Spanning the State: Canis Lupus Edition

Carla Axtman

When I was a young girl, Sunday nights were something I looked forward to each week. Instead of a larger evening meal like we'd have every other night of the week, Sundays meant church--and a large midday meal. My mother used to pull out all the stops for those post-Church feasts and they were amazing. But we loved our Sunday night food ritual as well: cold milk, breakfast cereal and heaping tablespoons of sugar. My mother would put her feet up after lunch dishes were finished and didn't go back into the kitchen until well after dinnertime. So we did our own "cooking". Raisin Bran was oh so much better back then with a shovel full of white sugar and ice cold milk.

Another great thing about those evenings was the Sunday night television lineup. First we'd watch Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom, with host Marlin Perkins, who'd narrate us through his wildlife adventures with his sidekick Jim Fowler. My mother would start making popcorn about halfway through the program, the smell wafting through our house as we watched Mr. Perkins trap an alligator that was to be moved to a new location--or perhaps tag a bear so it could be tracked. By the time Wild Kingdom was over, the popcorn would be ready, and the star attraction of the evening's television would commence: The Wonderful World of Disney.

Disney consistently presented interesting stories, beautiful photography and an occasional film that had been popular in theaters during these hours of television. It was also a widespread cultural phenomenon of the time.

Lately I've met dozens of people around my age whose own Sunday night tradition mirrored this experience. All told to me with fond memories of childhood and family, it's been interesting to me to hear how others experienced this phenomenon--and how it was a common cultural thread, almost like a touchstone, to which each of us can relate and understand.

With all the divisions around us in our nation, I've enjoyed finding something that erases those lines.

And now, let's Span the State!


For those of you unfamiliar with the label "canis lupus", according to this story its the latin name for the Canadian gray wolf. Right now, the population of these wolves is on the rise in Oregon after years of being on the endangered species list. But Oregon has changed a lot in the time since the wolves made the list, including a greater population of people and cattle in the wolves' traditional roaming area. Wolves+Cattle+People=conflict.

In the rough and tumble world of politics, it can sometimes be difficult to find people who not only see the right thing to do, but actually DO it. This week in east Multnomah County, Metro candidate Duke Shepard decided that it was better to drop out of the race rather than dump cash and other resources scorching the earth around his opponent Gresham City Councilor Shirley Craddick. Shepard's classy move was deservedly lauded by the local paper. I hope this isn't the last we see of Shepard running for office.

The unseasonably wet and cool weather isn't just an issue for those of us craving vitamin D. It's also become a serious issue for some Oregon farms and nurseries. In Klamath Falls, growers were still waking up to hard frosts in late May, causing serious setbacks to their efforts. In Polk County, the wet weather has caused some orchards to see low yields because the weather was so cool and moist when trees were transitioning out of the bloom period to set fruit.

In a news story that looks a lot more like a blog post or column I'd have written about Washington County, Eugene Weekly reporter Alan Pittman opines about the land hungry developers who are looking to carve up the region into a mess of urban sprawl. There's a lot of solid writing in the piece--but Pittman heavily laces it with editorial comment, leaving me confused as to whether this is supposed to be a news story or a column.

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    Sundays were indeed special growing up in our home. The Sunday school ritual followed by Krispy Kreme donsuts. Of course Sunday night was all about the family gathered in front of The Wonderful World of Disney and then begging to stsy up and watch Bonanza.

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    Read a good article yesterday debunking the "wolfpack as gangsters" meme. Also indicates that multi-generational packs with more mature wolves impact the environment way less than packs made up of unrelated survivors of human predation.

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      There are an estimated 14 wolves in Oregon. F-o-u-r-t-e-e-n. Caribou used to barely inch into the state. Bighorn sheep used to number in dozens of thousands in Hells Canyon, not about 1000.

      If you don't have wolves you reap elk and deer starvation, and extensive plant damage. There's been a lot of things taken out of the mix before "Oregonians" learned that.

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        Even with the low # of wolves cited in your comment, Dylan, it's clear that wolves are attacking livestock. These livestock are livelihood for ranchers. So what's the solution? Are ranchers to abdicate land and livestock to wolves? Ranchers understandably want to shoot the wolves--but that's a completely inappropriate action given their tiny population.

