Your Weekend Reader for March 11-12

by | Mar 11, 2023 | Weekend Reader | 1 comment

Let’s start this weekend by digging in the dirt a bit.

I wrote about Oregon State University soil scientist James Cassidy a few years back, when the Chintimini Chamber Music Festival commissioned a string quartet from Paul Robb, who was a member along with Cassidy in the long-running synth-pop band Information Society. It was a fun interview. Now, a fresh new story from OPB goes in-depth into both sides of Cassidy’s resume: rock star and soil scientist. It also is a fun read, if a little scattered. One thing’s for sure: You won’t think about voles in the same way again. I always assumed voles were the fast food of the animal kingdom, but there’s more to them than that.

The Academy Awards are Sunday, which means I am going to fail in my yearly quest to see all the films nominated for best picture before the ceremony. Nevertheless, I will post my picks for all 23 Oscar categories later on Saturday, but I do so with a heavy heart: I feel certain that I will be unable to beat my performance from last year, when I went 21-for 23. In the meantime, if you want to be sure you catch at least one movie that will win at least one Oscar, your choice this weekend should be “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” which appears to have pulled off the rare feat of leading the Academy Award race from start to finish. (It’s playing at Darkside Cinema.) And if you want to catch up on all things Oscar, your friends at The Associated Press have posted most of their content at this location.

The Portland-based office of the National Weather Service blew the call on the February snowstorm that crippled Portland. Forecasters at the Weather Service (which, to be completely fair, usually is shockingly accurate) thought there was a 1% chance of 8 inches of snow; instead, the storm brought 11 inches, paralyzing Portland. At a closed-door meeting this week with Weather Service officials and emergency managers from Northwest Oregon, participants talked about ways to do a better job of communicating sometimes-rapid changes in forecasts. (Climate change also is a factor in these extreme weather events.) One option under consideration, according to this OPB story: using emergency text messages. That’s probably a good idea, but I did have one question after reading the story: Why was the meeting held behind closed doors? Whose privacy would possibly have been invaded by opening the meeting?

As Oregon continues to move toward electrification — and as cities as Eugene and Corvallis either enact or consider ordinances to ban natural-gas hookups in new homes — the state’s largest natural gas company, NW Natural, finds itself in a fight for its long-term existence. Gosia Wozniacka has a long and absorbing story in The Oregonian/OregonLive outlining how the company is fighting back. (The story is available only to subscribers to The Oregonian, but at $10 a month, it’s still a bargain.)

I seem to recall complaining last week about this weekend’s switch to daylight saving time. We all “spring ahead” an hour at 2 a.m. Sunday, and — despite “fall back” in the autumn, we’ll never get that hour back. U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon is among those senators backing a switch to permanent daylight saving time, but some doctors argue that the best call would be moving to permanent standard time. I have no horse in this particular race: Let’s just get rid of the time change. If you’re thinking that you recall the Oregon Legislature taking bold action on this, you’re kind of right: The 2019 session approved a bill that would allow the state to end the time change once the federal government allows states to observe daylight saving time year-round — but then only if Washington and California follow suit. So: Action, yes. Bold, not so much.

I’m scheduled to speak next week to the Rotary Club of Wallowa County (it’s a long and interesting story, but I’m not going to dive into it right now) about the state of its weekly newspaper, the Wallowa County Chieftain, for which I have been doing some freelance work. So I’m grateful to this new column from Jamelle Bouie in The New York Times, which does a nice job of encapsulating my views on newspapers, communities and democracy. (Like all pieces from the Times, it’s available just to subscribers, but I can send you a “gift” link to the column, if you post your email address in the comments section, below.)

Speaking of journalism: I know that the Weekend Reader has made a habit of posting information about Lee Enterprises, the owner of the Gazette-Times and the Democrat-Herald, because … well, you know. But as much as Lee’s cost-cutting has impacted the G-T and the D-H, look to our neighbors in Salem and Eugene to see how Gannett, the owners of the Statesman Journal and the Register-Guard, has devastated those papers. Joshua Benton of Harvard’s Nieman Lab has a new piece about Gannett, and the headline pretty much tells the story: “The scale of local news destruction in Gannett’s markets is astonishing.” And if I may add this note: What’s happened to the Statesman Journal is bad enough, but what’s happened to the Register-Guard is a tragedy: The R-G used to be one of the best newspapers of its size in the country. Now, it’s owned by Gannett. End of story.

Finally this week, the Media Insight Project issued a report about the news habits of Millennials and members of Gen Z. The report had good news and bad news for newspapers: First, some 60% of Americans aged 16 to 40 pay for or donate to a news provider. The bad news: They’re more than twice as likely to pay for or donate to email newsletters, video or audio content from independent creators than to traditional sources such as print or digital newspapers.

That’s it for this weekend. Fight back against daylight saving: Go to bed Saturday night an hour early. That’ll show ’em! You’re a rebel!

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