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  Report the news; don’t be the news

by H&N editor Gerry O'Brien - The Herald and News View

followed by A worse future beckons without water settlement (a biased H&N view supporting KBRA water 'agreement' "

   Some good advice for reporters when they first start their careers includes, “Report the news, don’t become part of it.”

   Reporters are taught to stand apart, remain unbiased and above the fray in their coverage.

   So it was with interest that this incident happened in Polson, Mont., as reported in the press last week:

   “A weekly newspaper   editor arrested by the Montana Highway Patrol while photographing a two-vehicle crash scene pleaded not guilty Wednesday to three misdemeanors.

   “Vince Lovato of the Lake County Leader is charged with obstructing a peace officer or other public servant, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.

   “Lovato appeared with attorney Mike Meloy of Helena and also was accompanied by his wife, Michelle, a reporter for the Leader who photographed her husband as he was led away from the crash site in handcuffs on Oct. 1.

   “Montana Highway Patrolman Tony Isbell, the arresting officer, said on the citations he issued that Lovato was ‘disobeying (a) lawful command inside (a) crime scene boundary.’  

   “The disorderly conduct charge stems from Lovato allegedly ‘screaming obscenities while being arrested, causing a public disturbance.’

   “On the resisting arrest citation, Isbell wrote, ‘Would not follow commands, pulling away and attempting to escape.’ ”

   Reporters may accidentally get swept up in coverage of an event, but as a rule of thumb, if something happens on a public street, they’re allowed to photograph and report just as any citizen would. The Constitution guarantees it.

   Once we had a police detective walk up to a photographer on a city sidewalk and put his hands over the camera lens. That’s a big no-no. Public street.  

   However, reporters can go too far. It’s a delicate balance between the right to know and disrupting a crime scene. Access by the media to crime scenes has been severely restricted in recent years for fear of evidence being tainted and juries becoming prejudiced with detailed information.

   That was not always the case. Often, reporters were let into crime scenes to see for themselves and ask questions right on the spot. It led to some compelling stories … details the public now may have to wait months to find out.

   Some reporters used to carry cigars or cigarettes to light up with officials just to avoid some of the smells one encounters at a murder scene. Police often asked for a newspaper’s photographs from a scene because they were of the best quality.  

   Today, prosecutors are flinchy about releasing information prior to filing a case in court. Also, if a suspect is still at large, investigators don’t want it made public what they know about the crime.

   It all comes down to trust and a good working relationship with public officials. In the case of the Polson editor, past history may lend a clue as to why he was arrested.

   According to wire service reports, “In a June 26 column in the Leader in which he described his occupation as a lifestyle, not a job, Lovato wrote that while working at other newspapers he has ‘stepped over bodies on the street at the worst traffic accident in the history of the region,’ was once detained by the U.S. Army for 13 hours after covering ‘a war game that went wrong,’ and said he was once beaten up by ‘referees who screwed a bunch of high school basketball players and wrote the story with a TRS80 from my hospital bed, typing with one finger.’  

   “The referees, according to Lovato’s column, were all officers with the California Highway Patrol who ‘were fired — and so was I because the editor’s daughter was dating one of them.’ ”

   It appears that the Polson editor has a history of conflict with public officials. The devil is in the details of this latest incident. We’ll have to see how this one plays out.  

The H&N View by former H&N editor Pat Bushy
  A worse future beckons without water settlement
  But a better future depends on removing Klamath dams
     Basin water issues remain unsettled and time is quickly slipping away.

(KBC NOTE: Herald and News has constantly held the biased view of supporting the KBRA, regardless of the vast majority of the Klamath Basin citizens opposing it. HERE for our KBRA Opposition by Stakeholders, and KBRA page including polls, letters and opinions, documents, etc)

   Think things can’t get worse? They can. And if there isn’t a serious enough push from the local area to move the water settlement legislation in Congress, they will.

