293 episodes

A weekly look inside Oregon's biggest news stories with the journalists at The Oregonian/OregonLive.com.

Beat Check with The Oregonian The Oregonian/OregonLive

    • News
    • 4.6 • 115 Ratings

A weekly look inside Oregon's biggest news stories with the journalists at The Oregonian/OregonLive.com.

    Why is eastern Oregon’s groundwater contamination crisis still unresolved after 30 years?

    Why is eastern Oregon’s groundwater contamination crisis still unresolved after 30 years?

    Authorities in Oregon have known for over three decades that groundwater in the eastern part of the state, a rural region where many people rely on domestic wells for drinking water, is contaminated with high levels of nitrates and unsafe to drink – yet, until recently, have done little to address the problem.
    Until 2022, many people in the region had no idea they had been drinking contaminated water for years. Some still don’t know it because the state has tested only about half the affected domestic wells despite a 2023 deadline to finish the testing.
    Research has linked high nitrate consumption over long periods to stomach, bladder and intestinal cancers, miscarriages, as well as thyroid issues. It is especially dangerous to infants who can quickly develop “blue baby syndrome,” a fatal illness.
    In May and again earlier this month, three dozen nonprofits and two retired Oregon Department of Environmental Quality administrators sent a letter to Gov. Tina Kotek asking her to make good on her promises to test all domestic wells in the region, find a permanent source of water for those forced to rely on bottled water and take action to clean up the groundwater. Kotek had visited the area after becoming governor.The letter called the nitrate contamination in the Lower Umatilla Basin “among the most pressing environmental justice issues in Oregon.” Most of the population in the region is poor, Latino or Indigenous.
    Late on Friday, Kotek sent a response. In her letter, the governor said she has directed the Oregon Health Authority to, among other actions, complete the testing of the remaining wells and the retesting of some households identified as being at high risk by June 30, 2025.Kristin Anderson Ostrom, the executive director of Oregon Rural Action, and Kaleb Lay, the group’s director of policy and research, talked on Beat Check about why the contamination has taken so long to address, what can be done about it in the short and long term and what the crisis says about Oregon’s approach to environmental justice.
    The eastern Oregon nonprofit, alongside the Morrow County public health department, has been instrumental in testing domestic wells in the region and pushing the state to do more testing and to limit nitrate pollution.Allowing another full year to test the remaining wells and setting the bar low on retesting is not an adequate response, Ostrom said. And the state needs to take substantive action to rein in the sources of pollution, she added. Much of the nitrate contamination comes from farm fertilizer, animal manure and wastewater that are constantly applied to farm fields.
    “This is an ongoing emergency and it needs to be recognized as one – the lives and health of thousands of our neighbors are at risk and it’s the State’s responsibility to protect them from further harm,” Ostrom told The Oregonian/OregonLive.
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    • 49 min
    Oregon’s transportation system is ‘hemorrhaging.’ Is there a fix?

    Oregon’s transportation system is ‘hemorrhaging.’ Is there a fix?

    Across Oregon, county and city leaders say they don’t have the money to maintain their streets and sidewalks.
    In the Portland area, a pair of mega transportation projects years in the making remain unfinished and drastically underfunded.
    All the while, the Oregon Department of Transportation says will require an annual $1.8 billion boost to meet a growing list of transit needs throughout the state.
    The agency’s director recently said the entire system is “hemorrhaging.”
    On the latest Beat Check, reporters Shane Dixon Kavanaugh and Carlos Fuentes discuss Oregon’s transportation woes, attempts by state leaders to address them and the messy politics in the middle of it all.
    Read More:
    Oregon lawmakers want to fix roads and beef up transit. Where will they find the money?
    ODOT pumps brakes on two major freeway projects amid budget crisis, tolling pause
    Gov. Tina Kotek shelves plans for I-5, I-205 tolls in Portland area
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    • 20 min
    Diving into why college going rates are declining in Oregon

