A reporter's meditation on scarcity of wildness, on wolf pups, and on a bond with readers
Mash-ups among separate events and streams of consciousness are not standard news writing. They fit easily however in old-style columns and new-style blogs. News writing purports to be objective and often takes a disinterested stance – just the facts as seen and as described by sources. The latter two are often personal messages from writers to readers that sometimes become conversations. At their best, the two modes of writing interact synergistically to inform and enrich one another.
Here’s a meditative column that is all over the map (the map of the Pacific Northwest). It manages to skip around with a semblance of coherence. It also, most interesting to your tracker in his last week of tracking, has observations on how news reporters and news readers may intimately connect.
- High Country News – Matt Weiser: Wolf pups, and the return of wild wonder ;
Weiser, who writes once in a while for the Colorado-based non-profit High Country News, mostly covers environmental matters for the Sacramento Bee. Among his news stories in recent years have been several on the wandering young male wolf OR7. You surely remember him. In 2011, carrying a radio collar that wildlife biologists had fixed to it in Oregon, the animal became a news sensation as it crossed the border into northeastern California. It was the state’s first wild wolf in generations. Local ranchers worried. Wolf and re-wilding fans clapped hands and dared hope. Hunters, one supposes, imagined a wolf season someday.
Weiser updates the news on this wolf (now back in Oregon where it found a mate and sired a few pups), recalls how he has had to alter his despair over the disappearance of wilderness in the Golden State and takes a moment to recall how keenly his Bee readers followed the wolf’s travels.
It is worth reading in whole. But excerpts from the part about newspapering include “The … stories I wrote about OR7 were among the most widely read and appreciated in my 25 years [at the Bee]” and “People were clipping and saving the stories, passing them around in classrooms and mailing them to relatives.” Some wrote poems, one of which was dedicated to both wolf and to Weiser. He writes how the reaction challenged his intention to remain objective and disinterested in his further reporting on the creature. Weisser reports that the episode made him a little uncomfortable while also “renewed my faith that print newspaper still mattered in a digital era.”
Here, by the way, is how Weiser covered the birth earlier this year of the wolf’s pups for the Bee, along with pieces from a few other news outlets:
- Sacramento Bee (via Merced Sun-Star) – Matt Weiser: Meet wolf OR7’s new pups; California moves to protect species ;
- LiveScience – Becky Oskin: Adorable Animal Babies: Meet Wandering Wolf’s First Pups ;
- Portland Oregonian – Lynn Terry: OR-7: Biologists confirm Oregon wolf has at least 2 pups ;
- San Francisco Chronicle – Suzanne Espinosa Solis: California’s lone wolf – OR7 – sires pups in Oregon ;
- LA Times – Maria L. La Ganga: OR7, the wandering wolf, looks for love in all the right places ; Hmm. Probably mostly the wrong places, one thinks. But this piece, which ran weeks before the others just above, reports the first inklings that OR7’s presumed roam in search of a mate was successful and also how unexpected that was, and is. The hook is that this high point of OR7's sojourn came as a documentary movie, "The Journey,' was making its premier. The pups were born just north of the California border in the Oregon’s southern Cascade range. Experts would have told you that no wolves, female especially, lived there. Now it looks like it has not just been the males with wanderlust. Oregon’s Cascades may soon enough have a full-on wolf pack.
Grist for the Mill: US Fish & Wildlife Service Press Release ;