   Several years have been spent developing good will among those who speak for irrigators and tribes and other water users. That resulted in the legislation pending in Congress. Things need to move. If not, what happens next? What happens after 2014?

   While leaders of the various groups have the general support of those they represent, that support isn’t unanimous and that applies to both the Tribes and irrigators. There is pressure from within to come up with results.

   The Klamath Tribes agreed this year not to fully enforce the water rights granted them by the state. That left more water this year for those on the 240,000-acre Klamath Reclamation Project, who had negotiated a separate water agreement with the Tribes. How long the agreement lasts is up to the Tribes.  

   Water is the Basin’s lifeblood, but Basin farmers and ranchers, who are part of an industry that produced $290 million in Klamath County sales last year, don’t control the water. It was over-promised many decades ago, tribal treaties were largely disregarded and there was no such thing as the Endangered Species Act.

   The treaties are now being enforced, most noticeably through adjudication that awarded the highestpriority water rights to the Klamath Tribes. Environmental concerns are now a major part of water management and there are endangered fish species at both ends of the river.

   Other key points

   Can there be an overall agreement on water allocations in the Basin without dam removal?

   The answer’s simple: No.

   PacifiCorp owns the four dams on the Klamath River targeted for elimination. Their removal is inextricably woven into the fabric of the agreements pending in Congress. PacifiCorp has already said it wants to remove the dams, rather than make improvements, which would mean less power at a higher cost. Oregon and California public utility commissions in Oregon and California have given their approval.  

   Ratepayers have already begun paying a charge for dam removal through a 2 percent surcharge with a cap of $200 million for ratepayers.

   It’s worth remembering, too, that private enterprise built the dams, private enterprise ran them and private enterprise wants to remove them.

   What happens if the settlement agreements die in Congress? If it decided to continue operating the dams, PacifiCorp would have to make the dam improvements. It has more incentive to remove them, though, than it has to keep them running.

   Who pays if that happens? If federal participation in dam removal is removed along with the failure of the agreements, there’s no cap for the ratepayers, who are the company’s major revenue source. Who else? The shareholders? In your dreams.

   How do the Klamath Tribes figure into this? Adjudication gave the tribes priority water rights, which the tribes exercised and many ranches and farmers in the Upper Klamath Basin lost irrigation water this year because they had lower priority water rights. These are off-Project water users, whose interests are represented in the proposed agreements languishing in Congress, but weren’t part of earlier proposed legislation.  

   If the legislation dies, so does the economic help for the Tribes they include. We can’t see much incentive for the Tribes to continue the separate agreement with Project irrigators not to fully enforce their water rights. The Tribes’ primary focus has been to improve the health of the Klamath River and Upper Klamath Lake. That means keeping more water in the lake and sending more water downstream, which squeezes the amount available for irrigation.

   What about Rep. Greg Walden’s approach to look for things that the two sides can agree on, start there and work up?

   The low-hanging fruit has already been plucked. Besides, the two sides came a tremendous distance in the most recent agreements that incorporated the off-Project irrigators into the settlement proposals, but now things have stalled and need a push.

   So what’s the absolute worst-case scenario?

   It’s ugly and doesn’t have to happen. Here it is: The legislation dies. The Tribes agreement with Project irrigators also dies. Dry year. No water for irrigation. Dry fields, if you can call them fields. An incredible amount of year-to-year uncertainty that drives down land values and forces farmers and ranchers to leave to make a living. A ripple effect that’s more like a tsunami moving through the local economy. The dams come out anyway because its a good business decision for PacifiCorp, but there’s no cap on what Oregon ratepayers must pay to cover the cost of removal and liability, and no guarantee   that California will contribute, as required under the proposed legislation.

   How do we prevent it? Build local support for the agreements and successfully push it. Recognize reality. The Basin’s future is lot better with the settlement than without it.

   Today’s editorial was written by Forum Editor Pat Bushey,



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