Not From Around Here

Some people will probably think it’s sour grapes for me to criticize the Oregonian‘s Community Writer experiment because I wasn’t chosen for it, but really, that’s not a problem. As I told the editors in my application letter, I credit the Oregonian with prompting me to start my blog, because I was frustrated with spending lots of time writing letters to the editor that were never published. At least here, I can pretend someone reads them besides me.

No, what struck me about the batch of fifteen writers announced today is that except for the 12-year-old middle school student and the 19-year-old Oregon Journalist of the Year, none of them had lived in Oregon their whole lives.

And while I’m no spring chicken, they seem pretty, well, old. The median age of the group is 53. That means that half of the writers are 53 or older. As a matter of fact, nearly three-quarters are in their mid-40s (45) and beyond. I would have been at the bottom edge of that cohort myself if chosen, but if I’d noticed that most of the other writers were older than I was, I think I might have mentioned it in my first guest column.

The only data provided about the writers is their age and the number of years in Oregon (or Vancouver, in one case), and it’s entirely possible that some of them were born here, left for a while, and came back, so I’m not going to make the mistake of saying that there are no Oregon natives among the (considerably) over-20 group, but most of them haven’t lived even half their lives in the state. Based on their age and the number of years in the area, the median percentage of their lives spent in Oregon (or Vancouver) is 46%. In fact—with the exception of the two youngest Community Writers—none of the group has lived more than three-quarters of their life here. This means that even someone who was born here around 1955 (making them the median age of the group) spent about 28 years somewhere else (if they had lived here the median percentage of the group).

I have to say that I’m rather surprised that the Oregonian wasn’t able to find even one writer older than 20 who met their standards and who’d lived in the state their entire life.