        So what's the right solution?

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          If the cattle industry in eastern Oregon cannot tolerate the presence of 14 wolves then it cannot tolerate wolves at all.

          The answer is: too damned bad! This isn't the 19th century, anymore. The days of cattle is king are over.

          Beef isn't good for human consumption and the introduction of these thousands of head of cattle isn't good for our environment. So there are a few hundred folks in eastern Oregon who will have to adjust to a new paradigm.

          Most of thse people own a fair-sized parcel of land, at least. They'll be okay, one way or another.

          They think they've got it tough? Let them try joblessness on the mean streets of a big city.

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            Honestly, this kind of gut reaction isn't going to fix the problem.

            Yes, this is a tiny population of wolves. Yes, ranchers will have to figure out how to live with them. The question It's unrealistic to unilaterally decide that this entire industry is going to have to give itself up any time soon.

            To essentially say "too damned bad" to ranchers just isn't going to cut it.

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              "A global shift towards a vegan diet is vital to save the world from hunger, fuel poverty and the worst impacts of climate change, a UN report said today." The Guardian, June 6, 2010

              We need to have a serious public discussion about the costs of animal agriculture.

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              Sure it will "cut it."

              All we need to do is continue to protect wolves under the ESA and let ranchers know that if they harm the wolves, they will face prosecution, and follow up on that.

              And continue with education as to the many problems caused by animal agriculture, as Joshua Welch posted.

              What is impractical about this?

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    "In a news story that looks a lot more like a blog post or column I'd have written about Washington County, Eugene Weekly reporter Alan Pittman opines about the land hungry developers who are looking to carve up the region into a mess of urban sprawl. There's a lot of solid writing in the piece--but Pittman heavily laces it with editorial comment, leaving me confused as to whether this is supposed to be a news story or a column."

    This is an interesting comment. I don't see the classification of this story as a news story or column to be that important. You're the journalism expert but it just doesn't seem like a problem to me. As a consumer of news I actually look for more sense-making or editorializing. I think news consumers like more straight news mixed w/ sense-making and many need it w/ less and less free time.

    I'm sure your familiar w/ the Project for excellence in Journalism.

    Tom Rosenstiel, the Director wrote a great book, Principles of Journalism, which you probably are aware of, in which he discusses journalism reform amongst other things. If I recall he talks about the need for more sense-making.

    Alan is a veteran journalist who has been covering sprawl/land use issues around here for a while. I think readers better understand the issue because of his editorializing. I think this style more accuratly reflects the watchdog role of the press opposed to the standard neutral delivery mechanism we see too often.

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    The problem with Eugene Weekly, and Alan's reporting particularly, isn't just that it fails to distinguish between reporting and editorializing (once you recognize that, you can accept it for what it is) but that he consistently fails to even interview people who he knows disagrees with his point of view. Consequently, his articles are not only opinionated but they fail to acknowledge the arguments on the other side and thus are consistently ignored by the intelligent members of Eugene's progressive community.

    It's really too bad because Alan is actually a good reporter when he wants to be and, on the rare occasion when he actually tries to cover both sides, he does a good job. I think I'm one of the few non-progressives in Eugene who takes the time to talk to the Eugene Weekly folks, including Alan, but I can't say it's done much good.

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      It’s no surprise that a conservative believes that Eugene’s progressive weekly needs to provide more of a voice to the right-wing.

      This, “cover both sides” kind of journalistic philosophy has been extremely destructive, often times treating unreasonable unsupported right-wing positions the same as well-supported progressive positions, or right-wing lunatics the same as sane intelligent progressives. Creationism vs. Evolution, Climate Change vs. Climate Change Denial, and Rachel Maddow vs. Rush Limbaugh are excellent examples.

      When the debate gets actually shifts to the left to a more reasonable place, right-wingers claim they are not getting appropriate coverage by the liberal media. I’m not saying all conservatives or conservative ideas should be ignored or not covered, but often times they simply don’t merit coverage. Certainly the right-wing/conservative/big business/anti-environment/pro-sprawl crowd cannot claim they don’t have enough opportunity to get their views out to the public. The intelligent members of Eugene’s progressive community can always get perspective of the right-wingers or the “other side” from the RG.

