Your Weekend Reader for March 26-27

by | Mar 26, 2022 | Journalism, Miscellaneous, Weekend Reader | 0 comments

I hope you’ve had a wonderful spring break. For my part, as you will see, I spent much of the week gathering some of the finest nuggets of news from all over the interwebs and pulling them together, with bits of spicy comment, into the bouillabaisse that is Your Weekend Reader. (Can you tell I’ve been watching too much Stephen Colbert?)

Idaho has enacted an anti-abortion law that’s modeled, in some ways, on that repellent Texas law: Idaho’s law would ban abortions after six weeks and allow family members of rapists to sue abortion providers. The passage of the Texas law prompted an increase in the demand for abortions in clinics in neighboring states; the Idaho law could spark a similar surge in Oregon clinics. House Bill 5202, the mammoth 100-page budget bill passed in this year’s short session, allocates $15 million to establish what’s called the Oregon Reproductive Equity Fund. (It’s right there in Section 368.) The goal, reports Libby Acker of The Oregonian/OregonLive, is to help patients obtain abortions by paying for the services in addition to help with items such as lodging and travel. Rep. Dan Rayfield of Corvallis, the speaker of the House, helped push the bill through the Legislature.

Speaking of Idaho: There’s still talk about a good chunk of Oregon seceding from the state and joining what its proponents call “Greater Idaho.” But, as Douglas Perry of The Oregonian/OregonLive reminded us this week, secession talk is nothing new in Oregon — and, in fact, it’s still bubbling after more than a century in Jefferson, down on the Oregon-California border.

Remember the flu? Of course you don’t — because we were all masked (well, most of us) and socially isolated last year, we had virtually no flu season. It was the first “flu vacation” in the memory of many medical professionals. But now, the masks are coming off — and there are signs that our flu vacation is over, just like spring break. Amelia Templeton of OPB had the story.

Here’s a story from The New York Times about people across the country (including Corvallis) who have fended off pandemic blues by walking every street in their city. In many of the cases, their efforts are aided by an app called CityStrides.

The Atlantic’s climate-change reporter, Robinson Meyer, devoted most of his newsletter this week to a fascinating discussion of the Security and Exchange Commission’s new rule to require public companies to disclose information about their climate risks, the same way they must disclose information about profits and dividends and the like. It seems like a step forward, but as Meyer writes, the rule still faces plenty of potential roadblocks.

And here, from Cara Buckley at The New York Times, is a climate-change story that raises a ray of hope: Young people are part of a cadre of people who are fighting “climate doomism,” the notion that it’s too late to turn things around.

That’s enough environmental hope for now. Here, from The Guardian, is a downer: For the first time, microplastic pollution has been detected in human blood.

Joshua Benton at Harvard’s Nieman Lab reported this week about a raft of academic studies all aimed at the question of how journalists can cover climate change — a big and challenging question, to be sure. But one of the studies concluded something that won’t surprise anyone who’s ever worked at any level of journalism: Tweets that bore bad news tended to get more traction among readers than positive messages. This reminded me of all those times that readers told me that there never was any good news in the paper. Well, of course, that’s not true — what IS true is that readers were far more likely to remember bad news.

Speaking of journalism, an edition of Richard J. Tofel’s “Second Rough Draft” newsletter pondered the increasing problem of news deserts — that is, areas that have no access to quality local news reporting from any source. Tofel argues it’s important to remember that this is a problem likely to hit poorer areas of the country with particular force, an observation which is almost certainly true.

The Oregonian/OregonLive earlier this week put together a handy list of the biggest Oregon political donations thus far in 2022. The list includes some of the usual suspects: Phil Knight, timber companies, etc. — but some newcomers as well, including a latecomer to the Oregon governor’s race. (One useful feature of this Oregonian story is that it explains the various political action committees that legally funnel donations to the candidates: So, for example, you learn that the Oregonians Are Ready PAC is attempting to elect moderate Democrats. And the PAC Bring Balance to Salem, mostly funded by timber companies, wants to elect Republicans.) As you know, Oregon allows unlimited donations to political campaigns, thanks in part to state Supreme Court decisions that have ruled that such limits violate free speech protections. So does that mean that big donors have more free speech than you do? Well, maybe it’s just that big donors can afford more free speech than you can. The newcomer to the gubernatorial race, by the way, is Bob Tiernan, a former legislator and Grocery Outlet executive: Tiernan raised a cool million in February, but half of that came via a personal loan.

Here’s a tuneup for National Poetry Month, which kicks off April 1: OPB’s John Hill checked in with Oregon’s poet laureate, Portland’s Anis Mojgani, who reflected on the odd experience of taking on that title during the midst of the pandemic. One of his responses: holding readings and informal musical concerts from a window at his new studio to about 50 or so people on Friday nights.

Here’s a fun story from the Times about an Australian science experiment involving magpies that went awry in an unexpected way. The scientists designing the experiment devised a tracking harness that they figured even the brightest magpie couldn’t wiggle out of — even though magpies are remarkably intelligent. But the scientists didn’t count on magpies stepping in to assist other magpies.

One of my favorite reporters back in my Montana days, Kathleen McLaughlin, has a new piece for Outside about the Montana landscape that inspired writer Thomas Savage, whose novel “The Power of the Dog” was turned into an Oscar front-runner by director Jane Campion. McLaughlin, a Montana native, writes about how “a lifetime of watching half-plausible westerns set in the state, overflowing with white, macho, mostly invented Montana mystique, has left me jaded about my state’s representation in the media” — and explains how Campion’s movie offers a counterpoint to that tired mystique.

And speaking of the Academy Awards: There’s still time (until Sunday at noon Pacific time) to enter my annual Oscar contest, in which you examine my foolhardy Oscar predictions and then try to match or beat me. This year, we’re playing for a small but fun prize — a gift card to the Darkside Cinema.

That’s it for this weekend. See you next weekend, when April will be in full swing.

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