Cha-cha-changes at Willamette Week

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

Willamette WeekJohn Schrag, the news editor at Willamette Week, is finally leaving after fourteen years. He'll be taking over as editor and publisher of the Forest Grove News-Times. So, first, congrats to John. He's been a friend to BlueOregon.

Second, as one WW alum wrote to me today, "Now that WW is forced to make some changes, what should those changes be?"


  • Mac Diva (unverified)

    I recommend:

    • More mature commentary. Silliness mars the writing at WW too often.

    • Less filler, including advertising inserts. Many free papers are ad rags, but the publisher does not have to go overboard.

    • Less of the guy who writes the token gay person column. He is self-centered, shallow and has nothing to say.

    What Willamette Week should keep is pressure on the Oregonian. With its recent expose of the PGE papers, WW has proven again that it will stomp where the O is afraid to tiptoe. Despite the publisher being a member of the same rich guys' club as movers and shakers in this town, he has not bowed to pressure, including a meeting with Neil Goldschmidt. WW should maintain its independence. That is where it shines

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    Bring back the beer column!

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    Forget the column. Free beer with every issue!

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    Taking a page out of the President's practice of isolating himself from all critical opinion, I think the primary changes should focus on stress-reduction as a means of warding off burn-out and promoting longevitity.

    In lieu of paid vacation, which is just a figment of the imagination anyway for most non-Presidents, the new managing news editor should be given four (4) Cone of Silence cards a year. The cards would be redeemable for 10 hours of continuous silence from any WW employee, or, ahem, editor.

    Violation of the Cone of Silence would justify responses like sticking your fingers in your ear and loudly proclaiming "Na na na...I can't hear you!"

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    Longevitity -- from the Latin longae (long) + vitatas (shaggy hair), from the Greek (Vitas Gerulaitis)

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    I liked it when Zach Dundas and others there at WW at least tried to reach across the culture gap with the occasional column or story about sports. If Byron Beck can get a page for snark, certainly there's news within the bounds of Metro-area high-school athletics, for example.

    Hell, I'd cover it for them...

  • Georgia (unverified)

    Well, I like the gay column. And I'm not gay. I think it's good to have minority writers . . . and it's not like the gay population of portland is overly served I mean, they've got ONE column in a mainstream paper (if you call WW mainstream). So I don't see the big deal.

    As for the improvements: Sometimes I wouldn't mind it if WW tried to show good things/good people in the community. I'd say my biggest problem with the paper is their sometimes lack of heart. They can be so damn flippant with some issues, it gets real annoying. And some of the cover stories are a real stretch. The dog stealing? The hobbit-type person? There's a bunch that I just don't read.

  • Patty (unverified)

    My .02 cents: Bring back "Salem's Lot," to cover the state legislature...and have one reporter dedicated to fill the space.

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    They need to pick up on the bat boy story.

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    Georgia wrote, "Well, I like the gay column. And I'm not gay. I think it's good to have minority writers"

    In defense of Mac Diva, she wasn't saying we should abolish "the gay column". Rather, that Byron Beck is "self-centered, shallow and has nothing to say."

    And while I enjoy Queer Window, that's not the first time I've heard that critique. Maybe WW could go beyond Byron as the poster child for Gay Portland - and find some other voices once in a while.

    Expand on the idea - how about guest authors for various WW elements... when Byron goes on vacation, someone else gets to write Queer Window. When the "Nose" goes on vacation, have a guest writer (Jack Bog?) write it.

    I guess the only thing you couldn't swap out once in a while is Nigel Jaquiss - since he doesn't appear to ever go on vacation, and no one else would want to do that much work for a story either.

    Nigel, btw, is the #1 thing at WW that shouldn't change. I'm amazed they've hung on to him this long - Zusman, give the guy a raise!

  • Steve Schopp (unverified)

    Kari says, "Nigel, btw, is the #1 thing at WW that shouldn't change. I'm amazed they've hung on to him this long - Zusman, give the guy a raise!"

    Would anyone disagree with that?

    Well, perhaps Neil Goldschmidt. I heard from "someone" recently that "Neil wouldn't piss on Nigel even if he were on fire".

    Yes Zusman, give him a raise, and more help. Like any CEO would, milk your best asset for all it's worth.

  • georgia (unverified)

    Well, Kari, I guess that's a fair point you make. I just have to defend the things that I like. So to be more to Mac Diva's point: I don't think that Queer Window is shallow and I definitely don't think he has nothing to say. As for self-centered, well, it's a personal column. A personal column, by nature, pretty much has to be somewhat self centered. Even Steve Duin writes about his family. Beck is now the ONLY person with a personal column in the entire WW . . (bite club is just about restaurants and we don't even know the nose) so I guess it makes sense that there is more information about his life and his personality. But I think that's a good thing. Adds more humanity.

    I've heard rumors about how little writers/editors get paid at WW and it's a damn shame. So I agree with the idea of raises for all.

  • Greg C (unverified)

    They should hire someone who writes readable theater columns. Or at the very least they should require that Stephen Silvis sign his so folks can know which ones he has written. And avoid them.

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    They need to get better writers for the personals. ;)

    Honestly, what's wrong with the personal ads in this town? During the 14 months I lived in SF, the personals in whatever the local weekly rag(s) were down there were some of the funniest shit ever.

    Here, they are mostly crap.

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    I agree with Patty in principle - bring back Salem coverage and rank ALL legislators - your stories are not just Portland-important (Goldschmidt, PGE, etc.) and neither should your coverage of the Leg.

    Just imagine how much more we'd know -- and the improvements to democracy -- if WW gave the leg the scrutiny and coverage its been giving to other stories?

    The Leg deserves WW's reporting.

  • Brian Wagner (unverified)

    I agree with Chuck and company on the legislative coverage. Having said that, though, the potential downside to expanding the rankings system is a dilution of the quality of thought put into said rankings. Since the rankings are based on the opinions of Oregon politicos, if they suddenly find themselves having to rank several times more people, they may either choose to not complete the survey, not seriously consider their responses, or not rate everybody. But hey, on the basic notion I wholeheartedly agree--the rankings are one of the best introductions an uninvolved Portlander or suburbanite could get to the Oregon Legislature--they are just like the US News rankings, far from perfect, but great as a basis for thought and discussion. Plus, I would love to see rankings of Gary George, just to read what people said.

    To disagree with one comment in particular: I spent a summer as a reporter/intern for Willy Week, and I would say that while they have a problem with excessive snarkiness at times, it is wrong to say they lacked heart. Everyone that I got to know on that staff loved Portland and cared about the people they were covering (in most cases). Nigel especially always stood out as someone who cared deeply about his writing, but honestly, everyone in the editorial side of things sought to do good in their writing. There was much more of a sense of a higher calling at Willy Week than I feel is experienced at other Portland rags. Call me biased, though I still resent Zach Dundas for beating me at bowling, but I would say that the folks at Willy Week have their hearts in the right place, just as all of us bloggers do.

    Oh, and Scotland says hello to all Oregonians--the similar weather here makes me nostalgic.

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