Who needs fake news?
The WW stories that most fascinated Portland readers in 2016 were too unlikely, absurd and, in many cases, distressing to make up.
Armed militants seized a wildlife refuge, while anarchists smashed up a car dealership to protest the election results. Racist graffiti was smeared on restroom walls at the state's most progressive private college. A bird endorsed a socialist for president. Ducks got deer drunk.
It all felt a little like the end of the world—or a satirical TV series jumping the shark. But our most popular web stories were hard to forget.
The following is a list of the stories that garnered the most traffic on wweek.com. We've excluded some perennial features, including endorsements and guides to food and drink, which always draw a lot of interest.
There's no way to review these stories and escape the conclusion: We live in interesting times. But look on the bright side: If you're reading this list, you survived 2016.
The story: No Oregon saga captured the national imagination like that of the Bundy Gang, a passel of anti-government militants who kicked off 2016 by seizing the headquarters of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and turning it into a snow-dusted paramilitary camp. Led by Ammon Bundy—a former Arizona car rental agency owner with an idiosyncratic Mormon theology, a pocket Constitution and a gun—the posse held the bird sanctuary for more than a month. A violent highway arrest left one man dead and sent much of the remaining gang to Portland to face federal conspiracy charges. A jury found Bundy and his six co-defendants not guilty on all counts—even acquitting the man who was arrested in the government truck he was charged with stealing.
Since then: The stunning verdict raised questions about prosecutorial strategy and seemed to foretell a right-wing, anti-establishment mood sweeping the nation prior to Election Day. Bundy has spent the nine weeks since the acquittal in a Las Vegas jail. He and his brother Ryan refuse to attend hearings for their February trial over the 2014 standoff between ranchers and the government at their father Cliven Bundy's ranch. Federal prosecutors in Oregon plan to try seven Bundy acolytes under the same felony charges that failed in October, plus a handful of added misdemeanors. Judge Anna J. Brown says that trial will also begin in February. KARINA BROWN.
The story: University of Oregon students left Slaughterhouse Island in Northern California's Shasta-Trinity National Forest trashed after an annual weekend of partying on houseboats by an estimated 1,000 revelers. Why the destruction? "My personal guess is they have no respect for mankind," said Sgt. Rob Sandbloom of the Shasta County Sheriff's Office, "but professionally, I don't know." The UO fraternity Lambda Chi Alpha sort of apologized, and was suspended by its national leadership.
Since then: No fraternity or sorority has faced any consequences at the University of Oregon. "The situation was thoroughly investigated, but there was not sufficient information available to move forward with the formal student conduct process regarding any specific student group," says university spokesman Tobin Klinger. Meanwhile, the U.S. Forest Service said it brought in 40 workers to clean up 35 yards of trash. (Clarification: Members of Lambda Chi Alpha drove down to the Shasta-Trinity National Forest the following weekend to assist the Forest Service in cleaning up the trash.) "I was out there picking up used condoms. Many," says Forest Service spokeswoman Nancy Henderson. "The alcohol that was left behind, the deer were drinking and getting drunk." SOPHIA JUNE.
The story: In the wake of Donald Trump's election as president, not even Portland was immune to the invective spewing from people who would use his victory as a cover for hate. On Nov. 12, an unknown person or persons entered the public library on the Reed College campus and scrawled disgusting graffiti in black marker on the wall of a restroom. "The white man is back in power you fucking faggots," read one such tag.
Since then: Kevin Myers, a spokesman for the Southeast Portland college, says Reed reported the vandalism, which was quickly painted over, to Portland police. So far, no suspects have been identified. The college, meanwhile, wasn't the only target. A Dec. 16 report by the Southern Poverty Law Center identified Oregon as the state with the ninth-highest number of "hate incidents" following the election. BETH SLOVIC.
The story: In Other Words, the North Killingsworth Street feminist bookstore that became famous nationwide as the filming location of a recurring Portlandia skit featuring humorless feminist bookstore owners, no longer found Portlandia amusing. After the bookstore discontinued its relationship with the TV show, a volunteer posted a sign declaring: "Fuck Portlandia! Transmisogyny–Racism–Gentrification–Queer Antagonism–Devaluation of Feminist Discourse."
Since then: The Onion's A.V. Club described the WW story as "a surreal, ouroboros example of satire eating its own tail, then accusing its tail of microaggression." It tickled the synapses of the international press, from USA Today to the major U.K. newspapers—especially after the bookstore subsequently published a blog post criticizing Portlandia's humor and manners, accusing the show of leaving the store "trashed" and asking the store to remove a giant "Black Lives Matter" window soap. Producers were conciliatory. "I have nothing but gratitude for them hosting our show in the amount of time that they did, and I have respect for the future of the store," Portlandia producer Alice Mathias told The Oregonian on Oct. 17. (In the same piece, the show's stars, Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen, denied responsibility for Portland's gentrification.) In October, the "Fuck Portlandia" sign was quietly removed from In Other Words' window. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
The story: The rider count for this year's World Naked Bike Ride was about 8,745, which was actually less than in previous years. Organizer Meghan Sinnott believes this was because the ride started at Southeast 74th Avenue and Harold Street instead of inner Southeast Portland. But she says enthusiasm soared. "If you host the World Naked Bike Ride at 28th and Belmont, everyone's like, 'Ugh, Portland,'" she says. "And if you do it at 72nd and Harold, people are excited to be a part of Portland, and it's spreading the love a little bit further around."
Since then: Sinnott expects the 2017 ride to have a stronger meaning for people. "It's a good opportunity for people to come together who are like-minded, body-positive and people-positive," she says. "It will take on a bolder meaning for people." SOPHIA JUNE.
