Daily Archives: December 15, 2012

Oregon officials struggle with definition of “news media”

Oregon officials continue to struggle with the issue of whether bloggers qualify as part of the “news media” that must be allowed to sit in on otherwise closed meetings held in executive session.

Oregon state law doesn’t provide a clear definition of “news media,” so different jurisdictions have been making their own rules.

A blogger in Lakeside, Oregon is now pushing for access to local executive sessions, according to a news account earlier this year.

Officials say bloggers will be more likely to break the rules by disclosing information from executive sessions that should remain confidential.

Christian Gaston, president of the Society of Professional Journalists’ Oregon chapter, says those fears are overblown.

Gaston says while executive sessions are held for good reasons, few bloggers would intentionally reveal information. If they did, the council’s best weapon would be to bar them from future meetings.

‘In my mind, the law already has an escape clause for someone who doesn’t want to play by the rules,” Gaston said.

Gaston says Oregon allows reporters to attend executive sessions so politicians don’t wander into topics that deserve public discussion. Privately discussing the price of land is fine, but privately discussing the land’s prospective uses is not.

As financially stressed newspapers trim their reporting staffs, bloggers such as Macduff increasingly may fill the watchdog role, Gaston said.

Here in Hawaii, the reporters shield law provides a relatively expansive definition that would provide many bloggers with the same protections as professional reporters employed by mainstream media (although the legislature is under under pressure from the Abercrombie administration to substantially weaken the law). At least for the time being, some local bloggers would likely qualify if the “news media” were allowed to attend executive sessions.

Another thought about those white recycling bins

I was giving a little more thought to the issue of the city’s decision to cut the white community recycling bins.

I did a little quick math, assuming that statistics thrown around by the city are correct.

The Department of Environmental Services website says 160,000 single family homes now have curbside recycling, with another 20,000 currently outside of the service area. The city decided that experimenting with how to service these additional homes is a higher priority than continuing the white bin program.

It seems to me the basic math calls that into question.

Curbside recycling at those 160,000 homes collects about 20,000 tons annually.

The additional 20,000 homes represent 1/8 of the number of homes that already have curbside pickup, so would be expected to increase the total amount of recycled material by the same proportion. This means extending curbside recycling to all single family homes would increase the total by 2,500 tons annually.

Compare that to the white bin program, which was bringing in 4,000 tons annually, or 60 percent more than the still theoretical expansion, according to the city’s statistics. An improved and more efficient community program would most likely expand that total.

Obviously this rough math isn’t a final answer, but it does suggest that supporters of the white bin program shouldn’t be so quickly dismissed.