Oregon evictions: the deluge is coming

In September 2020, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler urged more measures to help rental tenants. “While we’re in the middle of this pandemic, we need to do our part to protect renters from the tidal wave of evictions that we know is coming,” he said. 

A “tidal wave” is right. There’s now documentation that renter households across Oregon are on track to owe as much as $378 million in past-due rent by January 2021. Up to 150,000 of those households could be hit with an eviction filing at that point, a substantial number of them lower-income households.

A nationwide moratorium on evictions the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued is set to expire on January 1, 2021. An Oregon moratorium protects any renter unable to pay rent from being evicted until at least Jan. 8, 2021.

Moody’s Analytics analysis estimates that by the end of 2020, the average back-rent owed by renters across the United States will be $5,400, accumulating to $70 billion by the end of the year. That could translate into up to 8.4 million renter households (20.1 million individual renters) experiencing an eviction filing by January 2021. 

That’s the warnings just issued by The National Council of State Housing Agencies in a report produced by the advisory firm Stout, Risius Ross LLC.

Many renters are struggling to cover their housing costs as the coronavirus outbreak, and its economic fallout, have now stretched about seven months, and as the pandemic takes a heavier financial toll on people who are at the lower end of the earnings ladder.

“Given what appears to be a slow economic recovery, it is reasonable to expect ongoing elevated unemployment, high rent burden among low-income renter households, continued accumulation of unpaid rent, and continued risk of eviction beyond January 2021,” said the report. 

The National Council of State Housing Agencies says state housing finance agencies in 33 states , including Oregon, have established emergency rental assistance programs since the virus struck. But the group says the programs will fall short of demand.

Get ready for chaos.

Jumping to homeschooling because of COVID-19 is a risky bet.

 

Homeschooling

Will the COVID-19 crisis lead to more homeschooling in Oregon? If it does, for many children (and parents) that will be a mistake.

David Henderson, a research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, thinks the forced shift of public school children to ineffective and impractical online schooling will lead many parents to opt for homeschooling. “What if, as I predict, home-schooling works, on average, better than the public schools before the pandemic?” Henderson asks. “Once the pandemic ends, many parents will want to continue with home-schooling.”

There’s no question that the idea of homeschooling can be seductive. After all, it can offer flexibility, more curriculum choice, religious freedom, self-paced learning, and protection from threatening ideas. And it can be appealing to parents who want to have a larger role to play in conveying important values to their children.

It’s not clear, however, that homeschooling is the right choice for a wide swath of children or that it adequately prepares young people to succeed and participate in our complex economy.

In addition, the fragmentation of our educational system may undermine the need for all members of our society to see themselves in common cause – a necessity for the survival of our democracy. Where too many people are isolated from their peers, they may be less likely to see a relationship of mutual commitment and responsibility to others.

The most recent analysis from the U.S. Department of Education/National Center for Education Statistics reported the number of homeschooled students increased from 850,000 in 1999 to 1,690,000 in 2016. The percentage of students who were homeschooled increased from 1.7 percent to 3.3 percent over the same time period.

According to the Oregon Department of Education, almost every school district in Oregon has seen an increase in homeschooling in recent years, with more than 22,000 students registered as homeschoolers in 2018. There’s general agreement, however, that the number of actual homeschoolers is higher because not all homeschooling parents register their child with the state.

Parents of students between the ages of 6-18 are supposed to notify their local Education Service District (ESD) of their intent to home school within 10 days of beginning to home school, but compliance is not comprehensive.

A homeschooler is expected to take standardized testing by August 15 of the summer following the completion of 3rd, 5th, 8th, and 10th grades, as long as the child has been homeschooled since at least February 15 of the year preceding testing (18 months before the test deadline).

The required tests include grade-level math (concepts, application, skills), reading (comprehension), and language (writing, spelling/grammar, punctuation, etc.)

