Thirty-five years, nearly 2,000 issues. Here Willamette Week sits, having nearly burned through the aughts, with 3 1/2 decades of reporting, muckraking, critiquing, celebrating and satirizing Portland stacked in our basement. With so many years, sometimes it can all run together, even for those of us permanently stained with the ink of this paper.
And yet, digging through our archives—from bound volumes of yellowing newsprint to the digitized record of recent years—and excavating the past in preparation for our birthday, we vividly remembered the stories we were reading.
Those back issues trace WW’s entire history, which in turn traces 35 years of drastic evolution in Portland. In 1974, the first WW rolled off the presses into a town in transition, between listless backwater and budding progressive mecca. In many ways, Portland has managed to fulfill its best potential. This city isn’t perfect, but goddamn if it isn’t a lot more perfect than most: innovative civic planning, an environmental conscience decades ahead of the national curve, and a cultural scene that’s blossomed into a romanticized magnet that beguiles the young and creative from across the globe.
That’s the story Willamette Week has tried to tell, even as individual issues blur together. It’s a very big, very memorable story. The story of Portland as it came to be. Our story. And yours.
Since specifics are so easily forgotten, we’re digging into the details, examining how exactly Portland has changed since 1974, and how it’s stayed the same. To that end, we dissect the past 3 1/2 decades into digestible digits, we ask five prominent Portlanders about their first years in the city, we remember an eclectic old-Portland hub that once bustled where downtown’s Fox Tower now stands, we check in on crucial issues that were as important in 1974 as they are today, and we examine the evolution of Portland’s labor market, demographics, food, fashion, movies and music. We try to tell the stories of a city transformed but still true to the tenets that got it here.
Thanks for reading,
Mark Zusman and Ethan Smith