May 21, 2024

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

Kitty Piercy: Why I’m supporting Lookout Eugene-Springfield

11 min read
Kitty Piercy: Having a local newspaper is how you keep a democracy together. All the basic tenets of our society are under attack right now, and we need to be able to be citizens. We need to be able to talk and deliberate and think and have real information that people trust. And I think the news can be part of the glue that keeps communities together and helps them become richer places for the people who live here.

Former Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy wants you to know: Our democracy is in danger, and you can help by supporting a new digital newspaper. It’s called “Lookout Eugene-Springfield.” On Friday, Kitty discussed the decline of the Register-Guard with a longtime friend, retired teacher, and community activist, Linda Duggan.

Linda Duggan: Well, I do recall that the R-G was a much better daily newspaper when the Baker family had the newspaper. (Yeah. Of course.) And then when it went to being corporate out of Texas, it really changed. And it just seems like it really doesn’t cover much local news (Not much) and very limited and it’s just not meeting the needs of the people of Eugene.

Kitty Piercy: Well, first of all, I would say that I didn’t always agree with the R-G. (Me neither!) But I respected it, and I did feel I could believe the news. So those are a couple big things that we don’t have right now.

[00:01:04] Being able to believe your news means that you really think that journalists should be able to deliver factual information that you can count on and it’s not whether you’re right-wing or left-wing or whatever wing you are. It’s because you want to know what the information is, and you want to believe that it’s coming to you in kind of an unfiltered, a journalistic way, but an unfiltered way. Somebody that’s not trying to push something. That’s sort of the core of journalism, and something that we had come to expect. In the early days we certainly had that on TV, too.

[00:01:45] And you wake up one day, and you don’t have local newspapers, and then you look around and, you know, it’s not just us, it’s everyone. So all of a sudden you’ve got very few people in this nation, and perhaps internationally, feeding us the news they want us to have in a very limited and biased way. So we’ve not only lost local news and in some cases lost state news, but our national news—all our news is coming through a filter that I wouldn’t call journalism.

[00:02:20] We still have some pretty big assets. One of them is, I think OPB (Oregon Public Broadcasting) is grand. I think that KLCC is grand. I think that we still have a very active interested and able journalism department at the U of O, and we still have young people who really want to be real journalists. But they can’t do it by themselves.

[00:02:44] And so, we have come to the place, in my opinion, as you know, that, we have, a lot of the same news that’s being fed to every newspaper the corporation owns. So it’s just a little funnel of the same stuff.

[00:02:59] And then we have a little bit of local and state news. And so you almost wake up and go, ‘Whoo, there’s a local story here today! There’s something that I wouldn’t get anywhere else, right?’ (Yeah.) And that’s not sufficient by any means. (Right.)

[00:03:18] When I was first in the legislature, not only the Register-Guard, but our radio station sent reporters to the legislature to follow it all day, every day, when it was in session. Well, we don’t have anything like that anymore. And the legislature is only one body like that. We have all of these elected bodies that we need to be able to count on knowing what they’re doing and to participate in the decision-making process.

[00:03:49] Linda Duggan: Well, and also the R-G, not only does it not cover much of our news, but it’s so inaccurate. (Yeah.) Tom buys it occasionally , and the headlines were: ‘O U encampment…’ O U? What’s that? What planet are you on? They spelled Lane Community College wrong.

[00:04:13] Kitty Piercy: That’s an insult to newspapers and journalism.

[00:04:18] Linda Duggan: I mean, that’s horrible, that if they can’t even get two of the major colleges in town, their names right.

[00:04:24] Kitty Piercy: Then you’re not local at all, really.

[00:04:25] Linda Duggan: Right…The Weekly does give us a view of news, and it is limited to coming out once a week.

[00:04:35] Kitty Piercy: And even though a vast part of for our community loves the Weekly, it doesn’t pretend—it clearly speaks to its bias and what it’s trying to present. It doesn’t pretend to be something other than it is, and you can like that or not like that.

[00:04:53] Linda Duggan: And it’s evolved too, I don’t know if you’re aware, but the first, it wasn’t called the Weekly, it was published out of my house.

