On Monday, Oct. 23, I arrived early in the morning at our office in Northwest Portland to find, in the parking lot outside our building, several cubic yards of topsoil that had been dumped the night before. Atop the pile were copies of the current issue of WW with a stake driven through one of them, holding a sign that read "Shit Rag."
This was clearly a reaction to that week's cover story, a controversial and unflattering profile of Jim Goad, an ideological leader of the alt-right movement who spent his formative years in Portland.
While we don't know for sure, it appears the culprits were not Goad sympathizers but rather Goad opponents, some of whom feel that any coverage of him at all is not helpful.
It was a small illustration of how divided this country has become and how raw the feelings are since last year's election. It's also a reminder of how seriously people take journalism today, and the expectation that, at its best, our work should bring to light public wrongdoing, be a guardian of democracy and serve as an enforcer of transparency. Readers care—and their expectations both challenge and hearten us.
This month, WW celebrates its 43rd birthday, and we typically use this occasion to give a report to our readers.
I have always been proud to call myself a journalist. Given what our staff has done this year, I've never been prouder.
This past year, our newsroom responded to the speed of 21st-century journalism, and did so while remembering that our job is to help this city make sense of events in real time.
• The week after the presidential election, when much of the country was panicking, we offered a cover story called "Resist." It provided a sober take on the threats Donald Trump posed to Portland—a list that now looks prescient and also won the top prize for public service journalism from the Association for Alternative Newsmedia. In the same vein, for much of the past year, we consistently shined a spotlight on white nationalists, neo-Nazis and other extremists in and near the city.
• Our ongoing coverage of the shortage and cost of housing in this city has been thorough and deep, and has even effected change. Months after Rachel Monahan's reporting about landlords evicting tenants without cause, for example, Portland City Hall responded by passing an ordinance requiring that landlords pay moving fees to renters subject to no-cause evictions.
• Thacher Schmid's weekly trips into homeless camps answered the sometimes odd questions readers have about homelessness with empathetic but unsentimental reporting.
• We continued our tradition of deep dives into subjects many journalism organizations avoid. Katie Shepherd's look at a "nonprofit" zoo in Washington County revealed how an organization can take full advantage of lax regulation to run a tiger farm that appears to violate the spirit if not the letter of land-use laws.
• Nigel Jaquiss' account of the tragic death of Aisha Zughbieh-Collins from synthetic opioids offered a little-known look into the "Dark Web" and its marketplace for all things illegal. One week later, the U.S. Department of Justice shut down the website where Collins obtained the drugs, citing her death as one reason.
• Our enterprise reporting on Oregon's quasi-legal poker rooms prompted the Oregon Lottery to cancel its largest contract with a video lottery provider.
• Our cultural coverage continued to shape and define the many ways in which Portland is changing. In the past year, we stepped up our coverage of all things cannabis and continued to cover Portland's world-class food scene, culminating in our annual restaurant guide, which will be published next week. This year, Matthew Korfhage was honored as the best food critic in North America by the Association of Alternative Newsmedia; Korfhage also traveled the farthest for a story, when he went to Tokyo to find out why the Japanese have such a love affair with Portland.
• We also published the 13th edition of Finder, a magazine that has become the single best source of information about where to eat, drink, shop and go in this great city.
At a moment when much of journalism is on the decline at the same time thoughtful reportage has never been more in demand, we continue to do our best to respond to the call.
Producing memorable events has become a significant way for us to celebrate the riches of the city and hopefully also support our journalism. This includes MusicfestNW, our monster music festival, and TechfestNW, which has grown so fast we are moving to a new venue next year. It also includes our Beer Pro/Am, in which we pair amateur brewers with some of Portland's finest artisans, and our Cultivation Classic, the world's only organic-cannabis competition. This week, we debut a new event called Ramen and Whisky—in which patrons can sample some of this city's best noodles and Japanese whiskey (sorry, tickets sold out weeks ago).
Our Charitable Efforts
Everyone who works here takes great pride in our Give!Guide, the charitable effort led by my business partner, Richard Meeker, to raise funds for worthy local nonprofits, to celebrate those who work for those agencies, and to instill in our readers the habit of giving. Last year, G!G raised more than $4.25 million for 141 nonprofits. It's an enormous feat that is making a real difference in the lives of Portlanders. You can go directly to giveguide.org and participate in this year's campaign, which kicks off this week.
Most of you know how tough the journalism business has become. Declining print ad dollars and the steady encroachment of Facebook on the digital front have led to massive layoffs in the industry and the closure of media companies across the nation. There are almost 50 percent fewer journalists in America today than there were 10 years ago, and many of those who remain work for companies that are increasingly timid and gutless.
Here in Portland, our year has been financially challenging. There is some good news. We've been fortunate enough not to lay off any reporters in the newsroom by making hard decisions elsewhere in the business. At the same time, our influence and readership has never been greater. According to Media Audit, a national audience measurement company, we now have more print readers in Portland and Lake Oswego than The Oregonian. Online, our readership grew 52 percent in the past year, so we now average more than 2.2 million page views each month, according to Google Analytics. For that, we thank an editorial staff that has been remarkable at learning new skills, and The Washington Post, whose awesome website we license.
By the end of the year, it is likely we will be down in print advertising, up in digital advertising and up a bit in revenue from events. Enough to stay alive, but not enough to adequately invest in the future.
More Portlanders than ever are coming to WW for an honest, independent report of what makes this city tick, from concert reviews to our election coverage, from our ranking of state lawmakers to our reportage of the city's housing challenges. Our reporting has changed lives, led to reform and seeks to provide the sort of connective tissue that defines the best of communities. We have our flaws (and you are quick to let us know them), but we take a backseat to no one when it comes to our love for Portland, our desire to make this place better and a deeply held belief in the importance of holding those in power accountable.
Now the cause for genuinely independent and courageous reporting needs you. Would you be a supporter—by making a gift?
Contributions will be used to expand our newsroom, fund special investigative projects and allow us to increase our enterprise journalism.
Last year, we raised just under $14,000. We hope to do better this year.
As we face another year of Trump, we continue to find meaning and courage and inspiration from you, our readers. Like many of you, I've lived in other cities, many of which did not share the values that Portlanders hold dear: respect for differences, affinity for honest government, a willingness to give of themselves and a desire to stay informed.
Without you, we simply could not play our part in this place we call home.
We thank you.
Editor and Publisher