by Christopher Vetter
Fear and Loathing at the Portland Art Museum
Roughly three weeks ago we visited the Portland Art Museum to review
their new French Impressionist exhibit, Paris to Portland. As an
art enthusiast, I was excited about the show, though I wanted to cover
it from a unique angle. Other magazines and newspapers had
reviewed the exhibit to death, and I didn't want be derivative.
Sometimes a story hits you upside the head when you visit the scene of a
crime or walk into a building. As we toured the exhibit, we
noticed a series of little white dots on the floor in front of each
artwork. These represented a line of demarcation. Visitors were
not to cross beyond the white dot, set roughly two feet away from each
painting. What if someone crossed the line? What if a child
walked up and touched a painting? What safeguards were in place to
prevent these masterworks from being destroyed by some six year old with
cookie dough on her hands? Was there a thin coat of varnish on
paintings to protect them in the event of disaster? Moreover, had
the museum tightened security in the wake of September 11 and stepped up
terror alerts? These seemed like compelling questions, and I knew
I had a unique angle. I interviewed the guards at the exhibit, and requested permission to
speak with the head of security. As I left Paris to Portland, I
raced home to type up my notes and finish the feature.
Then all Hell broke loose. Portland Art Museum Public Relations
Director Beth Sorenson sent me an ominous letter. "Dear Mr.
Vetter. Your questions at the Museum yesterday created an incident
here. Security is an issue that is extremely confidential. Just as no
bank or jewelry store or other institution with valuable physical assets
would allow their security plans to be made public, neither will the
Portland Art Museum. If you had revealed the true purpose behind
your visit to the Museum yesterday, I could have informed you of this in
advance. I have to say that I regard your visit as made under false
pretenses to my department. In any case, we will not arrange an
interview with our head of security department or any other personnel on
such a story. In regards to taking photos in the galleries, it was
explained to you in advance of your visit that this was against Museum
policy. You chose to ignore this policy and met with the results you
It was a ridiculous overreaction. I promptly replied to her
message. "My purpose in visiting was to find a unique story or angle
while I was on site. The security feature idea was completely organic. I
thought we might focus on a specific artist or section of the exhibit, but the white dots and zeal of your
security team gave me the idea. I would never reveal any processes
employed by the museum that would undermine your security in any way. I
was just curious how paintings might be protected from curious children.
There was no false pretense to my visit and my desire to be welcome at
the museum easily outpaces my interest in pursuing any specific feature.
Presume good faith. The Portland Tribune ran an article about
businesses preparing for incidents of domestic terror, and given the
value of your collection, I was curious if you had ramped up security in
the wake of world events. I was curious how the museum was coping with the
post September 11th landscape. For the record, I did not bring a
camera to the galleries, I asked to photograph someone from your
security team as I was leaving. I did not violate the policy. At no time was a camera anywhere but the opening area
of the museum, and I retrieved it from the coat check area around 5pm.
My spontaneous idea was to photograph one of your security people for
the cover story and place a white dot over their face, just like the dots
that define where visitors can stand¾at
no time, would I place the museum in peril."
Beth did not reply for roughly a week. She was polite but curt.
We killed the feature. So much for spontaneity. "You're
certainly not persona non grata when it comes to covering the Museum's
exhibitions, collections and programming," wrote Sorenson.
"However, I'm not clear on why the Museum's policy on coverage of our
security systems puzzles you. For reasons of security, we do not participate
in stories which involve the Museum's security operations."
It may be a while before I return to the Portland Art
Museum. I never enjoyed those visits to the principal's office.
The Price of Access
One day after drafting our feature on the Portland Tribune, I am
left with an emptiness in the pit of my stomach. Where is the
dirt? Human conflict is compelling copy. Sure, Dwight got in
a dig at Bob Whitsitt. Yes, we managed to insult Margie
for the third issue in a
row. It just isn't enough. Did we take down a city
commissioner? Is someone powerful losing sleep because we revealed
their hidden slush fund? Upton Sinclair is spinning in his grave.
