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An open letter to President Lariviere

January 19th, 2011 by Lyzi Diamond

Dear President Lariviere,

I am writing to you on behalf of the Oregon Commentator, the twenty-eight year old student fee-funded journal of campus and local opinion. Throughout its existence, the Commentator has provided an alternative viewpoint on campus, providing news and editorial content that differs from other publications — student and otherwise — in the campus and Eugene communities.

The Oregon Commentator strives to be an educational organization, teaching interested students about journalistic writing and reporting regardless of degree program. Since becoming editor-in-chief of the Commentator, I have instituted a draft process for writers, allowing them the opportunity to turn in their pieces a week ahead of deadline in order to receive feedback from our managing editor, a master’s student in the magazine journalism program in the SOJC. Additionally, we have students who do work for us ranging from ad sales to art to operations management to layout to copy editing, providing the unique experience of working in every part of a news room.

The Oregon Commentator provides a relaxed environment where students can learn and work on longer-form reported pieces. While the Oregon Daily Emerald does an excellent job reporting campus news and opinions, students participating in that program are operating under much more stringent guidelines. With a news article due every day and a paper to produce every night, long-form opinion and reported pieces often end up going by the wayside in favor of more informative news briefs and condensed opinion columns.

Current students from the Oregon Commentator have had their work featured on the Student Free Press Association (a national news organization focused on independent campus journalism) and as such, have been linked to by such prestigious news organizations as the National Review, Fox News and The Atlantic. Indeed, a piece written by an OC staffer received the most traffic on the SFPA website in 2010. The Commentator is also a proud member of the Collegiate Network, an organization bringing together conservative student journalists from around the country. Alumni from our magazine have gone on to successful careers in journalism. 2006-07 editor-in-chief Ted Niedermeyer, is the editor-in-chief of a well-read automotive industry blog called The Truth About Cars, and 2007-08 editor-in-chief Philip Ossie Bladine is the editor-in-chief of an alternative weekly in Vancouver, WA called the Vancouver Voice.

I understand you have denied our request to conduct an interview with your office, citing our “lack of serious content” as a concern and worrying about appearing not suitably “presidential” within our pages. The issue in which your interview would have appeared, The Interview Issue, will include printed interviews with Dean of Students Paul Shang, Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy, Oregon University System Vice-Chancellor Sona Andrews, University Health Center Gynecologist Colleen Jones, and various other notable members of the campus and Eugene communities. If you don’t feel that appearing next to these individuals in the magazine is presidentially suitable , I would appreciate a list of individuals we should be interviewing instead.

You know just as well as I do how integral student programs are to student success in university communities. Students who are engaged in extracurricular activities tend to do better both in school and beyond graduation insofar as grades, job prospects and career development. But students are busy. We take classes, we have personal lives and many of us have jobs in order to cover the rent (and consistently rising tuition). It is much more likely for a student to join an extracurricular activity that will assist in career development with such limited time, and we at the Commentator believe we provide that career development for aspiring journalists. As part of the OC, students receive access to internships and fellowships across the country (by virtue of our relationships with the Collegiate Network and the Student Free Press Association) that they would not have access to simply by being a student in the journalism school. While we as a student program are eligible for stipends, we choose not to receive them. Students work for the Oregon Commentator because they care about what we stand for and are interested in learning about what it means to work for a publication.

Your comment regarding our editorial content insulted a publication that is written, produced and read by many students. Students appreciate the Commentator because it provides alternative viewpoints to the pervading culture on campus, and we feel those alternative viewpoints should be respected and given space to exist. Based on our (almost) consistent funding from the ASUO, student government representatives agree.

At this point, you have returned to us with a counter-offer: we send you questions ahead of time, and you(r public relations staff) answer(s) them for us. This is not a legitimate counter-offer (ask anyone in the SOJC about this and they will agree); if we wanted to read a press release, we would read a press release. Mr. President: when you entered your office a year and a half ago, you stated that transparency was going to be a priority for your administration. What could be more transparent than sitting down with the students you are charged with serving to answer our questions?