    Diving into why college going rates are declining in Oregon

    Way back in 2011, policymakers in Oregon set an ambitious goal.
    By 2025, 80 percent of the state’s 25- to 34-year-old residents would have some kind of college credentials.
    The deadline is next year, and the state won’t come close.
    Instead, college-going rates have been on the decline in Oregon for the last decade, particularly among certain groups of high school students, including boys from rural Oregon and students of color. The decline outpaces national averages.
    College enrollment matters for more than just students. To flourish in the future, the state’s economy needs highly-skilled workers who can contribute to the tax base. And as communities of color fall further behind in higher education attainment, it hurts the state’s efforts to improve equitable outcomes for all its residents.
    Reporter Sami Edge set out to understand the decline. Her work is spotlighted in a seven-part series that continues this week in The Oregonian/OregonLive as students around the state graduate from high school.
    In this episode of Beat Check, we’ll talk about:
    — The skyrocketing costs of college tuition in Oregon.
    — How community colleges do — and don’t — appeal to high school seniors.
    — The ins and outs of Oregon’s existing tuition grant programs.
    — How one tiny rural school in Klamath County sets the standard for high schools around the state.
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    • 24 min
    BONUS episode: How the Portland airport carpet design became a civic icon

    BONUS episode: How the Portland airport carpet design became a civic icon

    Laura Hill was about 30 years old when she helped create one of Portland’s most-iconic designs.
    When the Port of Portland was redesigning Portland International Airport in 1986, architecture and design firm SRG Partnership led the project.
    Hill retired from the firm in 2008, but at the time she was a principal interior designer for SRG.
    In this bonus episode of Beat Check with The Oregonian, reporter Lizzy Acker shares her interview with Hill.
    Hill explains how the famous design came to be, the research SRG did at other airports and what other designs were pitched. Here's their conversation.
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    • 30 min
    ‘Happily Never After’ pulls back curtain on a Portland murder

    ‘Happily Never After’ pulls back curtain on a Portland murder

    True crime is popular in the podcast world, and romance novels are seeing a surge in popularity. The Oregonian/OregonLive’s new podcast, in partnership with Wondery, marries the two topics for a six-part exclusive look at the case of Nancy Crampton Brophy, who was convicted of murdering her husband, Dan.
    Reporters Zane Sparling, who covered the trial, and Shane Dixon Kavanaugh, who reported on her arrest and its aftermath, joined Editor Therese Bottomly on “Beat Check with The Oregonian” to discuss the new podcast, which is available on all major platforms today.
    In this episode of Beat Check, we talk about:
    --Why investigators zeroed in on Crampton Brophy
    --How Crampton Brophy took the stand at trial and it backfired
    --Her previous role in the Portland community of romance writers
    --Why humans can’t resist anthropomorphizing animals -- that is, attributing human behaviors and motives and emotions to our pets
    “Happily Never After: Dan and Nancy,” with Wondery, now has two of the six episodes available.
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    • 29 min
    What the spate of wolf poisonings says about Oregon’s co-existence with wolves

    What the spate of wolf poisonings says about Oregon’s co-existence with wolves

    In recent years, people have killed increasingly larger numbers of wolves in Oregon as the animals have rebounded in the state. And poisoning has emerged as one of the most common tools used to target wolves. Roblyn Brown, wolf program coordinator with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, talked on Beat Check about the poisonings, what they mean in the context of Oregon’s stagnant wolf population and how to bridge the divide between people who love wolves and those who want them gone.
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    • 45 min

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5
115 Ratings

115 Ratings

WalksInPortland|PNWPhotoWalks ,

Like new hosts, Appreciate channel for in-depth content

I’m an OregonLive subscriber and regularly listen to Beat Check. I like the new lineup of hosts and appreciate this additional channel for in-depth content.

sfgrrderoc ,

valuable reporting

Not every episode is perfect, but these generally go into far more depth than the oregonlive articles, and provide valuable insight into complex issues. They have a slightly amateurish feel, but that lends a feeling of authenticity - local Oregonians who know the background, politicians, issues, and speak to other Oregonians. Thank you!

complexanimal ,

Stilted, awkward, and halting Podcast

The information given on the podcast is about mediocre, I suppose. However, it is is deeply marred by poor presentation and interviewing skills. The host meanders, doesn’t seem to command a direction for the topics discussed, and only the most anodyne, and uncontroversial subjects ever seem to be broached. The also seem overly forgiving and conciliatory towards government officials and policies as to seem little more than press releases for what comes out of Salem and Portland City Hall. The field reporters also tend to give an impression of not being particularly prepared for the episodes and usually only share the most obvious points of a story with little insight or even very organized thoughts.

Very much a mixed bag, and quite low quality from what I would expect from a semi major news organization.

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