Given the above information, you might be tempted to say that public oversight of homeschoolers is obviously comparable to that of public schools because the state knows how all homeschooled students are performing. You’d be wrong.

First, homeschooled students are not required to take common standardized tests that measure academic progress. They can opt out, and many of them do.

Second, homeschoolers’ tests are scored on a percentile, so the score a child gets represents how many people taking the same test got a lower score. In other words, the scores don’t represent how well the child knows the material, only how well the child performs relative to every other homeschooler taking the test. Even then, If a child scores at the 15th percentile or above, then the ESD simply files the report and there’s no follow-up.

Third, homeschoolers don’t have to report their scores to anybody unless their education service district (ESD) asks for them. But the state cares so little about how these children are doing that ESDs almost never request test scores, according to the Oregon Department of Education.

Not that it would make much difference if ESDs did request the scores.

That’s because homeschoolers would only need to report their composite percentile score. This is an almost useless single percentile representing a child’s performance on all three subjects together. It’s almost as though the state doesn’t really want to know how homeschoolers are doing.

What is clear, then, is that nobody in the Oregon Department of Education really knows whether parents who are homeschooling their children are providing them with an equal or superior alternative to district schools.

I get it that homeschooling can reflect a lack of confidence in traditional educational institutions. However, despite the almost messianic belief in homeschooling held by many supporters, there are major flaws in this alternative. If one result of the pandemic is widespread abandonment of Oregon’s brick-and-mortar public schools for homeschooling, the damage inflicted on some children could be severe.

All Oregonians, particularly the legislature and governor, should care because education is not just a private good. Studied indifference or washing our hands of the consequences of educational malpractice can have serious consequences for the community at large.

As Chester Finn Jr., Distinguished Senior Fellow and President Emeritus at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, said, “Once you conclude that education is also a public good—one whose results bear powerfully on our prosperity, our safety, our culture, our governance, and our civic life—you have to recognize that voters and taxpayers have a compelling interest in whether kids are learning what they should…”

Why do Republicans want to undermine Oregon’s public schools?

publicschoolclassroom

What were they thinking?

Oregon’s traditional brick-and-mortar public school system is under stress and needs support. So what did the Republicans propose coming into the special session that started on June 24?  They wanted to make it easier for students to transfer from their district’s brick-and-mortar public schools to virtual public charter schools, taking State School Fund dollars with them.

Oregon law provides that a school district may deny a parent’s request to shift their child to a virtual public charter school if more than 3% of the students who reside in the district are enrolled in virtual public charter schools not sponsored by the district.

Senate Republican leader Fred Girod (R-Stayton) proposed raising that 3% figure to 8% to allow more students to abandon their district’s schools. “Given this pandemic, people are going to want an alternative, and that alternative is going to be virtual schools,” Girod said.

Not only would this have potentially siphoned millions from already stretched district budgets, but research on virtual charter school performance outcomes across the country generally paints a distressing picture. In other words, Oregon’s traditional public schools clearly have their problems, but the virtual public charter schools are even worse.

The desire of some parents for school choice is understandable, but numerous studies have concluded that full-time virtual charter schools are not the right option for many K-12 students. The fact is many K-12 virtual charter schools are like tribute bands, just a facsimile of real education.

“Current online charter schools may be a good fit for some students, but the evidence suggests that online charters don’t serve very well the relatively atypical set of students that currently attend these schools, much less the general population,” the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University said in a report. “Academic benefits from online charter schools are currently the exception rather than the rule.”

In the same vein, a report from the Colorado-based National Education Policy Center (NEPC) concluded, “There is…little high-quality systematic evidence that the rapid expansion of (virtual charter schools) the past several years is wise. Research has …consistently found that students enrolled in full-time virtual schools have performed at levels well below their face-to-face counterparts.”

A Fordham Institute study of virtual charter schools reached similar conclusions. “Online schools offer an efficient way to diversify—and even democratize—education in a connected world,” the study said. “Yet they have received negative, but well-deserved, attention concerning their poor academic performance, attrition rates, and ill capacity to educate the types of students who enroll in them.”