If we were UN Inspectors, Saddam would have a clean bill of health.
We wouldn't find any chemical weapon canisters. No scuds would be
in danger of detection. In fact, Saddam might become the object of
a fluffy personality profile. "Saddam is a man of action. He
knows how to get things done. A capable manager and devoted
father, Saddam works tirelessly to improve the quality of life for his
people. From literacy programs, to health care, Saddam is a modern
leader poised to guide Iraq toward a brighter tomorrow." Photos
would reveal Saddam distributing food to a local orphanage or donating
blood. "The dapper dictator will stand up to anyone in the defense
of his people. His courage¾his
him from mortal men." Nothing would prevent me from writing that
kind of drivel. The guilt only comes after the feature is
completed. It is just a matter of time before I join George Bailey
and jump off a bridge. Fortunately, Portland offers a wide
selection of bridges to fall from. Some readers were so
underwhelmed with our puff piece on the Western Culinary Institute last
week, they took
drastic action to cope with their disappointment. Feature
driven journalism requires compromise. You can't be totally
fearless if you want access to important people. Your reputation
precedes you. On the other hand, if you don't occasionally bite
the hand that feeds you, people will stop reading your stuff.
Dwight Jaynes as Brando in the 1954 classic "The Wild One."
He may not look like a rebel, but
Portland Tribune President Dwight Jaynes is shaking up the Portland
by Christopher Vetter
Michael Jordan exits a nationally televised NBA game, he routinely greets
NBA broadcaster Ahmad Rashad on the sidelines for a post-game chat. Rashad
cuts right to the chase. “Michael, you just scored 42 points.”
At that point, his contribution to the interview is over, and Jordan proceeds
to say whatever he wants to say,
hits the showers. Ahmad almost never asks Michael
Portland Tribune President and KPAM Radio personality Dwight Jaynes has that
to dominate a conversation. "Dwight is a big man and his personality
fills the room," said
Portland Tribune Sports Editor Steve Brandon. “If we are talking about
sports or journalism, his mind is like an encyclopedia.” Jaynes
was a sports reporter and columnist for the Oregon Journal and Oregonian for 17 years before the second richest man in the state
made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. Philanthropist, media mogul, and
businessman Robert Pamplin, whose estimated net worth is roughly $700
million dollars, planned to launch a newspaper to rival the daily Oregonian.
Speculation on why Pamplin created the Tribune is the subject of rumor. In
1999, the Oregonian was less-than-kind with its coverage of his Ross Island
Sand & Gravel Company as it confronted accusations of environmental
dumping. With his vast business interests over a variety of industries,
Pamplin likely had zero knowledge of the illegal dredging. Once the story
broke, he reformed his company almost overnight, to the delight of salmon
everywhere. The unflattering attention from the Oregonian allegedly
ruffled his feathers. Less than two years later, the Portland Tribune was born.
Oregonian Editor Sandy Rowe and Publisher Fred A. Stickel denied Jaynes the
opportunity to host a local radio show and pursue his dream of becoming a
broadcaster. Jaynes claims he fell out of favor with his bosses for
routinely criticizing Trail Blazers President Bob Whitsitt in his column.
The Oregonian is protective of its relationship with the Blazers; Paul Allen
purchases hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of advertising every
“Whitsitt likes to tell people that he calls everybody back, but
that’s not the case,” Jaynes commented. “I wouldn’t have any need to call
him because for the most part, I have seen over the last decade the answers
I’m going to get, and we’re not dealing in reality here. I don’t think you
get the straight story from talking to him, so what’s the point? It’s still
an issue that his wife and his children don’t live in this town, so they are
not exposed to the kind of ritual that the Blazers themselves and Whitsitt
in particular are exposed to, and I felt that it did affect the way he runs
this team. In fact, it’s almost unprecedented in sports that a general
manager of a team would not live in the town that he works in. I made a
habit of pointing that out on several occasions, and I was actually told at
one point not to write about it anymore.”
