Dear Mr. Zusman,
There has been a considerable response and reaction to the Headout article entitled “The Dock” by Katherine Marrone in your July 30 edition. In writing to you about this piece, the controversy of the material seems to speak for itself, but, more importantly, it is the execution on the part of your staff which I find most disturbing.
Marrone’s approach to her story is very troubling. The piece was poorly researched, not taking into account anything beyond a small slice of dock usage. There was no mention made of the multiple individuals, groups and teams that use that dock for its intended purpose—as a launch point for non-motorized watercraft—rendering the article imbalanced and biased.
There was also no demonstrated effort made to review and describe the rules of access, as “AMtallguy” did very nicely in his comments [on wweek.com]. Whether intentional or not, this lack of depth is symptomatic of lazy journalism. The specific and encouraging references to mind-altering substances and drinking on the dock were simply irresponsible; I hardly think I need to educate you on the legalities of public intoxication, but it is worth mentioning there are significant safety issues surrounding the use of inebriants in open-water situations. Marrone missed that altogether, and in so doing endorsed potentially life-threatening behavior. That is inexcusable.
Some would say this article was developed with tongue lodged firmly in cheek, thus somehow relieving Marrone of the commitment to, and absolute need for, effective writing. I apologize if I missed that subtlety, but it does lead me to the comments portion of the online offering of this article, and specifically to those entered by your arts and culture editor, Martin Cizmar, who made the oblique reference to tongue-in-cheek writing.
In joining the online discussion, Cizmar had the opportunity to defend his writer. He had the opportunity to weigh in with leadership and wisdom, as one of your senior editors. He had the opportunity to inform and uplift the discussion with experience and guidance. He did none of these things. He led with his chin, being snarky and rude, and in some instances childish. I invite you to read his comments in the context of the online dialogue and form your own assessment; you have mine for comparison.
I raise this not so much because I have a bone to pick with him personally. We all rise to our level of capability. I raise it because Cizmar occupies a role as a leader of a respected and visible organization in Portland, and because he represents you in your role as editor-in-chief. I believe readers of Willamette Week have a right to expect better online behavior from such a leader than what Cizmar has shown in this situation. And I believe you have a right to expect better from him as one of your team leaders. And he has an obligation, to you and to Marrone, to rise above the fray rather than participate in it. I’m sure that Cizmar is a fine creative; I suggest he needs to learn how his voice is heard before he speaks out again, and that you have the challenge and opportunity to coach him in that regard.
The situation that Steph Sherwood and others related in the [online] comments is reprehensible. Whether your article precipitated that situation is a matter of opinion and debate. However, despite Cizmar’s best efforts to derail the conversation, the article unquestionably had the effect of “pouring salt on an already-festering wound.”
From a journalistic point of view, a deeper exploration of the whole situation on the part of Marrone would have uncovered that, and may have changed the entire piece; such exploration would certainly have improved it. May I suggest the next time Willamette Week chooses to write an article about a cool place to hang out, that you engage the same level of skill, precise writing, research and journalistic acumen that often lifts the paper to among the elite independents.
Don’t assume that a fluffy Headout piece deserves anything less than your best effort. I think everyone involved in such a story would be much happier with the result.Best regards,
TAXING POT IN PORTLAND
Everyone says “legalize it and tax it,” which makes a lot of sense [“Don’t Bogart That Tax,” WW, July 30, 2014]. But just like with alcohol, where taxes have not kept up with inflation, vocal consumers protest taxes and will continue to fight taxing marijuana.
Alcohol and marijuana both have an impact on the community, and my tax dollars as a non-marijuana user are going to pay for the regulatory system, enforcement, issues related to dependence, public safety and child-safety issues. It will have a cost (it already does), so yes, tax it.
There shouldn’t be a pre-emption on local taxes; these are orchestrated by the industry to benefit the industry, not the neighborhood. The city of Portland will have more costs than the state at large because of its dense population. A local tax makes sense to me.
Let’s defeat this attempt, Portlanders. If the city will get more funding to pay for law enforcement post-passage of marijuana legalization, the city can redirect some money that once went to law enforcement.
Someone will sue you, and you’ll have to pay for legal fees to defend your tax. Then we will defeat Mayor Charlie Hales and any City Council member who attempts to ruin our adult, non-medical cannabis industry before it starts.
LAWMAKERS VS. SCHOOLCHILDREN
So Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward (D-Portland), who voted for [the state Capitol’s renovation], says lawmakers shouldn’t have to choose between themselves and schoolchildren, hum? [“On Shaky Ground,” WW, July 30, 2014.]
Of course lawmakers should have to choose. That’s what the job is about, on a daily basis. That’s what leadership requires.
If she can’t make choices, she shouldn’t be in the job.
—“roundupthe usual suspects”
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