As most educators and parents learned in the widespread switch to online schooling spurred by COVID-19, it has been a worst-case outcome for most students. “There’s a sense that this has been an unmitigated disaster,” Dana Goldstein, a national correspondent for The New York Times, said in a June 28, 2020 Innovation Hub interview.

A recently published study published in Educational Researcher examined the effects of attending a virtual charter school on student outcomes. “We find the impact of attending a virtual charter on student achievement is uniformly and profoundly negative,” the authors wrote in a Brookings article.

The study authors concluded that “virtual charter schools are ill-equipped to take on a more prominent role” in light of the COVID-19 crisis. “Based on their dismal track record, policymakers should instead focus on greater oversight and accountability for these schools. Perhaps the worst policy response during the COVID-19 crisis is to promote these schools…”

Thankfully, Girod’s proposal didn’t go forward as a bill in the special session. It would be a shame if it rears its ugly head again.

Further reading:

Oregon’s Public Virtual Charter Schools Don’t Compute

COVID-19 and student learning in the United States: The hurt could last a lifetime

Too Many Schools Leave Learning to Chance During the Pandemic

Oregon Connections Academy: Still a Virtual Calamity

Alternative Schooling in Oregon: Is the Cure Worse than the Disease?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is State School Fund money being misused by some Oregon virtual public charter schools?

virtualschoolpic

If an Oregon child attends a regular brick-and-mortar public school or the school’s online program, parents cover any outside extra-curricular expenses. But if a child attends an Oregon virtual public charter school there’s a chance parents will get a kick-back of up to $2,000 per year for personal use.

That’s not right.

Virtual public charter schools don’t collect tuition from their students. Instead, the schools are supported by money diverted from the state’s traditional brick-and-mortar public schools. The Oregon Department of Education distributes State School Fund money to each school district that sponsors a charter school; the district keeps a portion and passes on the rest to the charter school.

Oregon law provides that a sponsoring district must pass on to its charter school at least 80 percent of its per-pupil grant for K-8 students and 95 percent of its per pupil grant for grade 9-12 students.

Marcola SD 79J in Lane County, for example, sponsors the virtual public charter school, Teach-NW. The State School Fund gave the district $2,348,684.27 for the 2018-2019 school year to support the sponsorship and the district passed on most of that money to Teach-NW.

But Teach-NW didn’t spend all the money.

Instead, the school set aside $2000 per student for “allotments” which parents were allowed to spend in support of their child’s education. A family with three children at Teach-NW, for example, got access to extra allotments totaling $6,000 each year.

According to Teach-NW, “Allotments can be used to cover academic materials such as textbooks, school supplies, curriculum materials, approved instructional programs (i.e. music, dance), enrichment experiences, educational subscriptions, educational fees, tutoring services, some athletics fees and equipment, field trips, and internet expenses as approved by the student’s Educational Facilitator (assigned teacher).” Families can access the money through a debit card or request reimbursements from the school.”

Some parents say the $2,000 allotments are a key factor in enrolling their children at Teach-NW. Other parents deny the allotments are a factor in enrollment decisions. But as satirist and cultural critic H. L. Mencken put it, “When somebody says it’s not about the money, it’s about the money.”

The practical effect of this arrangement is that parents who choose to send their children to Teach-NW, rather than their local brick-and-mortar public school or their school district’s online program, get a substantial extra financial package. And it’s all paid for with taxpayer dollars.

That’s wrong.

Salem, OR salon owner turning COVID-19 shutdown protest into cash

Lindsey

Lindsey Graham (Source: KPTV.com)

Lindsey Graham, operator of Glamour Salon in Salem. OR, has figured out how to make money off her defiance of Gov. Kate Brown’s COVID-19 stay-at-home order.

