Here’s what we’ve been reading this week. Feel free to add your own links in the comments.
- On Wednesday, Reuters dropped a heckuva of a story, revealing that Chesapeake Energy Corp.’s CEO, Aubrey McClendon, borrowed $1.1 billion in personal loans using his stake in the company’s oil and gas wells as collateral. The amount borrowed roughly matches that of McClendon’s personal wealth, Reuters revealed, and the company’s shareholders didn’t know about the loans. “The size and nature of the loans raise concerns about whether McClendon’s personal financial deals could compromise his fiduciary duty to Chesapeake investors, according to more than a dozen academics, analysts and attorneys who reviewed the loan agreements for Reuters,” Anna Driver and Brian Grow reported. Forbes also released a story, which mostly quotes and expounds on the Reuters article, but which also adds: “Chesapeake Energy’s auditor? PricewaterhouseCoopers who is paid less than $3 million to audit this problem child. There’s a risk you can be paid too little to do a good job…” Chesapeake quickly released a detailed response to the Reuters story, denying any wrongdoing on the parts of McClendon or the company. The Oklahoman, which recently touted the expansion of its energy beat, enlisting three writers “to provide deeper and more insightful coverage of one of the state’s largest industries,” was noticeably silent, publishing just two short blog entries on the subject—one a “recap” of the day’s Chesapeake Energy-related news and the other a post about Chesapeake’s shares plummeting after the article’s release. Jim Romenesko, formerly of Poynter, made mention of this and linked to The Lost Ogle for its criticism of the daily paper.
- Tulsa County News, a 90-year-old community newspaper serving southwest Tulsa, is closing up shop with its April 25 issue. The paper had been owned by Community Publishers Inc., which owns several area community papers and had decided to close Tulsa County News in 2008. Linda Jordan, Gary Percefull, and Jim Frasier bought it. “Our plan was to attempt a rescue and we gave ourselves one year to turn things around. We made it almost four years before we ran out of gas,” Percefull said in a front-page story published in Wednesday’s edition.
- On Thursday, Oklahomans observed the 17th anniversary of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Office Building in Oklahoma City. At the same time, a new book, Oklahoma City: What the Investigation Missed and Why It Still Matters, by investigative journalists Andrew Gumbel and Roger G. Charles, was released. “It is a cautionary and at times startling tale, filled with bizarre characters from the outer fringes of American political life, with continuing relevance today,” The Daily Beast wrote. Read an excerpt of the book in the most recent issue of This Land.
- The Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Oklahoma Legislative Black Caucus have teamed up to advocate for stricter gun laws in the wake of the Good Friday shootings that killed three black Tulsans and injured two others. “…(C)aucus members spoke out against proposed legislation that would expand the state’s Stand Your Ground law and allow for the open carry of firearms,” The Oklahoman reported. “The civil rights activist called the Tulsa incident a ‘terrorist attack’ that sent ‘traumatizing waves of fear across Tulsa and the state,” The Washington Post reported, and Sen. Constance Johnson, D-Oklahoma City, said it isn’t the only incident citizens should be concerned about, citing “the fatal shooting of an 18-year-old by a Del City police officer last month.”
- The New York Times published a story last week that was more a profile of North Tulsa than it was a news article about the shootings—the abandonment, neglect, unemployment, and poverty have all hit hard.
In the largely black neighborhoods of north Tulsa where the shootings took place, dozens of homes and businesses surrounding the four locations of the attacks are empty. …
At murder scenes in other cities, people often gather for candlelight vigils. At the intersection where Mr. Clark was shot, there was another sort of gathering on Tuesday: a neighbor, Jimmy Landrum, brought out his lawn-care equipment to cut the overgrown grass at a curbside memorial, because nobody lives at the corner house where people have been leaving stuffed animals.
- On NPR, Jo Anne Wallace, vice president and general manager of KQED Public Radio in Northern California, told of her grandmother’s involvement in the Tulsa Race Riot, when she, an upper-middle-class white woman, sheltered her black housekeeper and her husband and children. She also laments not asking her father, an upper-class, white 13-year-old at the time of the riot, about his memories, and fears they were never brought up because of some buried involvement.
- Oklahoma’s personhood bill is dead, Religion Dispatches reported. Speaker Kris Steele said the bill wouldn’t go before the House of Representatives, a decision made by the House Republican Caucus, because “we’re already perhaps the most pro-life state in this country, having passed at least 30 various pro-life measures in the past eight years alone.” Religion Dispatches called the dead bill a “bad defeat for the personhood movement.” Personhood USA, a lobbyist for the bill, spent a lot of money in Oklahoma and Mississippi, where similar legislation also failed, and by refusing to compromise on the issue, it has made enemies out of even anti-abortion conservatives.
- C-SPAN will be filming in Oklahoma City May 5-6 in anticipation of special programing it’ll soon begin airing. “In a push to diversify programming, while still covering every second of congress in action, the network began planning last year for a series of historical features on cities around the country,” OKC Biz reported. “Along with pieces about successes like the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team and tours of the state capitol, segments will be devoted to the trials and tribulations of Native American’s in the state, and black residents who challenged the status quo for equal rights.”
- The New York Times wrote about Wilma Lake, an 87-year-old Woodward resident who’s survived two devastating tornados in her lifetime. “I’m going to make it,” she said. “I’m a toughie. I told them at the hospital I was a tough old coot.”
- The blog Letters of Note published letters, collectively titled “Illiterately Yours,” exchanged between Will Rogers and William Barry Winslow that make up the introduction of Rogers’ 1924 book The Illiterate Digest. Winslow accused The Illiterate Digest of infringing on the prestige of The Literary Digest and encouraged him to “withdraw the use of the objectionable title.” Rogers wrote back, a tongue-in-cheek note, agreeing to withdraw (since, at the time, in 1920, he hadn’t written anything for The Illiterate Digest in months):
Now you inform your Editors at once that their most dangerous rival has withdrawn, and that they can go ahead and resume publication, But you inform Your clients that if they ever take up Rope Throwing or chewing gum that I will consider it a direct infringement of my rights and will protect it with one of the best Kosher Lawyers in Oklahoma,
- The Oklahoma Policy Institute revealed who’s behind the push to eliminate the Oklahoma income tax, and it’s not Oklahomans. “It’s no coincidence that very similar efforts to eliminate the income tax are popping up in Kansas and Missouri,” Gene Perry wrote. “All three campaigns rely heavily on a report by Arthur Laffer, a former Reagan advisor who has dedicated his career to restricting taxes in numerous states… But besides Governor Fallin and a few state legislators, it seems the only champions of this proposal are on the payroll of OCPA or out-of-state advocacy groups.” Perry called that “troubling” and said “lawmakers should listen to the Oklahoma experts, not outside groups making big promises.”
—Holly Wall, News Editor