We are forced to wonder whether your reluctance to be interviewed has more to do with a desire not to be questioned by the very people whose futures you hold in your hands than with the editorial content of our magazine. Since you came into office, we at the Commentator are not the only ones who have been impressed with your forthrightness and honesty. It is my opinion that if you continue to refuse our interview requests we will likewise not be the only ones whose faith in that honesty is diminished.


Lyzi Diamond
Oregon Commentator

Media digest, Jan. 19, 2011; Now featuring a classic Orson Welles feature

January 19th, 2011 by Alex Tomchak Scott

It feels like it’s been a slow news day for whatever reason. That reason is probably that, for the first time in what feels like ages, coverage of UO sports is pretty thin on the ground and, as someone with little interest in American sports, I always have the least fun with that part of the digest. What there was was either good or painless. I’d recommend the Malee column in the Emerald. I don’t care one way or the other about what it says, but it flows better than anything I’ve read in the Emerald in a while.

Also, my weekly bete noir, the Matt Tellam Emerald column, is pretty reasonable today. Usually, Tellam’s columns work me into a frenzy of rage, but not this week.

Ummm … … … Yeah, I’ve got nothing else to add. The rest of the media digest is below the fold. Here’s a classic film noir that has entered into the public domain!


Another Reason You Shouldn’t Forget Your Cellphone (as if I need to remind you)

January 18th, 2011 by Melissa Haskin

I swear, lately the slew of Starbucks headlines in the NYT have been akin to a 13-year old girls twitter posts- logo changes, protests and bigger cups. Now, in a pinnacle of (superfluous) modernity, Starbucks will be accepting payment via select cell phones.

At more than 7,500 U.S. locations, customers will be able to pay by using their Blackberrys, iPhones and iPods. Customers will be able to scan their phones after they download an app and add money to their Starbucks account.

According to the vice president for the Starbucks card and brand loyalty, the goal of this new service is to allow customers to pay in the fastest way possible. In order for this to benefit the stores as well, they will have to install expensive scanners.

I love Starbucks, I really do, but I question the practicality of using ones cell phone as a method of payment. It seems to me that since I don’t own a Mary Poppins style purse (and I would, if they were made!), fetching my credit/debit card is just as quick as digging my phone out. Further, adding money to my Starbucks card requires that I must either think ahead or waste time at the register. Both options seem inconvenient and time consuming. So, if the goal of this initiative is to save me time, how much time am I really saving?

Moreover, I worry that this will cause unnecessary problems in the event that a cell phone is stolen. Not only will the owner be losing a phone, they will be losing money as well. And, in the case that someone leaves their phone at work, at home, in the car, at a party or anywhere else, then that individual will be forced to use money they hadn’t already allocated for coffee, or go without.

The technological advances that have occurred in my lifetime amaze me, but there comes a point where improvements heed small benefits and efficiency flatlines.

Thanks to the Emerald

January 18th, 2011 by Alex Tomchak Scott

The Emerald offered its support to our quest to get an interview in today’s paper. I didn’t put it in the media digest because these things don’t get uploaded to the Internet, but here it is:

Commentator denied interview with University president

After pereparing thorough research and insisting on professionalism, Alex Tomchak Scott of the Oregon Commentator was denied an interview by University President Richard Lariviere.

Although the Commentator often produces controversial material, Tomchak has continually produced quality material. We at the Emerald believe in a free exchange of information and ideas, and Lariviere should be a staple of transparency.

Thanks guys.

Lariviere only to consent to an interview with pre-screened questions and responses.

January 18th, 2011 by Alex Tomchak Scott

Here’s an e-mail I got from the UO’s spokesperson Julie Brown this morning.

