The Philomath News has entered uncharted territory in the news publishing business here in Oregon. Earlier this week, it was announced that this digital-only news operation has officially been designated as the newspaper of record for the city of Philomath for the purpose of publishing public notices.
The move benefits this news site because it brings in advertising revenue that had previously been unattainable. It also benefits the city and its tax-paying residents because the public notices can be published at a much-lower cost when compared to the previous newspaper of record. Most of all, it benefits the readers who will have visible and free access to the notices.
But wait. Don’t legal notices need to be published in a physical, printed newspaper? That used to be the case before the State Legislature approved House Bill 3167 and the governor signed it into law earlier this year.
Sections in the updated law, which amends Oregon Revised Statute 193.010, refers to definitions of “bona fide subscriber” and “digital newspaper.” An important subsection for the city to be able to publish its notices at PhilomathNews.com comes down to this:
“Conducts consistent, regular coverage of local news and in which at least 25 percent of the total news content is locally and originally composed by the newspaper, regardless of whether the newspaper is produced or printed in the local area.”
Philomath News produces original local content on a consistent basis at a percentage that easily exceeds 25%.
Besides the benefit of saving the city some money, publishing public notices with Philomath News will increase visibility. They will appear on the home page and there will also be a dedicated public notices “section” with archives that will be maintained. And there are also other strategies available to bring attention to notices, such as links in related stories or included in newsletters.
In my mind, that’s more visibility than a public notice that’s buried in the legals or classifieds section of a printed newspaper. Plus, there is no paywall to read Philomath News. I’ll admit that this is a new train of thought for me personally. I mean, 90% of my career in this profession has been spent at traditional newspapers. But I believe there are situations where this digital approach makes sense and Philomath fits the mold. The weekly newspaper that had served Philomath shut down three years ago and the regional newspaper has scaled back its presence in the areas of coverage, distribution and frequency.
City Manager Chris Workman shared the change with councilors through the city management report, which was included in the Nov. 13 meeting materials. Prior to making the decision, the city had consulted with its attorney to interpret the revised statute and determine if Philomath News would qualify to legally publish its public notices.
So, here we are venturing into new territory with the publication requirements of public notices. Perhaps other local governmental entities will follow. Or, maybe digital news operations in other parts of the state will fill the same role in their communities if the same situation exists.
2. Holiday fun around the corner
After working our way through Thanksgiving week and Black Friday or Cyber Monday or whatever shopping promotions exist these days, the various holiday events will pop up on the calendar.
The Philomath Area Chamber of Commerce’s Christmas Tree Lighting this year falls on Thursday, Nov. 30, and is scheduled to run from 6-7 p.m. at Philomath Museum. In the coming days, you might notice Shonnard’s (Pacific Power has helped in the past) putting up the lights on the tree.
The Christmas Tree Lighting has become a nice small-town tradition here in Philomath. You can enjoy some cocoa and cookies, listen to the Philomath Elementary School’s choir kids and share a high-five with Mack the Knight and Lil Knight. Of course, Santa Claus always plans to make an appearance and the Philomath Frolic and Rodeo queen handing out candy canes.
The countdown to the tree lighting is the featured moment of the evening. Always a fun time (although I remember one year when it poured rain the whole time — let’s hope for the best on the weather that evening).
Our friend, Yvonne McMillan, is starting a new Christmas Sing-a-Long event this year and it falls on Saturday, Dec. 9. Regular readers of this column will remember that I wrote on this about a month ago when I first learned of it, but this sounds like something that should really get you in a festive mood.
The Philomath Christmas Sing-a-Long begins at 7 p.m. at Marys River Grange Hall. The organizer says this event will include a dessert potluck, so you have a treat to share, bring it along with your singing voice. Oh, and wear your best holiday attire or your worst ugly sweater (leave the booze at home and carpool if you can with limited parking).
And if you can’t sing like me, just lip-sync (I saw a Milli Vanilli documentary a few weeks ago, so I’m reminded of this option).
Finally, the city is bringing us the inaugural Philomath Parade of Lights. This is something I’ve also written about when the organizer shared details with me a few weeks ago. The parade is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 16.
If you watched the Frolic and Rodeo’s Grand Parade last summer, the route for this holiday parade will be the same — it begins at Chapel and South 19th, proceeds up to Applegate, then down South 15th for a stretch before making a turn at Cedar Street and ending at the rodeo grounds.
Organizers are hoping for a lot of entries to brighten the night. The mayor will choose the “Best Lit Float.” If you want to enter, head to this registration page.
I confirmed a few days ago that Santa Claus has opened up his busy schedule to participate in the parade. Just like the Christmas tree lighting, let’s hope for nice weather because it’s happening rain or shine (well, it’ll be at night).
Other organizations and businesses always have holiday-related events or activities. The Lions Club, for example, usually arranges for Santa Claus to make an appearance at the library (although I wasn’t able to confirm that just yet).
There are also pretty cool light displays around town, including the Blinky Lights at 597 Neabeack Hill Drive. Steve King said it will run from Nov. 30 until New Year’s each evening beginning at 5 p.m. and ending at 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Accompanying music can be heard at 87.9 FM and there is a “control the show” option available online at this link.
3. Philomath reference in Wyden statement
U.S. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) last week testified as part of a Senate Finance Committee hearing that was focused on an examination of tax-dodging schemes used by ultra-wealthy individuals. In other words, those folks who have access to high-priced tax lawyers and accountants that help them pay little or no federal tax from year to year.
Wyden pulled out a Philomath reference in his statement at the hearing:
“Today, we’ll examine one strategy — among others — called ‘Buy Borrow Die.’ Just three little words on the chart behind me, that have a huge impact. Here’s how it works:
“A corporate raider buys a business, and then borrows against its growing, untaxed value to fund their extravagant lifestyle. Everything from superyachts, to luxurious vacations, expensive art deals, you name it. It goes up and up in value all while not paying a dime in tax. And when they die, their assets are passed to their kids — often entirely tax-free — and the cycle continues.
“Now let’s contrast ‘Buy Borrow Die’ against the tax system mandated for everyone else.
“A nurse or a firefighter living in Philomath, Oregon, are required to pay taxes out of each paycheck. Working people don’t get to play by the same rules as billionaires. They don’t get to call up an accountant every time they don’t feel like paying taxes.
“Right now, the average billionaire wriggles their way into a measly 8 percent tax rate while a nurse or firefighter making $45,000 is paying a 22 percent tax on their wages.
“How is that fair? Americans overwhelmingly believe it’s not. So it’s time to look to solutions that restore fairness to the tax code while still rewarding success. After all, that’s what our country is founded on: the idea that everyone has a chance to get ahead.”
It’s a fair reference that seems accurate. I know a lot of those folks down at the fire station, for example, and to my knowledge, none of them have a superyacht.
(Brad Fuqua is publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He can be reached at News@PhilomathNews.com).