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December 31st, 2008 WW Editorial Staff | News Stories
 

From Academia To Zetamania

WW revisits three cover stories from 2008.

     
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FACEBOOK: Morgan Shaw-Fox, the center of a controversy at Lewis & Clark College, has returned to campus.
IMAGE: Darryl James

Heading into the new year, here’s what we learned when we checked up on a trio of cover stories from 2008: There are second acts at Lewis & Clark, the economic collapse contained good news for one local business, and even superheroes get the blues.

Jan. 9, 2008: “Trial by Facebook”


Controversial student returns to Lewis & Clark

On Sept. 2, Lewis & Clark College readmitted the male student whose campus notoriety last year sparked a Facebook group and then a WW cover story called “Trial by Facebook.”

Morgan Shaw-Fox, then a 21-year-old college junior, was suspended for one semester after Helen Hunter, then a 19-year-old sophomore, told friends he had sexually assaulted her. In response, a group of female students created a Facebook group about him. “Morgan Shaw-Fox is a piece of shit rapist,” it declared.

The Internet group—an invitation-only forum that attracted a small handful of members—ended up broadcasting the allegations against Shaw-Fox in a very public fashion after a campus paper published news of the group.

But campus officials and many of the private school’s 2,000 students blamed WW for amplifying the Facebook group’s reach.

“In reality, Morgan faced Trial by Facebook AND trial by Willamette Week, ” classmate Isaac Holeman wrote on wweek.com.

Privately, a campus hearing determined Shaw-Fox had violated Lewis & Clark’s code of conduct and prohibited him from studying abroad in London for the spring 2008 semester. (Hunter declined to press criminal charges, preferring to settle the matter on campus.)

Newsweek covered the secondary controversy that erupted over my piece in an online story Jan. 25, 2008, noting the creation of another Facebook group: “Beth Slovic is a piece of shit journalist.” (As of Tuesday, Dec. 30, it had 45 members, down from a high of 77.) Gawker.com and Jezebel.com also covered the story (and it ranked fifth in WW’s list of most-viewed Web stories for 2008. For the list, go to page 12).

Campus life has returned to normal, one student who knows both students said this month.

Shaw-Fox, who is set to begin his senior year next semester, declined to comment. He is still singing a cappella with Momo and the Coop. Hunter, who remained at Lewis & Clark after Shaw-Fox was suspended, said she rarely runs into Shaw-Fox anymore.

“The staff continues to work hard to meet the needs of students and create a safe, healthy and just environment for them,” Lewis & Clark spokeswoman Jodi Heintz said. —Beth Slovic

Feb. 13, 2008: “Beaten to the Pulp”


One good piece of economic news

In February 2008, Blue Heron Paper, which occupies a cliff overlooking Oregon City’s Willamette Falls, seemed poised to plunge into the adjacent abyss. What a difference 10 months can make.

While the Dow Jones industrial average is down 33 percent since then and Oregon’s unemployment rate has jumped by 44 percent over the same period, Blue Heron is all smiles—or just about.

“Conditions were very difficult at the beginning of the year,” says Janet Malloch, Blue Heron’s technical superintendent. “Now we’re recovering nicely.”

Back in February, the employee-owned paper mill faced numerous challenges: High-tech Chinese competitors were outbidding Blue Heron for the waste paper and cardboard the mill recycles to make paper. Energy costs neared all-time highs. And newspapers, buyers of Blue Heron’s main product, were sinking faster than President Bush’s popularity.

But now, Malloch says, Blue Heron, one of the state’s largest electricity buyers, is benefiting from the global recession. Chinese demand for waste paper and cardboard has slackened. Energy prices have plunged. And newsprint prices have steadied, though newspapers still suffer from other problems.

“The Chinese basically stopped buying after the Olympics [ended in August],” Malloch says. “That’s because the amount of paper and cardboard needed to package their manufactured goods just plummeted.”

Blue Heron and its 250 employees still face challenges, including waste-paper quality. Every day, the company must dispose of 30 tons of metal, plastics and glass mixed with the paper stream.

Last year, Malloch says, Blue Heron paid more than $1.4 million to dump that material. The mill is eliminating that cost, by mimicking European mills which sort and reuse the contaminants.

“We’re not making money on the sorting,” Malloch says. “We’re avoiding costs.”

Blue Heron and the recycling industry are also struggling with a phenomenon of particular interest to WW—declining newspaper readership.

In response, Blue Heron has begun producing Eco-Green Natural White Towels, a paper towel for restaurant restrooms made of 100 percent recycled material. And as 2008 ends, Blue Heron is preparing for February 2009, when it will celebrate 100 years of making paper on the same site. The best news: Conditions are so strong that Blue Heron is hiring.

“We’re optimistic,” Malloch says. “But we know we’ve got to stay nimble.” —Nigel Jaquiss

March 5, 2008: “The Adventures of Zetaman”


A superhero continues the struggle

When WW called Zetaman on Dec. 23, he was walking a mile to work through the snow, with TriMet buses paralyzed and his 1998 Ford minivan broken down at home.

Tough day for the local superhero, who gained a measure of fame after going public this year to reveal his identity in a WW cover story.

Illya King, 30, of Beaverton isn’t blessed with superpowers. But patrolling Portland twice a month to help the homeless—and hyping his exploits online —he’s part of a growing trend of real-life superheroes living out their comic-book fantasies on the street and on the Web.

Life since the WW cover story, Zetaman says, has been a “bizarre, bizarre ride.” He says the public rarely recognizes him in costume or out. But the coverage brought notoriety in the media—local television station KATU and even CNN picked up the story. That, in turn, brought strings of negative comments from anonymous writers online at wweek.com and elsewhere, calling Zetaman an “attention whore” and a “jackass.”

But Zetaman persevered, continuing to spend his nights in costume handing out food and clothing to the homeless. After headlining a fundraiser for the Portland Rescue Mission at Someday Lounge on April 9 with local folk bands, he followed up a couple weeks ago by raising $1,000 in cash and toys for foster kids at a Dec. 13 benefit concert in Kirkland, Wash.

He’s also ramped up his superhero outreach, heading to California and Washington to patrol with fellow superheroes.

His night in Anaheim on April 30 with costumed avenger Ragensi, who dresses in a black ninja suit, was uneventful. That’s surprising given Ragensi’s more hardcore image and his previous violent run-in with a costumed villain, as reported in WW’s cover story.

“He, like, looks scary, but he’s the biggest sweetheart,” Zetaman says.

His July 4 evening patrolling Seattle with Black Knight was also quiet. But even without action-packed adventure, Zetaman continued his efforts to unite his superhero friends under one banner.

There are two reasons. First is what Zetaman calls continued bad behavior by some other superheroes—including his archenemy, a New Jersey avenger named Tothian, who has tangled with Zetaman in online chatrooms and still picks on other superheroes, Zetaman says.

Second is negative publicity from Rolling Stone, which ran a Dec. 12 story on superheroes that profiled Florida hero Master Legend as a slob living in a run-down shack who uses his alter ego to escape reality.

Now Zetaman and others have vetted people they consider to be examples of true real-life superheroes from around the world. They’re assembled in a new online collective Zetaman helped design at therlsh.com.

“We’re trying to get more of a positive message out there that we’re not a bunch of drunks,” Zetaman says. “Or guys just living in our basement and stuff.” —James Pitkin

 
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