Hi Alex,

I hope you’re well.  I’m following up about your request to interview President Lariviere.  It’s disappointing that you chose to write about your conversation with Staci, but I want to help you get the information you’re requesting. You can always contact me with requests for leaders on campus in the same way you did when working for the ODE.

The president wants students to be informed about how the legislative action this winter and spring may change the short-term and long-term access and affordability of education. As I understand your request, this will be the topic of your Q&A. Please send your questions to me and I will facilitate getting the president’s answers for you. Deadline information would be helpful too.



Let me say this about Julie Brown: I worked for the Emerald for two years and dealt with her on a regular basis, so I have ample experience working with her. Spokespeople get a lot of criticism from journalists, but I never found her to be anything other than helpful and honest to the greatest degree possible, professional even when, as in my wayward early days, I was not. If I lived in a circle of hell where I could only conduct interviews through questions relayed by a public relations professional, I’d want Julie Brown to be that professional.

However, that’s not where I live. If given the choice between questioning someone in a position of power through a public relations professional and not questioning him or her at all, when the object is a question-and-answer transcript, I think any journalist who truly values the difficult, precise questions and spontaneous, unrehearsed responses that such a situation requires would choose the latter option.

“Preoccupied with Pokemon.” Media digest Jan. 18, 2011

January 18th, 2011 by Alex Tomchak Scott

You want amusing? Is that what you want? Yeah? Well maybe a Pokemon card of blathering Fat Joe tribute act Phil Knight made by Emerald opinion bone saw Tyree Harris will satisfy you. If you’ll ever be satisfied.

You can also see other celebrity Pokemon cards at his blog, although sadly none of the others are directly relevant to the UO. Tyree’s recently launched site seems a little bit preoccupied with Pokemon, not that I’m complaining. I love Pokemon as much as the next American whose childhood took place in the late 90s. I definitely daydream of stalking as-yet undiscovered species through the jungles of Thailand and steppes of Nepal occasionally with only my trusty Geodude for company. What of it?


Fiesta Attire On “Ellen” Ruffles Some Duck’s Feathers

January 6th, 2011 by Rockne Andrew Roll

The Oregon Duck embraces a sombrero-clad student during a taping of "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" Thursday, January 6. Photo by Ross Coyle

University student Andrew Seistrup standing with the Sombrero he was asked to remove during a taping of "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" Thursday, January 6. Photo by Ross Coyle

In honor of the Ducks upcoming participation in the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game, UO students gathered to make a spirited appearance, via satellite, on The Ellen DeGeneres Show Thursday afternoon. DeGeneres encouraged students to arrive at the EMU Amphitheater ready “for a fiesta.” But when some students arrived sporting sombreros, not everyone was pleased.

“I noticed they all took their sombreros off before they started filming,” said Sarah Abadi.

Andrew Seistrup said he was asked to remove his sombrero and fake mustache to, as he said, “avoid stepping on any toes.”  Staff of The Ellen DeGeneres Show declined to comment on the matter.

Cory Kirshner-Lira, a graduate student in education, was concerned that people would interpret the sombreros and other costumes in a way that “reduced Mexican culture to stereotypes.”

“I don’t think it would ever be ok for me to dress as a white person… but today it’s ok to dress as a Mexican,” Kirshner-Lira said.

Others did not share her viewpoint. “As a Latino, I don’t see how it’s degrading,” said Allan Benavidas, who attended the event dressed in a foam taco costume.

“It’s just fun,” he said.

Bryan Aubineau, a University student in pre business administration, said he thought the costumes were “all part of the spirit” surrounding the event and the national championship game.

Footage from the event, which drew over 1000 students and community members, will appear on tomorrow’s episode of The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

Ross Coyle contributed reporting to this article.

