From Kari Chisholm on the BlueOregon blog comes word that KGW-TV in Portland has launched a nightly half-hour program called "Decision 2008" that's entirely devoted to this year's election contests.
Chisholm describes the first show he caught as "halfway decent. ... The first 10 minutes or so were split between the latest developments in the presidential race and the U.S. Senate race. The second 10-minute segment featured Tracy Barry moderating an argument between [conservative radio talk show host] Lars Larson and [liberal Oregonian columnist] David Sarasohn about media bias - along with a review of what local political blogs are up to. ...
"The production was a little clunky (that'll improve as they get used to the format) but I'm hopeful about this new show. With 46 half-hour shows before Election Day, that's 23 hours of dedicated election coverage. They're bound to move down the ballot to talk about legislative candidates, local races, ballot measures, and more. Hopefully, they'll also find time amidst all the horse race coverage to talk about issues that really matter to Oregonians."
The Eye brings this up only in order to wonder aloud why Bend's local TV news stations, KOHD and KTVZ, can't do something similar.
It's not as if this election cycle was entirely devoid of interest or importance. We'll be electing Bend city councilors, a Deschutes County commissioner, a state representative, a US senator, and, of course, a US president. And we also will be deciding the fate of a swarm of local and state ballot measures.
Political coverage by KTVZ and KOHD has never been stellar, but lately there seems to be even less of it. The newscasts on both stations are devoted mainly to providing all the details about the latest fender-benders, fires, lost-hiker rescues and crimes, petty and otherwise.
KTVZ does have a "Decision 2008" page on its website, but it seems to contain mostly items about national and state races, and some of them are pretty stale. There's no on-air segment comparable to what KGW is doing. Watching the daily broadcasts, you'd hardly know a campaign was happening.
Maybe we should cut KOHD some slack because those kids have only had a news operation for a year and there's not much institutional memory there. But what's KTVZ's excuse? Co-Anchor Lee Anderson has been in Bend forever - and Barney Lerten has been around even longer.
Bend has grown into a fair-sized city - the seventh-largest in the state, in fact - but our TV news coverage is still strictly small-town. Come on, guys - maybe we're not Portland, but we ain't Burns either.
Chisholm notes that two years ago the group Democracy Reform Oregon filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission asking it to refuse to renew the licenses of Portland stations that the group believed were failing to meet their legal obligation to serve the public interest by providing adequate political coverage. Nothing came of that, but it looks like this year at least one Portland station is taking its public obligation a bit more seriously.
Maybe a little action along the same lines against KTVZ and KOHD might have a similarly salutary effect.