Register-Guard

The Associated Press has developed a "Spillmeter" widget that keeps tabs on how much oil is still leaking into the Gulf of Mexico, months after the Deepwater Horizon explosion.

It's depressing, but you can see it here: http://hosted.ap.org/specials/interactives/_national/spillmeter/

The spillmeter brings home the amount of spewing oil by converting gallons of oil to swimming pool and cans of soda equivalents.

Eugene Weekly can't run the Spillmeter on our website, we're not AP members. But The Register-Guard can. Maybe they can drop their weird pie graph survey thingy to make room? Ooh, or maybe the Spillmeter could pop up instead of that creepy ad for whiter teeth and losing weight? Feel free to drop them a note at feedback@registerguard.com or rgletters@registerguard.com and ask them to run the Spillmeter.

As long as we're picking on oil and the R-G, that paper is hiring a new business reporter, and it looks like a key job requirement for working at the paper is driving a car.

SPECIAL REQUIREMENTS:

Possession of a reliable, fully-insured automobile (car or truck) available at work during working hours; valid Oregon driver’s license; and a good driving record.

What about access to a bike and public transportation? Maybe the R-G could invest in a couple shared staff Priuses (Prii? You know, the Toyota Pious) that reporters could grab, get to a story on time AND cut down on fossil fuels.

Here at EW staffers walk, bike (trike), bus and sometimes drive.

But if you're interested in applying for that R-G reporting job the advertisement also says, that you have to be able to spell, and "to establish and maintain harmonious working relationships with news sources, insofar as possible."

Heh. Good luck with that one.

I'm among the many people convinced that Oregon's new cell phone law is going to get me killed.

I was driving to work this morning, and I could see I was getting a work-related call (because SOMEHOW my personal cell phone number has fallen into the hands of various sources, many of whom logically figure if I'm not in the office then surely they can get me on my cell. This would be fine if they didn't insist on calling at 7:30am, or 8pm, and talk as if I walked around with a notebook in my hand, prepared to take extensive notes at all times. But that's another story.)

Anyway, I could see I was getting a work call that I actually wanted to answer (and actually, I do wander around with a pen and a notebook a lot, and I hate missing good stories so despite my complaining, I do answer). But by the time I had flailed around and figured out my Bluetooth, the caller had given up, and I'd probably come close to driving off the road once or twice. Now in the past, I would have just answered the phone, had my conversation and hung up, without endangering the squirrels and other creatures who were no doubt cowering at the roadside.

Thus to my logic — in my case "hands free" might be doing more harm than good.

So you can imagine how my heart leapt with joy, when I read this sentence in The Register-Guard this morning in a story on the new cell phone law:

The law does have a major loophole: drivers who use their vehicles for work are exempted if using a cell phone “is necessary for the person’s job.” It’s unclear whether anyone ticketed thus far has invoked or plans to invoke that defense.

Aha! I thought. I CAN answer the phone without a hands-free device because I need to for work! (And after my cover story on lying cops two weeks ago, I'm sure "I work for the Eugene Weekly and I had to answer this call for work," would of course make any cop send me on my merry way, ticket free.)

But a closer glance at House Bill 2377 leads me to believe that our friendly neighborhood R-G reporter was a little misleading.

The bill states the law doesn't apply "to a person operating a motor vehicle in the scope of the person's employment if operation of the motor vehicle is necessary for the person's job."

Ummm ok, so under the law, it's not that operating the cell phone is necessary for the person's job, the issue is that operating the vehicle is necessary. Details, details.

Damn. I mean, I work for the Weekly. Ownership of a bike is necessary. A car? Well. Not so much. I don't think I'm willing to be the test case to see if the "I needed to take this call without my hands-free device," defense would work.

Sigh. Just goes to show you, don't believe everything you read. Also, I probably just shouldn't use my cell phone at all while driving if operating a hands-free device is enough to make me a menace to squirrels.

The Oregon Media Central blog got the scoop on the Register-Guard layoffs of 16 staffers this week.

OMC posts comments from a reporter with an inside view of the layoffs (apparently eight newsroom plus eight other):

"I watched my first supervisor in the RG newsroom hand over his badge. This is a young guy with very old-school news values. He taught me a lot - he was always trying to get me to make one more call. Today I watched him check his mail one last time and walk by me with a quick wave I could tell was final. Then I watched one of my best friends at the paper go in the office from which the manager had just come. I watched her head nod from behind. I watched her walk out with it held high. Then I approached her and grabbed her cold hand when she cried. With two other bewildered journalists, we walked her outside. She looked really nice today. She had seen this coming. We lost some impeccable instincts today."

