Your Weekend Reader for Sept. 25-26

by | Sep 26, 2021 | Arts and Entertainment, Journalism, Miscellaneous | 1 comment

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Wait: This is the last weekend of September? How did that happen?

It’s an eternal question, that “How did that happen?” I’m not sure there’s always a good answer. But, as you ponder it, you could also ponder these selected readings.

This might change in the wake of the Beavers’ convincing win against the University of Southern California on Saturday night, but here’s a bit of interesting football and vaccination news: Both OSU and the University of Oregon are playing their home football games in stadiums with thousands of empty seats. Scott Barnes, OSU’s athletic director, says it’s because the school mandates attendees at Reser Stadium show proof of vaccination or a recent negative test for COVID; in fact, Barnes says, season ticket sales screeched to a halt as soon as OSU announced this policy. And it’s not just football fans who aren’t showing up: Barnes says OSU hired part-time workers to staff the games, but hundreds simply didn’t show up. Of course, empty seats at football games are bad news for an athletic department’s budget, which is so dependent on football revenues. But I think the policy regarding vaccination or COVID tests for entry is exactly the correct one. Nick Daschel of The Oregonian/OregonLive broke the story about the lagging ticket sales. The Beavers’ next home game is against Washington on Oct. 2.

Speaking of COVID, here’s a haunting and troubling story from Slate: writer Lily Loofbourow reports on the HermanCainAward, a subreddit that catalogs the COVID deaths of anti-vaxxers. It’s named, of course, for the Republican Herman Cain, who died of COVID after attending a rally for President Donald Trump; Cain was photographed maskless at the event. An entry in the subreddit typically consists of social media posts belonging to someone who was aggressively against vaccination or other measures, such as masking, and then tracks those posts after COVID struck. “It is cruel,” Loofbourow writes, “a site for heartless and unrepentant schadenfreude.” And yet, she writes: “Does anything besides schadenfreude happen when Americans see one after another after another after another of these stories?”  That’s a tough question, and not just for anti-vaxxers.

Are the days of local daily newspapers publishing seven print editions each week numbered? Probably, according to this report from Marc Jacobs at Northwestern University’s Medill Local News Initiative. In this model, newsrooms stay active all week long, producing content for their digital editions, but papers publish print editions just a few days each week — typically Sundays, with maybe an extra day or two thrown into the mix. Of local interest: Papers owned by Lee Enterprises in Casper, Wyoming and Longview, Washington no longer publish print editions seven days a week. Lee, of course, owns the papers in Corvallis and Albany.

Here’s a rare bird: A somewhat hopeful story about climate change. This comes from Jes Burns at OPB, who reported on the Oregon State University team of researchers, including chemist May Nyman, who got a $1.6 million grant from the federal Department of Energy to research ways to pull carbon from the atmosphere.

And, just so you don’t get too carried away by the good news, here’s a counterpoint: This year’s wildfires in the Western United States released 130 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, including about 17 million tons in Oregon. Henry Fountain of The New York Times has the details.

A couple of weeks ago, I included a link to “The New Puritans,” an Atlantic article by Anne Applebaum that took a deep look at “cancel culture” — how people can be ostracized after breaking, or being accused of breaking “social codes having to do with race, sex, personal behavior or even acceptable humor, which may not have existed five years ago or maybe five months ago.” Michelle Goldberg, writing last week in The New York Times, agrees with some of Applebaum’s points, but has issues with the overall piece. If you read Applebaum’s story, this provides an interesting counterpoint.

Finally, this week — and to end this edition on an upbeat note — here’s an excellent story from The New York Times Magazine’s travel issue by the Seattle writer Jon Mooallem. The magazine told Mooallem that he could travel anywhere in the world to do a story for the issue. He decided to drive to, um, Spokane, to see a minor league baseball game. Mooallem hits a lot of notes in this story: It’s about pandemic isolation, to be sure, but it’s also a tribute to minor league baseball. And for those of us who always denigrated Spokane (when I lived in Missoula, I always thought Spokane was the place you drove through to get to Seattle), it serves as a minor corrective.

That’s it for this weekend. The next weekend will be the first one in October. How did that happen?

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