Near the end of his
career with the Oregonian, constant travel became tiresome. “I think I
had gotten a little stale at the Oregonian, not in my writing but in the
duties of the job,” said Jaynes. “I began to hate the travel. I
had spent too many years covering the Blazers and writing. I had seven
years in a row where I had over 90 nights a year on the road, and that’s
just a lot of travel. I got to where I hated it. I was kind of
looking for a change to energize me anyway, and I think it’s kind of
interesting at that point in your life to go do something else.”
Once you leave the
Oregonian, the door remains closed forever. “The number one
media outlet in the city will never recognize me publicly again,” said
Jaynes. “I have been told I could never be employed there again. That is
their policy. If you leave, you can never come back.”
Dwight made the move to radio in January 2000. “I was approached by KPAM
when they were changing the format over from a religious station at one time
to talk, and the general manager there was Kevin Young, a guy I had known
for years,” said Jaynes. “He was a friend of mine and asked me if I would
come over. I had been approached many times about doing talk radio, but the
Oregonian has a policy that their employees can’t take money to do talk
shows, so I told him I didn’t think I could do it. He told me the offer was
not in conjunction with my job at the Oregonian. They wanted me full-time.
I basically told him he couldn’t pay me enough money to do that. He
proceeded to prove to me that he could.”
In his first few months as a broadcaster, Jaynes developed a friendship with KPAM owner Pamplin that led to his appointment as President of the Portland
Tribune. “I got to know Dr. Pamplin
very well just from being around him and talking to him and getting to know
him. I think a respect developed between us and a friendship too,
actually. It wasn’t long before we started talking about newspapers,”
said Jaynes. “He had acquired some
community newspapers, but he wanted to start a newspaper in Portland. One
day he looked me in the eye and
asked, ‘Can you do a newspaper for me?’ I
told him, ‘I can do the
newspaper, but I don’t know anything about printing
or distribution. I don’t know anything about the business side of it.’ He
said, ‘That’s not what I’m saying. We can hire somebody to do that. Can you
guarantee me a good newspaper?’ Bob Pamplin has a way of asking you these
questions and getting the answers that he wants to get, and I was shaking my
head yes, like ‘yeah, I can guarantee you that,’ not really realizing what I
was guaranteeing. What really sold me on it, was not just doing a
newspaper, it was doing a newspaper for somebody who was doing it for the
right reasons. He’s not in this to be Rupert Murdoch. He’s not in this to
start other newspapers in other cities. He lives here. He thought Portland
needed another voice, and he wanted to figure out a way to do that.”
Dwight was one of the few people in the city who could hit the ground
running in building a newspaper from scratch. His name recognition and
rolodex would prove invaluable in helping the media project gain
credibility. “I have known Dwight for more than a quarter of a century.
What makes him so effective is his ability to analyze a game, or an event,
or a team, or a situation, very quickly and precisely,” said Brandon. “He gets right to the point.”
Willamette Week is an alternative to the Oregonian but isn’t really a
family newspaper. The Oregon Journal is in the dustbin of history. Until
the Tribune came along in February 2001, the Oregonian dominated the
Portland landscape. The romantic appeal of making Portland a two-newspaper
town helped lure top talent away from the Death Star of local publishing. In alienating Jaynes, Rowe and company set in motion a process that would
inspire the defection of their top sports reporters, Kerry Eggers and Brandon, media analyst and former KGW anchor Pete Schulberg,
plus a small army of news reporters and support staff. This was a
total coup. Pamplin offered top talent “substantive” salary increases when
they came onboard. None of the writers or editors we spoke with at the
Tribune would go on record about how much more they were earning, but no one
voiced any complaints.
“Probably the biggest
reason I moved over, besides the money,
was my past experience with both
Dwight and Steve,” said Eggers, “They are good friends.” Jaynes
believes the Oregonian
“Kerry wasn’t being used in the best
manner for him or the readers. This is a guy
with Larry Brown’s number in his Rolodex. This is a guy who can call the
commissioner of the NBA and get a call back. This is a guy who knows the
NBA better than anybody in the city of Portland, and he wasn’t being used to
cover the NBA for various political reasons.”
