If there's one thing Portlanders new and old can agree on, it's our mutual displeasure with reporters parachuting into the city and trying to convince other people to come here.
If there's a second thing that unites us, it's a love of schadenfreude.
Among the article's most egregious misrepresentations:
- “A Portlandian is a Portland immigrant.”
- “[P]ublic nudity is legal throughout the year.”
- “Also legal is graffiti, which explains the colourful murals on so many buildings.”
- “[R]estaurants and bars are legally required to provide vegetarian options.”
- “Portland bans strip malls.”
That's not to mention the more subjective falsehoods, such as the assertion that no one hangs out downtown, only tourists shop at Powell's and that wearing North Face apparel is a major faux pas.
Some of the most glaring errors in the article—which has since been taken offline—are attributed to "a 30-something, hipster guide" with tour company Wildwood Adventures, which led to giddy speculation that this was a purposeful deception along the lines of the New York Times' "grunge-speak" debacle of the early '90s.
Well, sorry to burst your bubble. WW spoke to the tour guide cited in the piece, and he's just as confused as the rest of us.
"I'm not sure what happened here," says Hatham Al-Shabibi, whose own name is among the article's many mistakes—he's referred to as "Hathan" by the author, Kim Pemberton.
(Postmedia Network did not immediately respond to WW's request for comment.)
Originally from Boston, Al-Shabibi, 31, has lived in Portland for seven years and worked as a manager at Wildwood for 10 months. He says he never spoke to Pemberton directly, and only became aware of the article when WW brought it to his attention. While he admits to having a "dry, sarcastic" sense of humor, he says he would never knowingly disseminate false information about the city.
"As much as I want to troll people sometimes, my job is to give a great city tour," he says. "I keep it as professional as possible."
Al-Shabibi—who has family in Toronto—says he gives a similar spiel on every tour. For instance, he points out that bars in Portland are obligated to provide food, and notes that many places offer vegetarian options. But he does not say that "restaurants and bars are legally required to provide vegetarian options," as the article states. He also says that police overlook public nudity during the Naked Bike Ride, but does not claim that "public nudity is legal throughout the year."
This direct quote attributed to him in the piece is inaccurate as well:
“There are three fashion faux pas here: It’s weird to get dressed up, don’t use an umbrella and don’t wear North Face (an American clothing brand),” he says.
While he does mention the oft-repeated Portland-hates-umbrella trope, and argues that Portland does have a relaxed fashion sense, he does not say Portlanders flat-out "don't wear North Face," only that they generally prefer to wear Columbia gear, because it's a local company.
"The first two points are tongue-in-cheek, but there's truth to it," Al-Shabibi says, adding, "Maybe I should try being less tongue-in-cheek in the future. [It's a] learning experience."
And the lesson for Postmedia Network? Maybe hire some fact-checkers.