Graham reopened her salon on Tuesday, May 5, 2020, saying she had to make the move to pay her bills and provide for her family.

Conveniently, she started a GoFundMe account the day before, on May 4, prior to government action in response to her salon’s reopening.

“Our family businesses have been shut down by the government,” the account said. “No income for our family and next to nothing in govt assistance. Please help our family fight for our American rights and save our hard earned dreams. The govt has strong armed us, threatened us, and come after our family. We are taking a STAND and the legal battle ahead of us will be long and tough. We appreciate ALL your support in every way!!”

Graham set the GoFundMe account’s goal at $70,000. As of Friday afternoon, May 28, it had raised $71,070. Ten contributors had given $500 or more, one gave $2000. Not a bad haul. And not only can Graham spend the money pretty much however she wants, but it may not even be taxable income.

On May 14, Graham posted to the account that Oregon OSHA had fined her $14,000 and demanded she close the salon’s doors.

“This is not only unconstitutional, but unlawful and unjust,” Graham posted.
Please share this…..I will be FIGHTING this citation and fighting their case. I’m retaining my attorney to take this to court!!!! The government cannot find their own loopholes to punish me for trying to earn a living.
Please support my cause and help me fight!!!!”

In pleading for financial support from the public, Graham is copying a tactic employed by Shelley Luther, the Dallas, TX owner of Salon à la Mode who was arrested on April 24, 2020 for opening her business despite COVID-19 restrictions.

GoFundMe site to help her went live on April 23, 2020, the day before her arrest.

“Shelley Luther is an American Hero that has decided to resist tyranny by opening her business against an unlawful State Executive Order,” read the description for the Shelly Luther Fund campaign.

A fellow Texan, Rick Hire, said the Woke Patriots organization was behind the campaign. In a 30-minute May 9  YouTube video, Hire says he founded the organization to deal with challenges to constitutional rights and the group picked Luther to be the first beneficiary of a GoFundMe campaign.

The GoFundMe site was a hit right out of the gate. When an initial goal of $250,000 was rapidly surpassed, the goal was raised to $500,000. The total raised now sits at $500,040 and the window for donations has closed.

Who knows? Lindsey Graham may hit the jackpot, too.

 

 

The CARES Act will cost Oregon, too: what one hand giveth, the other taketh away

abstract business interior double exposure

When President Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) into law on March 27, 2020, the assumption was that the largest-ever economic stimulus package in U.S. history would be a cornucopia of goodies.

But buried within the law are provisions that are likely to actually reduce revenue in Oregon by millions. As the saying goes, what one hand giveth, the other taketh away.

The CARES Act includes several provisions expected to affect state revenue. The largest:

  • Allow the deduction of “excess” losses by non-corporate businesses that would otherwise exceed a threshold established in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017;
  • Allow net operating losses for individuals, estates, and trusts to be carried back for up to five years, and delimiting the amount by which these losses may be used to reduce taxable income;
  • Increase the percentage of business interest income that is tax deductible; and
  • Suspend required minimum distributions from retirement funds, allowing some retirees to let their fund balances recover before making distributions and incurring tax liability.

The CARES Act is expected to reduce federal taxable income for tax years 2018 through 2020, thereby reducing Oregon taxable income in each of those years. Taxpayers will be able to amend 2018 and 2019 tax returns in order to benefit from the additional deductions, which will reduce state income tax revenue when the amended returns are processed and a portion of taxes are refunded to taxpayers.

The CARES Act didn’t include financial relief for states struggling through the COVID-19 downturn. Nor did the $484 billion coronavirus relief package Trump signed on April 24.

House Democrats are pushing for another bill that would beef up state and local government finances and help offset some of the losses noted above, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Trump are resisting. Both said earlier this week that there isn’t yet a need for Congress to pass additional legislation.