[00:05:03] Kitty Piercy: That’s when it was ‘What’s Happening’?

[00:05:06] Linda Duggan: Yes, ‘What’s Happening.’ And it’s even changed since then, I think, is how it started. I think it was kind of more an emphasis on arts and what’s happening in town. And it did have some editorial pieces to it but it was even different. So we still have the Weekly, once a week, and then we have John Q. & company’s Whole Community News.

[00:05:35] Kitty Piercy: Which I appreciate… I have to say, I thank you for stepping into the vacuum there, because, who’s minding the store, right?

[00:05:44] Linda Duggan: So that brings us to a new option. And maybe you could enlighten us about—

[00:05:52] Kitty Piercy: Lookout Eugene-Springfield, The person who’s rolling this out, Ken Doctor is the guy who’s trying to put this together. He is a very experienced national journalist, and went to U of O, and so is very familiar with our community.

[00:06:13] And he started out with his idea of how to bring back real journalism in Santa Cruz, California. And there’s a ‘Lookout Santa Cruz.’ And he studied what he thought it would take to put out digital news in the Santa Cruz area, how much money it would take. He wants real reporters to get paid real salaries. (Right.) That would be an excellent thing yes to do. (Yeah.)

[00:06:43] And he’s worked on it for about three years now, and they go deep into the areas that they work on. They come out every day, it’s not a hit-or-miss, they are reporting on a daily basis what’s going on in the community. It’s not paper, it’s digital. But I wrestled with that for a while, and I thought to myself, ‘Yeah, but that’s how people are consuming news now.’ It makes perfect sense to me, even though I still miss the paper in my hands in the morning and reading books. (Yeah.) But I understand that that’s part of the way we do things (It is, it is). And it saves a ton of trees and a ton of money.

[00:07:25] So you’ve just got to put all of those pluses and minuses together. And if we can get real journalism back out, local journalism that is authentic and true and good, that’s a really big important thing.

[00:07:40] And I’ll just interject in here: For me, having a local newspaper is how you keep a democracy together. And so everything to me feels like all the basic tenets of our society are under attack right now, And we need to be able to be citizens. We need to be able to talk and deliberate and think and have information readily at our fingertips, just like we do with our computers. But we need real information that people trust.

[00:08:19] So I think that’s what he’s trying to build. And I think it’s a time of great change and great crisis right now. So, whether we’re going to survive, whether we’re going to live in this world together, I don’t think I’m overspeaking it to say I think it’s at risk right now, our whole—things that I never thought about that we might not have, are now on the brink of us not having them. And we’re in a mess.

[00:08:49] I am thrilled at the very idea that we will find a modern way to deliver real journalism to the people of our community. And if we keep doing this, if (Ken Doctor) keeps doing this, this would help people do these all over the country so that we can gain a bit back of what we’ve lost.

[00:09:09] I also feel like having talked to him now a couple times, he’s got pretty high standards. And I think that’s necessary. So, personally, I have decided to take a chance on trying to support this in our community and have it grow in our community. If I can think of any legacy that I might be happy to be part of, it would be bringing news back to Eugene.

[00:09:34] We had, I guess, 12 people over that I thought he should talk to. That’s how he’s been doing it, conversation by conversation. Eric Tykeson helped Ken get started with a big matching money fund. So that’s what he’s about now. He’s got a goal of $4 million.

And then last week he was putting out this paper, daily news every day in Santa Cruz, it’s hit all the marks for gaining readership, it’s been doing everything it’s supposed to do, it has a huge growing audience. And then he woke up one morning last week and found out he’d won the Pulitzer (Prize). And for a journalist, I mean, that’s a big deal. It’s a big, huge, huge, and for that crew that he’s got, of real journalists working for him, they’re just, you know, that’s the best for them. (Oh yeah!) So, maybe we’ll be next on the Pulitzer list.

[00:10:39] Linda Duggan: That’d be great.

[00:10:40] Kitty Piercy: But if you think about what happened up the McKenzie, with that fire, and you think about the importance of delivering information to people who are running from their homes and trying to know if they can. I mean, that kind of information—aside from political information, aside from policy-making information—that kind of availability in your community can save lives and as you know, we have an increasing number of disasters everywhere, so I think it’s really important on that level as well.