Cam Newton is secretly Hans Geiger, or Acknowledging Jimmy Fallon’s contribution to the our culture. Grudgingly. Media digest, Jan. 6, 2010

January 6th, 2011 by Alex Tomchak Scott

Guess I had to start with the power ballad, didn’t I, even though I can’t stand Jimmy Fallon. To skip his intro, go right to 1:30 in the video. Supposedly a coin flip decided whether it would be Oregon or the Hated Tigers commemorated. I don’t believe it. I’m certain it was an artistic choice, one I would have made in their stead: You can rhyme our mascot’s name with “fuck.” “Tiger,” meanwhile, only really rhymes with “Geiger,” which would make for some real lyrical gymnastics. Maybe we would have heard a song about some sort of nuclear disaster involving the Hated Tigers. I would have appreciated that, I think.


Making “Whoopee.” Media digest Jan. 5, 2011

January 5th, 2011 by Alex Tomchak Scott

The state of the city address always seems to be occasioned by talk of “Kitty Piercy.” I don’t know what that means, but I’m just going to go with my natural assumption. I just want to say that, even if it leads to free parades celebrating football, piercing cats can get you sent to jail. I hope the video below serves as a reminder.


Bob Welch’s next column, in its entirety: “Go Ducks!(1,000)” Media digest Jan. 4, 2011

January 4th, 2011 by Alex Tomchak Scott

Some business, first and foremost: a post on the new Voice and Ethos is on its way, but there is a lot to read yet on that score.

With that down, I’d like to draw our attention to the words of Eugene resident Leslie Graham, who gives the following pointer to Guard columnist Bob Welch: “I love my Ducks! That’s what Welch should have said, over and over again.” Also, who here wouldn’t like to see Eugene’s Bob Welch perform a set of Fleetwood Mac covers, or possibly turn out for the Oakland Athletics?


“Me and my crew can only bust with the real shit.” Media digest, Jan. 3, 2011

January 3rd, 2011 by Alex Tomchak Scott

Welcome back to school. Today, the Emerald tells us about the creation of the universe, and let’s just say the University of Oregon doesn’t get enough credit. This is the only video of the Big Bang I could find and embed, and I can only say that it is not at all the way I imagined.

Five new UO professors, presumably.

This is a bit late because I’m still figuring out how to have an academic schedule that involves a 9 a.m. class and a blogging schedule that involves being up late at night.


Gordon Smith, NAB attempt to thwart community radio projects

December 27th, 2010 by Lyzi Diamond

Jeff Mapes at the Oregonian writes about the Local Community Radio Act of 2009 and how the National Association of Broadcasters and former U.S. Senator from Oregon Gordon Smith are trying to halt its passage in Senate:

Smith is now president of the National Association Broadcasters, which is fighting legislation that would allow the creation of hundreds of low-power, non-commercial radio stations around the country.

The Local Community Radio Act passed the House and has strong support in the Senate, thanks in part to the unusual coalition behind it ranging from the Christian Coalition to the Prometheus Radio Project (which says it is devoted to “freeing the airwaves from corporate control”).

In part, the community radio movement has been driven by the sweeping consolidation of the radio industry, which in many cases has led smaller communities to lose local programming.

Not surprising, the National Association of Broadcasters opposes the bill, saying it’s concerned the bill would lead to interference with with stations owned by commercial broadcasters.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I thought the National Association of Broadcasters was supposed to be “the voice for the nation’s radio and television broadcasters.” I didn’t know that meant only commercial stations. Indeed, I know many non-commercial and low-power radio people, including the general manager at KWVA (UO campus radio), who are NAB members.

Radio is one of the premier mediums for dissemination of information around the world. In many places, it’s the only medium. There are multiple organizations — Radio Free Europe, for one — that work to provide unbiased information to individuals living in nations without free media. And it’s no coincidence that one of the things you’re supposed to have with you in an emergency situation is a battery-powered radio.

And I’m not the only one who feels this way.

