BY LINDA BAKER
When it comes to the information-gathering process, journalists are no strangers to obstacles: recalcitrant sources, malfunctioning digital recorders, the occasional threat of violence, hurricanes and so on.
But as we were putting together this issue, Oregon Business encountered a novel barrier: the government shutdown. Our cover story on salmon restoration took the first hit. On September 30, two days before photographer Joseph Eastburn had planned to shoot the record salmon runs at Bonneville Dam, he received the following regretful email from Diana J. Fredlund, public affairs specialist for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers:
“I have some bad news regarding Wednesday. In the event of a government shutdown, all recreation areas and visitor centers will be closed until funding is received. That means the Bonneville visitor centers will not be open. We don’t know if it will actually happen, or if it does, how long it will last.
“That means this week is very dicey for scheduling a visit.”
Well, we all know how that turned out. Mind you, Joseph was scheduled to shoot our cover that Wednesday. We were not pleased.
Our data-heavy feature on agricultural commodities was the next to require some rethinking. Research editor Brandon Sawyer went to the U.S. Department of Agriculture website to begin gathering facts and figures for the story only to find the site closed due to the shutdown. Fortunately, Joseph and Brandon are very resourceful. The former dropped what he was doing and hightailed it to the dam a day early, forgoing the opportunity to shoot from a fish ladder. Instead, Joseph shot the cover photo through a viewing window, a picture I think has a mystical quality well suited to an archetypal event such as a salmon run. (The article’s opening shot was taken at Eagle Creek.)
Meanwhile, Brandon cobbled together stats from the Oregon Department of Agriculture, based on USDA data and deeper data from the OSU Extension Service — no easy task since those data sets are gathered and categorized differently.
Oregon Business came through, and we hope you enjoy this issue, steeped in agriculture and natural resource-themed articles. As I write this, the government impasse is coming to an end. Still, stories about the impact of the shutdown — on research scientists, tourists visiting national parks, the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) program and many others — will likely continue in the weeks to come. Add journalists to the wide swath of Americans who were stymied by the shutdown, and who have the sinking feeling this particular obstacle will surface again.