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The Philomath News will always focus on providing hyperlocal articles to its readers through feature stories and coverage of various events and meetings. However, I am excited to announce the addition of state government news provided through the nonprofit news organization, Oregon Capital Chronicle.

Based in Salem, the Chronicle is the latest outlet reporting on state government through States Newsroom, a national nonprofit network funded by tax-deductible donations from readers and philanthropists. The Philomath News will publish selected stories on our news site and include links in the newsletter that we send out twice per week. But for more coverage provided by the service, you can go to its website at oregoncapitalchronicle.com. Just like the Philomath News, it is free with no paywall.

Les Zaitz, a two-time Pulitzer finalist and longtime investigative reporter in Oregon, is the editor-in-chief. Other staff members include deputy editor Lynne Terry, who was recently editor of The Lund Report; Julia Shumway, recently a statehouse reporter for Arizona Capitol Times; and Alex Baumhardt, most recently a reporter and producer with American Public Media.

“Our purpose is to provide careful reporting about state government and leaders that has been reduced in recent years as news organizations cut,” Zaitz said through a news release. “We will get beyond the story of the day and probe the politics and policies that touch every Oregonian. We will do so thoroughly, accurately and without bias.”

I first became aware of the States Newsroom project more than a year ago after reading an article published in one of the news industry blogs that I follow. I was glad to hear that the organization had plans to establish an outlet in Oregon since statehouse coverage has dropped off so much through the years with what’s happened to the newspaper industry.

The States Newsroom model is unique in that they do not run ads of any kind or accept corporate donations or underwriting. As mentioned above, it’s sustained through the nonprofit model.

So far, State Newsroom has affiliates in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin. The organization also provides grants to partner news sites in Maine, Maryland and North Carolina.

On the PhilomathNews.com website, you can find the latest headlines on the home page under the “State” section (scroll down to find it). You can also go to the site’s menu and find links to that particular section. Sub-categories include politics, environment, health, economy and education.

I purposely do not include most Oregon Capital Chronicle stories in the headlines story carousel at the top of the home page because I don’t want to push out our local headlines in such a quick manner, so be sure to scroll down to that section.

Among the stories posted so far is an interesting and well-researched series entitled, “Children in Crisis.” The third story in that series includes interviews with officials at Trillium Family Services, which operates the Children’s Farm Home in Corvallis.

As I said, Philomath is always the No. 1 focus, but I hope readers will appreciate the good reporting and easy access to material made available through the Oregon Capital Chronicle. Best of luck to that new organization.

Another addition to PhilomathNews.com in recent weeks is the publication of various press releases that I receive, most of them through the FlashAlert.net system. Participating agencies send out releases through FlashAlert to media outlets (or anyone else who signs up). Through the years, I’ve deleted most of these unless they had a local angle, in which case I would do a story.

However, recently I realized that while reading through these releases, perhaps our readers would be interested in some of the content. So I created a “Press Releases” section on the website and now pass along many of these to readers. The catch here, however, is that I don’t have time to do any rewriting, editing or checking, so it is what it is — a release directly from the agency or organization.

I include a note in each of these posts that the release is passed along to you with no editing. The majority of these releases involve highway fatalities (limited to agencies in the general region, not the entire state) but there is also information from various state agencies and other governmental entities. The Linn County Sheriff’s Office is an active participant. I received a couple of items from the Corvallis Police over the past week. I’ll also include some of the Oregon State University releases that show up in my in-box.

Rising Christmas tree prices

A few weeks ago, NBC published a piece about how consumers should “expect to pay more for your Christmas tree this holiday season.” The reporter, Amy O’Kruk, writes about how the real tree industry is in good shape overall but global supply chain bottlenecks have led to higher prices for both artificial and farmed trees.

Oregon grows more Christmas trees than any other state but the region was hit hard this past summer with high temperatures. Pat and Betty Malone, who operate Sunrise Tree Farm in Kings Valley, were interviewed for the story. Sunrise grows several varieties on its 35 acres.

“We have a patch of grand fir, which are notorious for getting sunburnt, and they had almost no sunburn this year,” Betty Malone told the reporter.

However, she said an approximate increase of 5% is expected because of rising prices related to a truck driver shortage, pallets, netting, fertilizer and labor.

Read the full story here.

Back on the beat this week

As I’ve mentioned in the newsletter and the monthly email that I send to members, I somehow caught COVID despite being vaccinated and being fairly careful among large groups. Because of underlying health conditions, I was a possible candidate for serious complications but I’m happy to report that my recovery is going well and I expect to be back covering events this week with my quarantine period ending.

Thank you to all of those folks who sent encouraging emails and commented on my Facebook page. And an extra special thank you to the anonymous person who left a bag of goodies and a get-well card on my porch Saturday afternoon.

(Brad Fuqua is publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He can be reached at News@PhilomathNews.com).