      Avoiding the “cover both sides” brand of journalism is understandably seen as a problem by many right-wingers/conservatives but others see it as good journalism.

      Also, as the EW regularly notes, right-wing people/groups fail to return calls to EW reporters.

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    I am not a regular reader of The Eugene Weekly, but in general I find metro dailies at least as biased as their no cost cousins. Decades of market dilution and the constant whining about "liberal media" by corporatist minions has given us a conservative dream-come-true of one megacorp owned daily per market. The remaining papers (not worthy of being called newspapers) are at best timid at at worst puppets of the investor class.

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    I think the introduced beef cattle do a lot of harm to the environment- they have grazing behavior that is too sedentary, therefore they over-forage where they happen to be. A lot of areas of the West would do better to have native bison on the range.

    Not to mention the war being waged against prairie dogs and black-footed ferrets, in the misguided name of keeping the range for the introduced beef cattle. The prairie dogs and ferrets evolved to coexist with bison.

    And, as a great many ranchers get a subsidy by access to BLM land at reduced rates, I say they do pretty well at the government trough, even with the loss of a few head to wolf predation.

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    As a former journalist, you can never control what side of the aisle ownership operates from - and the kind of stories/agenda they want their news team to pursue.

    To Jack's point, a journalist's responsibility - no matter his own ideology - is to report facts and share views from both sides of an issue, no matter how liberal or conservative his news outlet is. If you want to throw around your opinion as a journalist, then recognize your piece as editorial content, not as a legitimate news story.

    This is a problem on both sides (Fox News). I think it's just plain silly for you to even suggest that conservative ideas aren't legitimate, and that the debate is more reasonable when it "shifts left."

    It's that kind of ideology, in my opinion, that's most destructive in political debates. But, then again, I'm always reminded that when a person becomes ideologically blind, the only truth he sees is his own.

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      Well Jason, I have never worked as a journalist. However, I have put some serious time into studying journalism, almost going into the profession. I’ve also taught about the role of the press in a democracy for a short time in public schools. Also have been a bit of a political news junkie for many years, so I don’t come to this discussion unprepared.

      First of all, there are never just two sides any issue nor is there only two “sides” to politics.

      The role of any particular journalist is different from the role of the press. To say it’s the role of the press or any particular journalist to “report the facts and share both sides of an issue” is a gross oversimplification.

      The role of the press is to monitor power, provide a voice for the voiceless, to be truthful, to be loyal first to the public interest/common good etc. It is NOT to simply echo the opinions of the two most popular political ideologies/political parties.

      The press is not supposed to be neutral, it’s supposed to fight for the common good, which is almost never in alignment w/ the conservative pro-corporate agenda. The “both sides” mentality has helped get us the mind-numbing corporate media that we have and has helped conservatives and corporations gain a lot of power.

      There is no liberal version of FOX News which spews lies and misinformation 24/7.

      We have seen the Conservative philosophy of tax cuts for the rich, deregulate everything, screw the environment, give the corporations everything they want, greed is good, play out and it’s disastrous. These ideas and the people that continue to champion them no longer have credibility and do not deserve equal coverage/treatment/respect.

      We need to be talking about how to deal w/ climate change...not whether it exists or not. Get it? The fact that the most popular American conservatives are morons like Sarah Palin and complete scum-bags like Glenn Beck, and Rush Limbaugh, says a lot about the quality or lack there of, of today’s conservatives. They don't deserve more coverage, they deserve to be marginalized.

      I have conservative roots. Lived and worked w/ conservatives most of my life. I decided years ago that the me first screw everyone else, anti-environment, anti-equal rights, anti-choice set of principles were bad for me, bad for the planet, and basically ideologically and morally bankrupt.

      Stephen Colbert once said that reality has a liberal bias….and I agree.

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      Some say earth is round, others disagree.

      Sorry but not all "sides" to an issue (or issues) merit equal weight, coverage and legitimacy within the journalistic and news sphere.

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