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December 31st, 2008 Ian Gillingham | News Stories
 

You Picked ’Em

Boobs, briefs and Barack: 2008’s 20 most read stories on WWeek.com

     
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You rule. Really. Most papers wrap up December with Top 10 lists of the year’s most important stories (OK, we’ll bite: 1. Obama; 2. The economy; 3. Obama; 4. Oil prices skyrocket; 5. Oil prices plummet; 6. Obama…you get the idea).

This issue, we thought we’d let you know what YOU thought was important. And thanks to the wonders of the Web, we can.

The list below comprises the 20 stories that amassed the most page views on wweek.com, according to Google Analytics. The list includes some “important” stories, but also some that do nothing more than open up a can of reader whoop-ass, as well as the stories that have an angle weird or topical enough that the link is picked up by websites with a national following, and the hits just keep on coming.

Here’s our WWeek.com Top 20:

1. “A Brush with Measure 11,” Feb. 20
A 27-year-old woman, well-regarded as a staffer/volunteer at the Hillsboro Boys & Girls Club, was found guilty of sexual assault for grazing a 13-year-old boy’s head with her breasts. Veronica Rodriguez was sentenced to six years in prison, and James Pitkin’s news story about her and the rigidity of Measure 11 got more than 50,000 hits just from the news aggregator Fark.com. Justice watchdog blogs soon picked up the link.

2. “Boobs with a Side of Soy,” Feb. 6
Like this year’s top story, the runner-up was a perfect storm involving two of Web surfers’ favorite distractions: weird news and breasts. Lillian Hogan’s story about Casa Diablo Gentlemen’s Club, the world’s first vegan strip club, was picked up not only by the predictable boob tubes (fleshbot.com - NSFW, obviously) but also vegan sites (ananimalfriendlylife.com) and feminists (feministing.com).

3. “Pants. Off. Now.” Jan. 9
Kelly Clarke’s Headout preview of the “No Pants on MAX” is actually an offshoot of a NYC event staged by the “disruptive realist” group Improv Everywhere. But it is well-suited for “a city that also harbors mass pillow fights and Santa-packed drinking binges,” Clarke wrote. “Chaos-’n’-joy-spreading public scenes are practically a citywide pastime.” 

4. “JUICY SUITS: Bomb Dropped on KOIN: Allegations That Ed Whelan’s Firing Was Discrimination, Reporter Kacey Montoya Posed For Erotica,” July 30
This Web-only story reported on a lawsuit charging that the new owner of KOIN-TV had discriminated in firing longtime KOIN-TV sportscaster Ed Whelan and had also pushed the hiring of swimsuit model-turned-reporter Kacey Montoya over staff objections.

5. “Trial by Facebook,” Jan. 9
Beth Slovic’s cover story about a Lewis & Clark College student accused of sexual assault, and a Facebook page denouncing the student, drew a huge audience—and a very modern reaction. Angry L&C students not only flooded our website with comments, but they started a new Facebook page called “Beth Slovic Is a Piece of Shit Journalist.” We disagree.

6. “Party Girl: Chelsea Clinton Cuts Loose With 2,000 Gay Men in Red Dresses,” April 13
The former First Daughter dropped by the Red Dress Party benefit the month before Oregon’s May primary, when Sen. Hillary Clinton was making her last push for the Democratic presidential nomination. Bloggers from left and right picked up Byron Beck’s WWeek post (and photo with Chelsea) as proof that Hillary was in bed with Big Gay Al.

7. “Higher Ed,” May 14
James Pitkin’s cover story dealt with Reed College’s struggles over drug policy in the wake of a student’s heroin overdose. Reedies clearly drove the traffic to this story: More than 500 mostly scathing comments were posted, more than doubling the record set just a few months earlier by pissed-off Lewis & Clark partisans (see No. 5).

8. “Barack Obama for President,” Primary Voter’s Guide, April 30

Don’t think our endorsement of a presidential candidate matters? Ha! Traffic came from all over the country for this story. Of course, it may have had to do with Lukas Ketner’s cover illustration, which depicted the president-to-be emerging shirtless and glistening from the Willamette River.

9. “Another Oregon First? Pregnant Man to Give Birth in Bend, Ore.,” March 26
Is he really pregnant? Is he really a “he”? Readers debated in the comments section of Byron Beck’s Web post about the gestating story of female-to-male transgender Oregonian Thomas Beatie. The legally male Bend resident gave birth to a daughter in June; he is now pregnant again, with his second child due in June 2009.

10. “Two More Superdelegates Come Down off the Fence,” May 28
As the spring’s Democratic primaries wore on, the handicapping in the Clinton-Obama horse race increasingly came down to the “superdelegates.” Even after Obama’s victory in the Oregon primary, those elected officials and party faithful were slow to pledge their allegiance—making it Google News-worthy when James Pitkin reported that two of our state’s Democratic Party bigwigs, Meredith Wood Smith and Wayne Kinney, finally did.

