Monday, August 24, 2009

from gmo to natural herbicides

Stories exist on a continuum. In journalism, we sometimes overlook this fact, I think, because of a longing for originality coupled with rather short time horizons. Check out the recent Wall Street Journal piece about Scotts Miracle-Gro and the company's effort to develop more effective--but green--lawn care products. Compare that with my 2006 story for Wired about the company's pugnacious CEO and his controversial quest to make transgenic grass as pervasive as, well, the American front lawn. Three years from now, I wonder where this company will be, and how the media will choose to portray it.

Friday, August 21, 2009

on predation: should portland recall the mayor?

I wrote this op-ed for the Oregonian 3 weeks ago, arguing in support of the recall. The response to the piece has been little more than a whisper, which doesn't bode very well for the recall campaigners. Nevertheless, I want to share a snippet from a recent conversation. It was with an intelligent local professional who disagrees with me about this issue. Some of his reasons were familiar and fair--the cost and hassle of the recall, and confusion about who would replace Adams. But then he said something that baffled me.

In the essay, I called Adams a predator. (For those unfamiliar with the issue, the mayor had a romantic relationship with a kid named Breedlove who was 18, possibly 17, when Adams, already a city councilman, was 41. As a mayoral candidate, Adams lied about the relationship a number of times. Oh yeah--and he owns two homes that are in foreclosure.) Anyway, the man I was speaking with said he has known people like Breedlove, that they too can be quite predatory, and that Adams is really a weak person. At first this sounded like an intelligent point, not to mention clever recycling of a word I had used. I nodded politely and let the conversation drift elsewhere, as if to indicate that his point was interesting and one that I had overlooked. The man I was speaking with is gay and I'm not, and perhaps my reflex was to presume that he has more insight into these matters than I could ever have.

Yet the more I think about this comment, the more it disappoints me. What I should have said was: How, exactly, is an 18-year-old kid, male or female, a predator? This was in fact the whole point of my essay; that a kid is a kid, that an adult should know better, and that sexuality shouldn't matter. As many other people have wondered: What if Adams was straight and Breedlove was a young woman?

Alas, those what I should have said replies rarely materialize in the brain fast enough to matter during real-time conversation. Thank God for blogs.