Your Weekend Reader for Oct. 16-17

by | Oct 18, 2021 | Arts and Entertainment, Journalism, Miscellaneous | 0 comments

Update: Washington State University head football coach Nick Rolovich, who’s mentionedin an item below, was fired on Monday, along with four of his assistants, for refusing to get a COVID vaccination.

With that update out of the way, let’s start this week — as we seem to every week — with a downer of a story about the state of newspapers: Here’s McKay Coppins, an outstanding reporter for The Atlantic, with the most comprehensive piece I’ve seen on Alden Global Capital, the secretive hedge fund that makes money for its investors by gutting the newsrooms of the newspapers it buys. You might recall that Alden made headlines this year when it bought all of Tribune Publishing’s newspapers, including the storied Chicago Tribune and the Baltimore Sun. You might also recall that, for a time, Alden owned stock in Lee Enterprises, the publisher of the Gazette-Times. Now, as I can tell you, Lee has a well-deserved reputation for cost-cutting — but they’re amateurs in that realm, compared to what Alden inflicts in its newsrooms.

Alex Baumhardt at the new Oregon Capital Chronicle has a new story about the pressures facing school administrators and school board members as issues such as mask mandates and equity in schools continue to polarize communities. The story prominently quotes Sami Al-Abdrabbuh, the chair of the Corvallis School Board and the head of the Oregon School Board Member of Color Caucus. The story also quotes Kevin Bogatin, a longtime veteran of the Corvallis School District and now the superintendent in North Bend.

It sounds as if journalist Nicholas Kristof is a step closer to a run for Oregon governor: The New York Times reported Thursday that Kristof is leaving the Times, where he has served as a columnist, to continue to ponder a political campaign. He’s been on leave from the paper since June. On Tuesday, Kristof filed paperwork with Oregon’s secretary of state to organize a candidate committee. If he runs, he’ll run as a Democrat, where the heavy favorite now is Speaker of the House Tina Kotek. But Oregon does have history in terms of journalists running for public office, as the career of Tom McCall attests.

James Ross Gardner, writing in the current issue of The New Yorker, has a chronicle of this summer’s disastrous “heat dome” event in Portland and the Willamette Valley.

Here’s a story from Billy Witz, who covers college football for The New York Times, about one of the more compelling storylines this season from the Pac-12 Conference: the COVID vaccination status of Washington State University head football coach Nick Rolovich. Rolovich has not said if he’s received the vaccine or if he plans to apply for an exemption under state of Washington guidelines, but a former college coach said that Rolovich has asked for a religious exemption. It’s not clear yet if the request will be granted. And here’s an update on this story: Rolovich, the highest-paid public employee in the state of Washington, was fired on Monday, along with four of his assistants.

Speaking of COVID: We all know (well, most of us know) that we’ll be masking up against COVID and its numerous variants for some time to come. So, with that in mind, here’s a piece from The Atlantic about how research is suggesting that surgical masks are more effective than cloth masks. But here’s an important point to keep in mind: If surgical masks aren’t available (and they weren’t for much of last winter), a cloth mask is considerably better than nothing. Here’s another important point: Getting vaccinated is still the most important action you can take to battle the coronavirus.

As you have figured out by now, I’m a bit of a closet U.S. Supreme Court wonk — so I was interested in this New York Times opinion piece from Jill Abramson about the justice who might become the most influential on the court. Spoiler alert: This may not be good news.

Finally, this week, a handful of cultural notes:

Standup comedian Dave Chappelle’s new Netflix special, “The Closer,” has drawn criticism for his comments about LGBTQ people. If you’re looking for a nuanced, thoughtful piece about the controversy surrounding the special and Chappelle, take a look at this essay from The Atlantic’s Helen Lewis.

Speaking of Netflix: Are you looking for ammo to use the next time somebody says you just have to see “Squid Game” — but you don’t actually want to watch the hyperviolent social satire from Korea? The New York Times’ Mike Hale has you covered.

Denis Villeneuve’s eagerly anticipated big-screen adaptation of “Dune” is due on Friday in theaters and on the streaming service HBO Max. While we wait for the movie’s bow, Jamie Hale of The Oregonian/Oregon Live traced how the Oregon Dunes helped inspire “Dune” author Frank Herbert to create his classic sci-fi novel — and its five sequels.

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