“I don’t see myself as a great rebel,” said Jaynes. The Portland Tribune
President refuses to honk his own horn in discussing his prowess as a
recruiter, but the facts are self-evident. Almost overnight, Dwight carved
a newspaper out of the wilderness and stood up against the most powerful media
company in the Northwest. He even had the good sense to leave Margie
right where she was.
Inspired to create a newspaper that could rival their former flagship,
Jaynes and his team often scoop the Oregonian in local coverage. The
Tribune uncovered a secret police network that spied on Oregonians for
decades. Eggers and Brandon beat everyone to the punch in announcing
the return of Mike Riley to OSU. Columnist Phil Stanford unveiled the
dark underbelly of Portland in the 1950’s, from labor racketeering to
organized crime. Tribune editors introduced Cue, an arts and entertainment
every Friday. An automobile-themed section named XLR8 debuted last
year to compete for the attention of car enthusiasts.
Dwight carved a newspaper out of the wilderness and stood up
most powerful media company in the Northwest. He even had the good
sense to leave Margie Boulé
right where she was.
Tribune stories consistently emphasize the impact local events have on
families and everyday people. The Oregonian might tell you who robbed a
local bank and whether or not they got away. The Tribune provides the same
facts, while exploring the impact of the robbery on the lives of witnesses,
security guards, and tellers. One reason the Tribune can cover stories in
more depth is their twice weekly distribution cycle. Deadline pressures are
less intense, with more time to gather relevant facts and information. When
news breaks over a weekend, however, reporters and editors can wait days
before publication resumes. “The biggest problem we face in this job is
when we learn something on Saturday and there is no paper until Tuesday.
That can be frustrating,” said Eggers. According to Jaynes, expanding the
paper to three days a week is a definite possibility as circulation grows
and the market for advertising sales improves.
The Portland Tribune distributes 80,000 papers in racks throughout the city
every Tuesday. Every Friday, the paper is delivered to 80,000
homes—plus another 80,000 copies in racks—for a total distribution of
240,000 newspapers each
week. The raw
distribution of the Tribune makes Dwight Jaynes
one of the most powerful
voices in the city, with the ability to reach tens of thousands of
Oregonians twice a week. Add in thousands of additional listeners from
his weekday radio show, and Jaynes can make a case for being the most
powerful single voice in Portland media. Scott Thomason may have a
better known face. Local television anchors may reach more homes.
Dwight Jaynes, however, reaches the most important demographic in the
city—decision makers who read newspapers.
Dwight spends his mornings at the Portland Tribune offices on 5th
Avenue downtown. KPAM is just a few blocks away from the
Tribune, allowing Dwight to seamlessly transition from one role to the next.
His afternoon sports radio show broadcasts live from
3-5pm every weekday. His evenings are spent at sporting events or entertaining clients; 12-15 hour
work days are
routine. “My only concern is that Dwight may be spread
a little thin, with radio, meetings and other demands on his time. I
find myself wishing I could tap into his expertise more often,” said Eggers.
"The main thing about Dwight, what makes him good for this job, is that he
is so level-headed,“ said Portland Tribune
columnist Phil Stanford. “He knows Portland, and he is not overly impressed by important people. He is a very
smart man and deserves a lot of credit for the success of the
The Oregonian has responded to the rise of the Portland Tribune with an
appropriate dash of bitterness. “Oh, they pass a lot of rumor
about us,” said Jaynes. “When we started, there were people saying we
would not last three months, and then we continually hear stories that we
are ready to fold. People are starting to realize that we’re not going
away. In fact, two weeks ago we were named the best non-daily
newspaper in the United States. The product is good, and advertisers
are coming around to that. We have a mission, and our mission is very
clear. It’s fair and balanced journalism on a local level, and we try
to stick to that. I hire good people and leave them alone.”