 

 

Guest Opinion: Gov. Brown’s Covid-19 Emergency Declaration is Unconstitutional

NOTE: On May 18, 2020 a Baker County, OR judge invalidated the governor’s restrictions on businesses and social gatherings, along with every other executive order Brown has issued under a state of emergency she ordered due to the COVID-19 pandemic. https://bit.ly/3dYTwM6

By Glen Wagner   GWagnersmall

 

One thing I have not seen addressed enough in regards to Oregon Governor Brown’s actions related to the COVID-19 situation is the literal unconstitutionality and illegal nature of her Emergency Declaration or her blatant continued violation of the constraints placed on her from the Oregon Constitution.

Willamette University professor Paul Diller has bloggedabout the matter, arguing that Brown’s emergency orders should have an expiration date, and Willamette Week has written about his argument, but that’s it.

In my view,  a basic reading of Section 6.1 of Article X-A of the Oregon Constitution (found at https://www.oregonlegislature.gov/bills_laws/Pages/OrConst.aspx) clearly states that emergency powers shall not extend beyond 30 days from the time of proclamation, after which the articles will expire.

Section 6.2 of Article X-A says that a 3/5 approval of the Legislative Assembly is required to extend the date beyond 30 days. Section 6.5 of Article X-A says that the Governor cannot issue a second proclamation for the same emergency.

Gov. Brown declared the COVID-19 emergency on March 8th. Per the Oregon Constitution, the emergency legally ended on April 8th. As far as I know, the Legislative Assembly did not vote to approve a time extension. Therefore, any of the Governor’s current actions justified by this emergency declaration are fundamentally unconstitutional.

Gov. Brown’s Emergency Declaration states it is to last 60-days. The declaration itself is in violation of Section 6.1 of Article X-A in the state constitution.

The governor’s Emergency Declaration further claims the 60-day term “can be extended or terminated by the Governor”. Per ORS 401.204 the Governor (or the Legislature) can terminate the emergency, but it does NOT give the Governor the authority to extend it. Article X-A Section 6.2 makes it clear ONLY the Legislative Assembly can do this.

According to ORS 401.165.1 the declaration needs to specify an area “no larger than necessary to respond to the emergency.” 433.441.2(b) Says it should state the political subdivision or geographical area subject to the proclamation. Governor Brown’s Emergency Declaration states the emergency to be “state-wide”.

While public health information is listed within the declaration, it is not a foregone conclusion that all counties in the state had equal risk of infection and not all asked for an emergency to be declared. The purpose of the limited geographical nature of an emergency is to ensure focus of state resources and limit emergency powers to a specific area. In can be argued that by making it immediately state-wide the states and county resources were de-focused and spread thin rather than concentrated at the points of highest risk such as in urban areas. While not in violation of the law, it is surprising no one in the legislature raised any challenge to this scope determination.

ORS 433.441.2(d) Says the proclamation must contain a duration IF LESS THAN 14 days; in other words, there is a statutory limit on the Public Health Proclamation of 14 days. Governor Brown’s Emergency Declaration clearly violates this requirement by stating a 60 days duration.

ORS 433.441.5 Says the proclamation expires when the Governor declares it or NO MORE THAN 14 days after the proclamation. The Governor can extend the duration by another 14-day period (1) for a total of 28 days. This is in compliance with the Constitution’s Article X-A since it is within 30 days. It does NOT give the right to the Governor to extend the duration indefinitely. Therefore, Governor Brown’s Emergency Declaration of 60-days and that the Governor can extend the time frame is in violation of this statute.

ORS 433.452 Says that it is reasonable for the state to detain an individual who has been exposed to the reportable condition only for the time necessary to collect contact tracing information. The individual is to be educated on the nature of their exposure. Nowhere can I find in this statute where the Governor is given the authority to detain ANY or ALL individuals who have not been shown to have been exposed to the reportable condition. Her order indicated only 14 people in a state with a population of over 4 million had contracted COVID-19 and only in a small geographical location. There was no justification for and no legal right for the Governor to issue a stay at home order for healthy individuals. Likewise, even if this order had been legal it should have expired on April 8th like everything else.

