favors to its bigger titles.

Let me emphasize one more point: Even as Lee makes it harder and harder to support its products, it’s still vital for us to do so. The price of an online subscription ($26.99 a month, although I’m guessing a price increase is stashed away in the company’s planning over the next year or so) isn’t outrageous, assuming you can afford it. But I worry that these latest moves by Lee bring the mid-valley closer to becoming a news desert (a region not regularly served by a reliable news outlet) — or could end with the Gazette-Times and Democrat-Herald as “ghost papers” like the Eugene Register-Guard, with just a couple of reporters and editorial guidance stationed elsewhere. Over the long run, reader support could prevent those fates — and I’ll leave it at that for the time being.

One last note about mid-valley journalism before we move on: Gannett newsroom employees in about two dozen of the company’s 200 or so newspapers are planning to walk off their jobs starting on Monday. Unionized Gannett employees say they’re deeply underpaid and point to CEO Mike Reed, who made about $3.4 million in 2022. Only about 17% of Gannett’s employees are unionized, though, and I’m not sure if any of them work in the two papers the company owns in Oregon, the Eugene Register-Guard and the Salem Statesman-Journal. Gannett, of course, has eliminated about half of its jobs nationwide over the last four years.

That’s enough for now about that. Let’s move on:

Last week’s Weekend Reader correctly predicted that the Oregon State baseball team had played itself out of hosting a regional round in the NCAA tournament with its 0-for-2 performance in the Pac-12 tournament. Sure enough, the Beavers got shuffled down to Baton Rouge for its regional. Friday night, the team seemed to shake off its recent woes with an 18-2 win over Sam Houston State, anchored by a clutch pitching performance by Trent Sellers. The going gets tougher for the Beavs on Saturday night, with a game against No. 5 Louisiana State University. (The link is to an Oregonian story that’s available only to subscribers, but I understand why; the paper paid to send a reporter to Baton Rouge.)

That’s not all the good news about Beaver baseball this weekend:

Former Beaver baseball standout Adley Rutschman has emerged as one of Major League Baseball’s brightest new stars — and his team, the Baltimore Orioles, is perhaps the most improved team in the big leagues, thanks to a careful and steady rebuilding plan that included Rutschman as one of the key pieces. A new piece in The Athletic points out something that even diehard baseball fans might not know: Rutschman currently is leading the American League in walks, with 43. The last time a catcher led his league in walks? Mickey Tettleton of the 1992 Detroit Tigers, with 122. (Although The Athletic — The New York Times’ website covering sports — does not allow me to share stories for free, it does let me send you a 30-day gift subscription; just send me a comment if you’re interested.)

Meanwhile, more trouble may be brewing for the Pac-12 Conference:

The current buzz around the Pac-12 Conference’s realignment drama is that the University of Colorado may be exploring bolting for the Big 12. There’s no doubt that new coach Deion Sanders has reenergized the Buffaloes’ football program, and that star power makes Colorado a tempting target for another conference to poach — and, geographically, the move makes a certain amount of sense, as Doug Gottlieb pointed out Friday on his sports talk show. (The discussion occurred, if memory serves, near the end of the show’s second hour. I was in the drive-through at McDonald’s at the time; don’t judge me.) The Athletic has the details of the Colorado scuttlebutt. A lot of this, of course, still hinges on what sort of media deal the Pac-12’s George Kliavkoff is able to hammer out — but it’s been radio silence on that now for months. (The Athletic notes that the Big 12 is sniffing around other Pac-12 schools, including Arizona, Arizona State and Utah.)

Good news from Salem for Oregon higher education: Bolstered by a sunny revenue estimate from state economists, the Legislature’s Joint Ways and Means Subcommittee on Education has voted to approve a $3.67 billion budget for the Higher Education Coordinating Commission, which distributes money to public colleges and universities. That’s a 10% increase over what budget experts said was necessary to maintain current services and programs. Sami Edge of The Oregonian/OregonLive has the story, which is outside the paper’s paywall. Of course, approval of the budget may have to wait for a special session this summer, as Senate Republicans continue their walkout, which has left the Senate without the quorum it needs to do any business.

Speaking of that walkout, which now is a month old: The Senate voted this week to impose $325-a-day fines, beginning Monday, for any senator with an unexcused absence. The fines seem unlikely to break the impasse. Ben Botkin has the details for the Oregon Capital Chronicle.

New York Times columnist (and, for a brief time, Oregon gubernatorial candidate) Nicholas Kristof is on his annual reporting trip, traveling through Africa in pursuit of stories that offer a measure of hope. He found more than a measure in Sierra Leone, which has made extraordinary progress in reducing mortality in childbirth. Kristof also takes time to ponder why, at a time when the world has made substantial gains in reducing poverty and disease worldwide, so many of us believe the world is going to hell: Journalists, he says, must bear at least some of the blame. Earlier in the week, Kristof wrote about the dramatic turnaround in Mississippi schools — and what that can teach the rest of the United States. You have to appreciate Kristof’s zeal to look for stories that offer a sliver of hope. (Remember that I can offer free “gift” links to any Times story; just drop me an email or post a comment, below.)

Finally this week: Even wonder how it was that dinosaurs eventually evolved into birds? Well, first, they had to develop feathers — and these days, it’s not unusual to find fossils from feathered dinosaurs. The full story is much more detailed, and Carl Zimmer provides the details in his “Origins” column for The New York Times.

Have a terrific weekend.

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5 Comments

  1. Bob Meseroll

    The Missoulian is going to the same publication schedule in July. That means online-only coverage of Griz football games in the fall. That should go over well, but I guess that schedule will save Griz GameDay for now. And whenever Lee raises prices for print or web, just call and complain and they’ll keep you at the same rate.

    Reply
  2. Judy Corwin

    Wow! This is scary craziness. Democracy is in more jeopardy everyday. Mike Corwin says Colorado is only doing diligence for 5 years down the road.

    Reply
  3. Butc Larcombe

    Mike: $26.99 monthly for an online sub seems pretty steep. I pay $9.99 for the Missoulian. They try to raise the price and I call and threaten to quit. They immediately back off. I realize news isn’t free but Lee can’t keep cutting news jobs and meaningful content and still expect people to pay more.

    Reply
  4. Rachel K Kirby

    Like many people, I’m concerned about the loss of a local paper. Not that we haven’t already “lost” our local paper, but at least there was an article now and then that addressed Corvallis issues. Just a funny note, I’ve been trying for TWO YEARS to get the GT to stop delivering the paper as I pay for the on-line edition. 10 or 12 phone calls to those nice people in Bangladesh didn’t work, so I finally put a cardboard sign in the front driveway saying, “Please stop delivering the GT. We have the online edition.” They put the newspaper next to the sign. Sigh…..

    Reply
  5. Marie Wise

    The Longview Daily News is going to a three-day-a-week schedule too.

    Reply

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