To be honest, this annual letter is a week late. And, no, the dog did not eat my homework.
Rather, I was completely distracted by the run-up to the election, fearful that the results would not be what Oregonians deserve—especially funding for affordable housing and the rejection of a number of harmful statewide initiatives. I was equally preoccupied by my hopes that, on a national level, we would see a change in control in the House of Representatives, so at least one branch of government could hold accountable the most reckless, deceptive and un-American administration of my lifetime.
Thankfully, last Wednesday, we got good news. Overall, though, the day's results felt more like a ripple than a wave—another reminder of how far we still have to go as a nation.
My interest in the election mirrored many of yours: Our most-read story in October contained our endorsements. In fact, this entire year puts to rest the idea that readers want only clickbait.
• In February, our most-read story was our investigation into an alleged sexual assault committed by two prominent Portlanders. The story led to criminal indictments.
• In April, coverage of Oregon's oversupply of cannabis was our most-read piece of journalism.
• In June, it was a deep look at Oregon's troubled recycling system.
Your response to those stories shows that in Portland, readers are hungry for real journalism. And as Willamette Week celebrates its 44th birthday this month, we wanted to give you a status report:
In addition to the stories detailed above, 2018 was a year in which our staff responded to breaking news in an unprecedented way
Extraordinary events drove that change. The ongoing protests between right-wing groups and antifascists, and the blockade on Immigration and Customs Enforcement's headquarters this summer, demanded our attention. We strived, in video, photos and words, to provide an immediate sense of what happened, while making sure to include the context and depth that characterizes our journalism.
We don't always get it right. (In this week's paper, we discuss a misstep we made last week.) But we've accomplished great things this year. Read this letter online for links to all these stories.
Over the past 12 months we:
• Exposed a loophole in state law responsible for Portland being one of the country's stolen car capitals.
• Used the killing of a homeless man in Southeast Portland to show how Oregon's stand-your-ground law is one of the broadest in America.
• Reached back more than 30 years to remind our readers what it was like when Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh engaged in the largest domestic act of bioterrorism in American history, and when racist skinheads beat Ethiopian immigrant Mulugeta Seraw to death.
• Published our 14th edition of Finder, WW's guide to eating, drinking, shopping, and living in Portland.
• Produced our first statewide magazine—ExploreOregon.
• And, of course, tallied your votes in the biggest Best of Portland issue ever.
Our audience continues to grow. As of Nov. 1, according to Media Audit, Google Analytics and Chartbeat, more than 1 million of you regularly engage with WW on all of our platforms.
We get real joy out of gathering with other Portlanders to celebrate the city's bounty and support our journalism.
Earlier this month, we put on our second Ramen + Whisky Festival. Last month, it was the annual Beer Pro/Am, where we match professional brewers with amateurs and put on a party where you can sample their collaborations. Early next year, the Oregon Beer Awards will celebrate the best in the craft industry. Later in the spring, it's Cultivation Classic—the world's only organic cannabis competition. And in April, TechfestNW celebrates local entrepreneurs in a gathering at Portland State University that has global reach. One disappointment: The loss of a major sponsor caused us to radically scale down MusicfestNW this year.
Our charitable efforts
We're in the midst of Give!Guide—WW's philanthropic effort launched in 2004 by my business partner, Richard Meeker. Last year G!G raised $4.2 million for more than 140 local nonprofits. This year's campaign kicked off last weekend at giveguide.org. With your generous help, we hope to raise $4.4 million.
Journalism is under assault, as media companies struggle to find new sources of revenue—and we have a president who views the press as enemies of the people.
The results are stark. The U.S. has lost almost 1,800 newspapers since 2004, according to a recent University of North Carolina study. Many more have become ghosts. The result is an America of "news deserts"—cities where the journalism is so diminished that residents are civicly malnourished. You can feel that occurring even in Portland as the New York owners of our daily continue to reduce staff and that company's footprint in our city.
Given this environment, we here at WW have much to be thankful for. This year, we expect revenues from our print publication to dip slightly while digital revenues will be up. Overall event revenue—but not profitability—will be down.
We're staying alive, but lack the resources for necessary investments.
By far the most important area of reinvestment must be in our investigative and enterprise reporting. This past year, we received help from many of you who contributed to our Fund for Investigative Journalism. Donations are tax deductible and helped us produce many of the stories cited above. You can read more about it at wweek.com/journalismfund. (The fund is also a participant in this year's Give!Guide.) Please consider donating.
Our business strategy is simple: constant innovation. We have transitioned from being entirely dependent on print readership and ads to reaching our audience across all platforms and growing revenue from those platforms.
What hasn't changed? Our core belief that a robust democracy requires smart, independent local journalism.
That's why everyone here at WW takes their real inspiration from you. Reporters, editors, account executives, designers, developers and administrators—all work to produce meaningful journalism.
I've lived in other places, many of which do not share the values Portlanders hold dear: respect for our differences, an affinity for honest government, a willingness to give of ourselves, a desire for a better life for everyone, and a hunger to stay informed.
Without your engagement and support, we could not play our part in this wonderful city.