Therefore, the Governor has exceeded her authority to detain unaffected individuals and for durations far exceeding anything allowed in the state constitution or statutes.

The Governor just issued an extension to her originally unconstitutional declaration, which is an actual illegal act to the aforementioned references. In addition, she cites two statutory references: ORS 401.165 and ORS 401.204 as justifications of her right to extend the emergency for another 60 days.

401.165 only states the Governor’s ability to issue a declaration, which she already did on March 8th. 401.204 pertains to ENDING the emergency, not extending it. And then to sound all legal she says it is all under ORS 401.025. All this section does is define some terms for the rest of the statute. Basically, they included these references to give an air of legitimacy when in fact they have no bearing on the extension proclamation at all. This shows culpability and intent to continue to violate our laws.

Where is the push-back?

Kate Brown needs to bite the bullet on a Covid-19 budget

brownbudget4

Gov. Kate Brown wants all state agencies to submit plans for 8.5 percent cuts in their general fund dollars for the two-year budget cycle because of the expected impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.

What a complete waste of time.

A smarter, bolder governor would abjure equal across-the-board cuts in favor of cuts targeted at lower priority, low-quality or ineffective programs.

The order for across-the-board budget cut scenarios is a lazy cop-out that substitutes simple, seemingly fair cuts for hard decisions that might raise political hackles.

If all programs are kept in place and just reduced in size and scope, opportunities to eliminate waste are lost and saved but ineffective programs tend to grow again when higher state revenues return.

As George W. Bush said, “There comes a time when every program must be judged either a success or a failure. Where we find success, we should reward it, repeat it, make it the standard. And where we find failure, we must call it by its name. Government action that fails in its purpose must be reformed or ended.”

Indiscriminate equal across-the-board cuts also ignore differential effectiveness between state government programs and differences in policy priorities. They are agnostic as to what the state should really be doing with its revenue and lock in current policy priorities.  They also penalize the leanest and most efficient agencies that have less fat to cut.

Some programs may also be able to sustain their core functions with a specific percentage cut, while others can’t.  You can’t, for example, cut the length of a bridge by 8.5 percent.

Uniform 8.5 percent cuts will mean that valuable, impactful projects and investments will be cut as much as in equal measure with bloated, duplicative projects and state employees doing great work will be cut along with those doing shoddy work.

In addition, although government frequently tries to cloak all spending in the “investment” bucket, it is true that some spending is intended to be more an investment in the future than a short-term outlay.  An across-the-board spending cut that applies to even productive public investments may reduce current spending, but make future budget problems worse.

“At this point, the reduction plans are a planning exercise that will give the Governor a series of options to consider,” Liz Merah, a spokeswoman for Gov. Brown, said to OPB.

Exercise is right, as in performance without a purpose.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Gannett/GateHouse deal: diminishing diversity of thought in American media

killingjournalism

If you want to see how a multi-outlet media company can play politics, take a look at Sinclair Broadcast Group.

According to Acronym, a progressive organization focused on winning elections through innovative digital advertising and organizing programs, much of the spending by Donald Trump’s re-election campaign on Facebook + Google last week focused on the release of the campaign’s new red “Keep America Great” hats.  Right in sync, over the weekend, Sinclair, the conservative owner or operator of 191 television stations in the U.S., promoted “news” stories about the availability of the hats.

The planned merger of two other American media giants, Gannett and GateHouse Media, announced on Aug. 5, 2019, could bring more such coordinated propagandizing.

If the merger goes forward, it will not end well.

(UPDATE: The Columbia Journalism Review reported on Oct. 9, 2019 that GateHouse’s acquisition of Gannett is set to go through before the end of the year, Nieman Lab’s Ken Doctor reports. Once it does, the combined company could lay off as many as 3,000 employees (the equivalent of rival chain McClatchy’s entire workforce), though the cuts are likely to fall mostly on the business side, sparing newsrooms for now. Gannett and GateHouse shareholders will vote on the deal November 14.)