“Gordon Smith is silencing voices across the country by opposing the expansion of community radio,” said Pete Tridish of the Prometheus Project, which had demonstrators juggling and whirling hula hoops.” So we’re here to say: Gordon Smith, don’t make a circus of our democracy – stop making us jump through hoops; work with Congress to pass this bill.”

Non-commercial radio, in addition to its immediate importance in emergency situations, provides opportunities that commercial radio does not — for example, the ability to play or talk about whatever you damn well please. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to be fighting for? A free and independent media is guaranteed to Americans, and the best way to do it is to fucking do it. So let them fucking do it.

Oregonian calls Lariviere’s proposal selfish but kind of endorses it anyway

December 26th, 2010 by Alex Tomchak Scott

The Oregonian has an editorial out today-ish that doesn’t really endorse UO cheese Richard Lariviere’s “New Partnership” proposal but doesn’t fail to endorse it either. See here:

As drafted, it is an every-man-for-himself, look-out-for-No.-1 plan. And if all was well in Oregon’s university system, we’d be happy to join those eager to shoot it down without so much as a hearing.

All is not well. And as Lariviere is fond of asking, do you, does anyone, have a better idea? If so, it’s time to bring it to Salem.

The editorial asks for the other state universities to be involved in it somehow, which probably won’t go over well in Johnson Hall, considering UO cheese emeritus Dave Frohnmayer once described the other universities to me as “anchors that drag and inhibit the UO’s flexiblity, it doesn’t help us and it doesn’t help anybody else.”

Also, the Oregonian writes that the UO should “not repeat its mistakes of the 1990s, when it jacked up tuition, priced thousands of students out of higher education and led to the first generation of Oregonians with lower college attainment than their parents.”

But the UO’s attempts to gain independence, historically, have aimed directly or indirectly at increasing tuition, not decreasing it. Lariviere’s proposal itself promises only:

  • “greater predictability in tuition pricing”
  • “relieving pressure on tuition to offset state funding reductions”
  • “greater tuition predictability”
  • “protect[ion] from tuition fluctuations”
  • “undergraduate tuition stability”
  • that the UO’s board will have the authority to set tuition.

Which is not the same as tuition not going up at all. When Frohnmayer talked to me about a nascent version of this plan two years ago, he implied tuition would go up (although he also said there would be more opportunities for aid because the UO could put state money toward it).

Minor quibbles, I suppose; the thrust of the editorial is that, while the Oregonian’s associate editors don’t like Lariviere’s proposal, nobody in power in Oregon’s really brave enough to fund higher ed properly or smart enough to come up with a solution to higher ed’s problems that will do anything.

On a side note, I won’t be putting out a media digest tonight. I’ve got a flight to catch in the morning and the media’s heart isn’t in it over Crimbo anyway.

UPDATE: Forgot to link to the Phil Knight interview the Oregonian put out on the fifth, which is an important piece of this puzzle.

No percent for me. Your Crimbo media digest.

December 25th, 2010 by Alex Tomchak Scott

There’s not a lot of news about the UO this Crimbo, which is unsurprising considering that the UO probably isn’t open. From here, I can’t see myself navigating the intro without some tired Crimbo puns, which would be sickening, so I’m just going to plop a picture and a jump down and get out.

Yeah, this happened on Dec. 25 too


Public records law.

December 21st, 2010 by Lyzi Diamond

Our favorite anonymous professor over at UO Matters has a breakdown on proposed changes in public records legislation for the state of Oregon to be addressed in the new legislative session. The first provides some clarity on fees and deadlines for filling public records requests, and the second requires certain public bodies to digitally record their meetings and make those recordings available. Interestingly, the second also requires the Attorney General to create trainings for public employees on public meetings law. Our anonymous professor’s comments:

Delays and fees are a common strategy of UO Public Records Officer Liz Denecke, as they were for her predecessor Melinda Grier. The OUS board, meantime, has not prepared written minutes of its meetings since Dec, 2006. So I think both these laws will have an immediate and positive effect for transparency at UO.