[00:11:19] And then people really like to know about their kids’ (sports) games. They really like to know what’s going on in different parts of the community, part of sharing and building community, really. And I think the news can be part of the glue that keeps communities together and helps them become richer places for the people who live here.

[00:11:43] So anyway, they were here talking to a bunch of people who are very interested. And then he had another one the day before, talking to people who are very interested. It’s a step-by-step thing because you’re convincing people to invest in something that they’re skeptical about, of course. Everybody’s skeptical about everything now, so…

[00:12:04] It takes a lot of work and then getting those goals and hitting those lines that show people that you’re serious about what you’re doing. And I think he appears to me that he’s doing the right thing in the right way and this is an opportunity for people in this community to do something that will have ramifications all over the country, and help with many things that we need help with, to get real news to the people of our community.

[00:12:38] And we have a very engaged community. We have a community that really wants to know. (Oh yeah.) And so, I think that is perfect for here. And I would encourage you to at least find out about it. First step: Be skeptical, ask questions, every question is there, and see if this is something that you want to get behind and grow in our community. You can email Ken Doctor at ken@lookoutlocal.com. His email is ken at lookoutlocal.com.

[00:13:25] John Q: What are some of the questions that people have been asking?

[00:13:30] Kitty Piercy: Many of us who listen to KLCC right now understand that they’re making a big push to be a significant part of delivering news to this community, as well as the other things they deliver. And so the question is: Are you going to compete with KLCC? Is that going to be a good thing or a bad thing?

[00:13:51] I think KLCC’s worried about it too because the last two weeks I’ve heard people talking about it—so, Ken and this whole Lookout project—the chatter, it’s out there. And meanwhile, we have our hardworking, excellent KLCC trying to employ more people, being able to be a bigger piece of the action here. So that feels a little threatening.

[00:14:16] And Ken is aware of this and has been in conversation with them. And like most things, sometimes you shouldn’t worry about competition. It makes you all do a better job. It makes you all be able to take on more of the pieces that need to be taken on.

[00:14:32] And I know they’ve been in touch with OPB. They’ve been in touch with the journalism departments and partnered with them. And the other piece is a really nice one for you (Linda), as a former educator: In Santa Cruz, they tried out a model of engaging learning about the news experiences with Lookout Santa Cruz. It’s been very successful and appreciated by educators there.

[00:14:57] And so they’ve been in conversation and reaching out to many superintendents in the area. So I think that has a chance of really doing something really beneficial for our children, to help them put in place the cornerstones of democracy, too.

[00:15:16] And that’s something, as you know, we have to be doing all the time. Our origin of public education was to teach you how to live in society here and let you learn about how we can live together and thrive. So, I think they can be a part of that conversation. It would be very valuable for our community as well.

[00:15:37] Linda Duggan: To the point of competition, I find myself going to one particular TV station. However, sometimes when I look at the other stations, you get a little different slant or something that wasn’t covered. But I don’t think it hurts to have that competition because then it, kind of, like you say, it kind of pushes them to be better, I think.

[00:16:03] Kitty Piercy: Yeah, and if you think about broadcast news, those are snippets. (Yes.) They don’t have the time to do in-depth reporting, so you’re missing the complete piece here. You can get interested in it through watching the news. You can find out more about it with good journalism as well at the table. (Right.)

[00:16:26] One of the other questions was about OPB and what was their partnership with OPB? Would that be getting into our territory here? (Mm-hmm.) And, you know, I remember a long time ago people saying to me, ‘In New York City, everybody owns shoe stores on the same street. It doesn’t cause them to lose business. It gains more.’ And I think we should bear that in mind.

[00:16:49] I also think they should all be very respectful of each other and try to make a bigger whole instead of holes in what’s there. I do think that’s an important responsibility to try to do. It won’t be perfect, but I think, we the public could really end up getting good news.

[00:17:08] John Q: Linda Duggan visits longtime friend Kitty Piercy to learn more about a new digital newspaper called ‘Lookout Eugene-Springfield,’ preparing to launch here in town. To learn more, see their website, Lookout.co.

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