GateHouse’s acquisition of Gannett is set to go through before the end of the year, Nieman Lab’s Ken Doctor reports. Once it does, the combined company could lay off as many as 3,000 employees (the equivalent of rival chain McClatchy’s entire workforce), though the cuts are likely to fall mostly on the business side, sparing newsrooms for now. Gannett and GateHouse shareholders will vote on the deal November 14.

  • GateHouse’s acquisition of Gannett is set to go through before the end of the year, Nieman Lab’s Ken Doctor reports. Once it does, the combined company could lay off as many as 3,000 employees (the equivalent of rival chain McClatchy’s entire workforce), though the cuts are likely to fall mostly on the business side, sparing newsrooms for now. Gannett and GateHouse shareholders will vote on the deal November 14.

Completion of the deal would mean the creation of a massive media company with 263 daily media organizations across 47 states and Guam, plus USA TODAY and hundreds of weekly and community papers.

Newspapers across the country may be struggling, but this deal isn’t the best solution. It will lead to centralized editorial control, stifle local creativity, guarantee additional pressure to impose draconian cost cuts and bring brutal widespread layoffs.

Consolidation can also have major consequences in the coverage of elections.

horse race reporting research elections politics

A study published in the Journal of Political Communication found that corporate-owned and large-chain newspapers were more likely to publish stories that frame elections as a competitive game than newspapers with a single owner.

Researchers for the study were Johanna Dunaway, an associate professor of communication at Texas A&M University, and Regina G. Lawrence, associate dean of the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication Portland.

When journalists covering elections focus primarily on who’s winning or losing — instead of on policy issues — voters, candidates and the news industry itself suffer, a growing body of research has found, according to Journalist’s Resource.

Denise-Marie Ordway, a writer for Journalist’s Resource, says academic studies find that horse race reporting is linked to:

  • Distrust in politicians.
  • Distrust of news outlets.
  • An uninformed electorate.
  • Inaccurate reporting of opinion poll data.

Ordway adds that horse race reporting:

  • Is detrimental to female political candidates, who tend to focus on policy issues to build credibility.
  • Gives an advantage to novel and unusual candidates.
  • Shortchanges third-party candidates, who often are overlooked or ignored because their chances of winning are slim compared to Republican and Democratic candidates.

 

GateHouse, owned by the private equity firm New Media Investment Group (NYSE: NEWM), already has a reputation for aggressive cost-cutting and layoffs at properties it owns.

In Oregon, multiple rounds of layoffs have taken place since GateHouse took over The Register-Guard in Eugene on March 1, 2018,

“What’s happening with the Guard isn’t unique to the Guard,” Tim Gleason, former dean of the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication, told the Eugene Weekly.”It’s what’s happening all over the country as these venture capital firms buy newspapers and then largely gut them,”

In May 2019, Gatehouse laid off staff at a wide swath of papers it owns, including The Columbus Dispatch, the Lakeland (Florida) Ledger, the Daytona Beach News-Journal, the Worcester (Massachusetts) Telegram & Gazette. the Providence Journal and The Beaver County (Pennsylvania) Times.  The Times newsroom had 60 staffers in the early 2000s; it is now down to 12 to put out a three-section paper six days a week.

Robert Kuttner and Hildy Zenger lay much of the blame for the evisceration of local newspapers on private equity companies like GateHouse.

“The malign genius of the private equity business model…is that it allows the absentee owner to drive a paper into the ground, but extract exorbitant profits along the way from management fees, dividends, and tax break,” they wrote in The American Prospect., a progressive political and public policy magazine.

“By the time the paper is a hollow shell, the private equity company can exit and move on, having more than made back its investment.”

It’s not a pretty picture.