Having missed the story of its own layoffs, the RG reported the next day on the job loss in a story buried in its business section.

The paper reported layoffs of 16 positions, a 6 percent reduction bringing it's staff down to 305. Last summer, the paper cut 12 percent of its staff.

The current 305 staff figure is down from a reported 425 a decade ago. The paper has lost about 12 percent of its subscribers over that period.

The Register-Guard reported this week that its advertising revenues are down 16 percent below budget for the year and down 25 percent below budget this summer. The R-G's profit margin reached about 30 percent in the previous decade, but the Baker family has refused to say how much money they are making now on their newspaper.

We’re hearing rumors that The Register-Guard will be announcing another round of layoffs in Tuesday morning’s paper (June 9). None of our sources would go on the record, but it’s clear that today (Monday) was a bad day at the daily.

We hope the cuts, if they happen, are not deep. Eugene needs a strong daily paper.

It's looking more and more like the R-G is trying to Willie Horton progressive county commissioners.

The R-G ran an attack column today calling for taxpayer spending on pro-jail expansion propaganda (illegal by the way) with this clip-art illustration:

That looks a lot like the infamous Willie Horton ads Bush the senior used to get elected in 1988:

The "independent" ads were widely criticised as racist, untrue and illegal fear mongering, but they played a key role in electing Bush I, and subsequently Bush II.

After the R-G's conservative commissioner candidates lost in the last election, the paper is rattling the recall threat and trying to blame progressive commissioners for any crime that happens in Lane County. They won't let silly facts—like that the criminal released was released under the previous conservative county commission not this one, or that Lane County is one of the safest places to live in the nation—get in the way of their propaganda.

But voters today may be wiser. Desperate McCain supporters tried a Willie Horton style attack on Obama last year and failed.

McMansion

Republicans are pushing to add more tax breaks for the rich into the Obama stimulus.

An idea to use taxpayer money to subsidize lower mortgages is gaining traction. The Register-Guard endorsed it today.

But most of the tax break would go to the rich, who are unlikely to spend it to stimulate the economy.

Here’s the math using calculators and interest rates from Bankrate.com and assuming a subsidized interest rate drop of 1 percent to about 4.4%, as discussed by Republicans:

Double-wide Schmuck:

Mortgage: $100,000
Monthly payment at current interest rate: $560
Payment at new subsidized rate: $499
Savings: $61
% Savings: 11%

McMansion Millionaire:
Mortgage: $500,000
Monthly payment at current interest rate: $6,646
Payment at new subsidized rate: $ 4,996
Savings: $1,650
% Savings: 25%

So the millionaire saves 27 times more than the work-a-day loser. No wonder the Republicans are so excited about this idea.

A big chunk of the difference is that McMansion “jumbo” loans now pay about 1.5 percentage points more interest because they are a greater risk to lenders. So they benefit the most from the Republican tax break.

Most economists agree that big tax breaks for the rich will do little to stimulate the economy. The rich already buy whatever they want and will just pocket the money. Poor people on the other hand will spend the money quickly for basic necessities.

Most poor people don't even own a house. Half of the people living in Eugene are renters.

We got a letter today (Dec. 12) from The Oregonian announcing the paper will no longer be delivered to Eugene area homes, businesses and newsracks beginning Jan. 1. Sunday delivery will continue, but daily and Saturday delivery will cease. You can have the paper mailed but chances are it won’t arrive until much later, if not the next day. We haven’t heard about Salem delivery. Read The Oregonian online at www.oregonlive.com

Oregon’s largest daily has been losing subscribers for years. Back in 1999, the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association listed its daily paid circulation at 431,000. In early 2008, ONPA reported a drop to 310,000, a difference of about 121,000. We suspect the numbers are even worse today. The Register-Guard’s circulation during the same time frame dropped from 78,000 to 68,700, a loss of about 9,300 subscribers.

New ONPA circulation numbers should be out in early 2009. Expect some even more shocking numbers. Want to own a daily newspaper? A lot of them are for sale, but there aren't many buyers.

The Register-Guard, after some 15 years of complaints and protests, has reportedly changed its policy regarding listing the names of both same-sex parents in birth announcements. The daily has refused to name non-biological parents in its free listings, but in late November printed its first complete same-sex birth announcement.

Rebecca Flynn of Basic Rights Oregon said she contacted Managing Editor Dave Baker to see if the announcement was an oversight, and “he told me the newspaper had indeed changed its policy.”

In an email to the Lane LGBT community, Flynn thanked all those who helped in the effort and protests, and “To those who boycotted the paper, thank you for getting your news from other sources for more than two years. Now please join me in re-subscribing to the R-G.”

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