11. “Six Minutes with Barack,” May 14
When James Pitkin interviewed Hillary Clinton in April (“Twenty Minutes with Hillary,” April 9), one of his final questions was, “If you had to get a tattoo, what would it be?” (Her answer: a microscopic “LOVE.”) So when Pitkin scored a few minutes with Obama before the May primary, journalistic fairness obliged him to bring up the tattoo question again (to the derision of poli-blog Wonkette). Obama’s circumspect answer, after prodding: “I suppose I’d have to have Michelle’s name tattooed somewhere very discreet.”

12. “TWATCH 2008: Breaking Dawn Author Thinks Outside the Box,” Aug. 5

13. “Bite Sized: First Look from the set of Twilight, Feb. 28
Twilight twofer: For the movie adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s novel series, producers used Portland locations to simulate the Olympic Peninsula town where a 17-year-old girl falls for a dreamy, perma-teen vampire. Thirsty fans sucked up Byron Beck’s video, book-release and fashion updates for WWeek and linked his coverage from Twilight fan blogs such as hisgoldeneyes.com. Twilight grossed almost $70 million in its opening weekend in November, despite WW critic Aaron Mesh calling it “a performance of Peter Pan by extras from Dawson’s Creek.

14. “Yes on Measure 57, No on Measure 61,” General Election Voter’s Guide, Oct. 15
This was our editorial endorsement of a somewhat complicated set of crime measures. Serial tough-on-crime crusader Kevin Mannix was behind Ballot Measure 61, which would have created mandatory minimums for a range of first-time nonviolent offenders. So the Legislature crafted a less draconian alternative in Measure 57, targeting only repeat offenders and mandating treatment for addicted felons. The gambit worked: M57 passed with 61 percent of the vote, while M61 failed narrowly. Our endorsement obviously made the difference.

15. “Bitter Pill,” April 2
Philip Dawdy created an online stir with his cover story about Oregon Health & Science University professor Erick Turner’s exposure of pharmaceutical companies’ “dirty little secret”: Antidepressants are not nearly as effective as we’re led to believe. Scores of readers praised the article and the work of Dr. Turner, a psychiatrist who had gone from paid speaker for a pharmaceutical company to outspoken critic of Big Pharma’s efforts to game the medical research. Dawdy continues to report about antidepressants and mental health issues on his blog, furiousseasons.com.

16. “No on Measure 26-96: Oregon Zoo,” General Election Voter’s Guide, Oct. 15
Metro asked for $125 million for upgrades at the Oregon Zoo, primarily to make more room for elephant and polar bear habitat. WW recommended no on the levy, citing concerns about the cost as well as the ongoing viability of the elephant exhibit. Voters read our endorsement by the tens of thousands, but ultimately our argument was no match for the TV commercials showing adorable penguins; the levy passed easily.

17. “Señor Smith,” Sept. 10
The frozen peas were flying over Beth Slovic’s cover story about Republican U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith’s problem with undocumented workers at his family’s food-packing plant near Pendleton. Slovic’s article and follow-ups with more worker stories became a campaign issue for Smith, who was in a tough re-election fight. Democrats used the WW story in a series of campaign ads supporting challenger Jeff Merkley. A Smith spokeswoman said of WW, “Their continued dedication to publishing rumor and unsubstantiated anecdotes speak to their style of ‘gotcha’ journalism.” Merkley won the Senate race by more than 50,000 votes.

18. “Allen Alley for Treasurer,” General Election Voter’s Guide, Oct. 15
In the race for state treasurer, WW endorsed Republican Allen Alley, an engineer and experienced venture capitalist who built Pixelworks into a major player in the flatscreen market (but left the company with its stock in a nosedive). Voters read and debated WW’s endorsement but chose Democrat Ben Westlund, a party-hopping former bull-semen entrepreneur who chaired the Oregon Legislature’s Joint Ways and Means Committee as a state senator. Another example of how lots of people read our endorsements, but didn’t necessarily agree with them.

19. “Yes on Measure 65: Open Primaries,” General Election Voter’s Guide, Oct. 15
WW endorsed former Oregon secretary of state (and onetime WW reporter) Phil Keisling’s proposal to increase voter participation and reduce partisanship by abolishing closed primaries and simply sending the top two vote-getters in the primary to the general election ballot regardless of party affiliation. Opponents included not only the state Democratic and Republican parties but the major unions (such as the Oregon Education Association, which falsely linked M65 to Bill Sizemore in a mailing) and most of the minor parties. They got their way: The primaries remain closed.

20. “Lean, Mean, Meat-Free Machine,” July 16
John Minervini’s cover story about vegan bodybuilder Robert Cheeke pumped up the vegan blogosphere (yes, there is one, and don’t cross it). One commenter was especially taken by Minervini’s coinage of the term “vegangelical”: “A perfect word to describe so many Portland vegans. They are so excited to potentially convert you, but so sweet in their earnest quest that you don’t mind the conversation.” Other readers, however, took issue with WW’s grossed-out taste test of vegan nutritional supplements, especially one taster who likened Vega Smoothie Infusion to “sawdust suspended in ass…soy ass.”

So, what’s it all mean? It means you love boobs and offbeat news, the vegans and vampires, but also stories about the political decisions that affect your lives and community. Next year, we’ll continue to serve your omnivorous interests with an eye toward both substance and entertainment: Barack, with a side of boobs and soy.

 
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