The story: Katherine Dunn, the larger-than-life Portland author who penned an enormously popular novel about circus freaks when not tending bar or covering prizefights for WW, died of complications from lung cancer May 11.
Since then: Tributes poured in. Susan Orlean, Chuck Palahniuk and Rene Denfeld paid their respects to Dunn in a WW cover profile. On May 13, Portland poet Walt Curtis mailed WW a letter, composed on a typewriter. "My Gawd, I just heard that Katherine Dunn died," he wrote. "I am saddened, stunned. I always felt that she was indestructible." AARON MESH.
The story: The headlines ricocheted around the world in 2006. Susan Kuhnhausen, a then-51-year-old emergency room nurse at Providence Portland Medical Center, returned to her Montavilla home after work on Sept. 6 and found a strange man cowering in her home. He had a hammer and had been sent to kill her. By her husband. But Kuhnhausen refused to die. And in the struggle to preserve her own life, she did what few people would expect from an overweight, middle-aged woman with two bad knees. She killed her attacker. With her bare hands. On the 10th anniversary of her survival, Kuhnhausen (who now goes by Susan Walters) told her story to WW.
Since then: Once again, Walters' bravery drew accolades—and interest from a Hollywood agent who inquired about the film rights to Walters' story. Walters says she continues to lead a quiet life in Portland as she plugs away on her memoir. "I am rich in all the things that count," she says. BETH SLOVIC.
The story: A month before the general election, advertising on both sides of Measure 97, the proposed $3 billion corporate tax increase, was filling the airwaves and mailboxes with claims about what the tax would and would not do. Our analysis looked at key claims on each side.
Since then: The "no" side cranked up a $26 million propaganda machine funded by the large out-of-state corporations that would have paid the tax, exploiting concerns about whether the tax was too big, whether it would be passed on to consumers, and how it would be spent. Voters ultimately rejected the measure decisively, 59 to 41 percent. Proponents, led by union-funded advocacy group Our Oregon, quickly retooled the tax, addressing some criticisms, and announced earlier this month they will ask state lawmakers to consider a tweaked version next year. John Horvick, whose polling firm, DHM Research, tracked slipping support for Measure 97, says he's surprised backers of the tax came back so quickly with a similar proposal. "I was dumbstruck," Horvick says. "It seems like a slap in the face of voters to offer the same thing again." NIGEL JAQUISS.
The story: Our reporter hiked an unauthorized, 6-mile Oregon Coast Range trail along the abandoned tracks of the Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad. The tracks, known as the Salmonberry Trail, are part of an ambitious rails-to-trails plan that could turn 86 miles of timber-train line into a destination for backpackers and cyclists.
Since then: Publicity for hiking in Salmonberry Canyon drew alarm from local officials, including Nehalem Bay Fire Chief Perry Sherbaugh. "There's no cell service," he told Oregon Public Broadcasting in August, "so people that get in trouble may not be able to call for help." Fundraising for the $18 million Salmonberry Trail restoration has continued—the project received a $40,000 grant in December to pay for a marketing and capital campaign. AARON MESH.
The story: Democratic Party presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was met at a Moda Center rally by 10,000 Portland supporters—and one house finch, which landed on Sanders' lectern. The candidate received his visitor beatifically, inspiring worldwide coverage and hundreds of memes. "I think there's some symbolism here," Sanders said. "I know it may not look like it, but that bird is really a dove asking us for world peace."
Since then: This was the high point of the election. Sanders lost to Hillary Clinton. Clinton lost to Donald Trump. Trump declared his ambition to rekindle the nuclear arms race. Prospects are grim, peace-wise. One silver lining: House finches live 7 to 9 years, so it's possible the bird is still breathing. AARON MESH.
The story: Trump's election sparked six consecutive nights of street protests in Portland. On the third night, march organizers lost control. Masked men seized control of the demonstrations in the Lloyd District, smashed car windshields at the Broadway Toyota dealership, then shattered the windows of banks and boutiques in the Pearl District. Portland police declared the march a riot, making more than 20 arrests. Gregory McKelvey, leader of the anti-Trump protest group Portland's Resistance, disavowed the destruction.
Since then: Portland's Resistance raised more than $55,000 on a GoFundMe page to help clean up the damage. Portland police arrested 20-year-old Mateen Abdul Shaheed on six counts of criminal mischief, including smashing Broadway Toyota windshields. ("He knows what he did was wrong, he made some poor choices," his mother told KATU-TV.) Protest marches continued nightly through Nov. 13, and subsequently there have been sporadic marches. Expect fireworks on Jan. 20: More than 8,000 people have pledged on Facebook to join an Inauguration Day demonstration against Trump at Pioneer Courthouse Square. "Donald Trump and his corporate regime are threatening our lives, our liberty, and the very survival of our planet," the invite says. "This is where the rubber meets the road." BENNETT CAMPBELL FERGUSON.
The story: Spokane TV station KAYU interviewed Washington's oldest woman on her birthday. The 110-year-old Flossie Dickey instantly became an American hero when she told the reporter she tries to nap as many times a day as possible. Her advice for living so long: "I don't fight it. I live it."
Since then: Dickey's story was picked up by dozens of news outlets, including the New York Daily News, Time and People. Even Saturday Night Live performed a skit based on Dickey. She died Nov. 23 at the age of 110 years, 279 days. "I can't thank all of you sweet people enough for making my Grams so well loved," great-granddaughter Sarah Williamson wrote on the Flossie Dickey Facebook fan page. "To me she was one badass that I can only hope to someday be. I know that tomorrow I will be toasting to Flossie with whiskey, eating my pumpkin pie and taking a nap!" Dickey is survived by her three children, 12 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren. There will be a memorial this spring. SOPHIA JUNE.