Special thanks to Chris
Pfeifer at Tonic
Industries for supplying us with the KPAM logo and Dwight Jaynes
Three Portland Elementary Schools to Close
Rice, Brooklyn, and Meek are slated to close in this year’s wave
of budget cuts. They will join Wilcox and Youngson, two small
schools that were closed last year. The bake sale was a failure.
Cheap Eats 2003
Willamette Week uncovers new and affordable ways to achieve
Delayed paychecks may force soldiers into bankruptcy or insolvency
by Christopher Vetter
serving in the military risk more than their lives while on assignment
in the Gulf. Their credit rating is also in jeopardy.
Naval reservists consistently receive their paychecks weeks or months
of us have severe pay problems. They have not paid us at all,"
Naval reservist currently in the Middle East speaking on condition of
mortgage check will bounce and the fees will begin to snowball and I
will file chapter 11 when I return."
Portland-based Naval Reserve Force Lieutenant Commander
Charles Flynn was not aware of any remuneration issues affecting
Oregonians serving in the Gulf. "No one has communicated any
problems to me at this time," said Flynn. "We have an ombudsman
who talks to the families. All pay issues are handled by the Defense
Finance Center out of Cleveland."
Lieutenant Commander Eric
Hall is a recruiter housed at the Portland Air National Guard Base.
"This sounds like a serious problem," said Hall. "There are avenues
of redress within the military system. Anyone who isn't being paid
should work their chain of command. Personally, there isn't
anything I can do."
In addition to late paychecks, the government is slow to reimburse
soldiers who use interest-free government travel cards, resulting in
bruised or damaged credit for accounts labeled "delinquent."
Service people pay up front for travel expenses by placing items on
their personal cards. According to journalist
Geoffrey Gray, "They must submit expense reports and wait for
reimbursement." When reimbursement is delayed by months, military personnel
face garnishment of their paychecks to cover the credit debt.
Estimates suggest at least half of all personnel in the Gulf are not
being paid on time. With garnishments seizing paychecks when they
arrive, some soldiers are stuck in the desert without a dime to
their name. We all have to use that government travel card," said
Hall. "We don't have any choice about it."
Reforms to improve the
reliability of monthly paychecks were proposed by the Pentagon late
last year, but the problem persists.
According to the March issue of Navy Times, Congressional auditors are
preparing a plan "to reform the Pentagon’s
program, still plagued by delinquencies despite attempts to fix it."
In the meantime, military personnel face penalties for missing mortgage
payments and damaged credit when they return to civilian life.
War with Iraq Imminent
Forget what the Pentagon has to say about the timetable for action in
the Gulf. War is on the way. "This thing should light off real soon," said an Oregon Naval Reserve
Force intelligence officer currently stationed somewhere in the Middle
East. "I can talk about my experience as long as I don’t give
locations and compromise any assets in the theater. The living conditions
suck. There is little water for washing and bathing. It is not uncommon
to go many days with out a shower. We just throw socks and underwear
away. There are no washers in the area. In this phase, our
operation consists of finding Republican Guards and smacking them around
to see if they know anything useful. We play bad sailor and worst sailor
like on TV cop shows." When asked about his daily routine, the
Navy officer replied, "The food sucks. Meals Ready to Eat is the only
food around. I feel for those men before me who had those long
patrols in the Meekong Delta."
Emergency Energy Programs In
Social service agencies in the city are nearly out of funds to assist
low-income families with their heating costs. The Albina
Ministerial Alliance, Friendly House, Human Solutions,
Impact, the Salvation Army, St. Vincent De Paul, the YWCA,
and the United Way have exhausted their resources for assisting
economically vulnerable families who face losing their power. High
unemployment, increasing energy costs, and a stagnant economy have taken
their toll on thousands of vulnerable families. "We performed an exit
survey of people who came to us for assistance," said Portland Impact
Director Marilyn Miller. "45% of the people we helped had never been to
a social service agency before." Portland Impact stopped providing
energy assistance on February 12. Before funds were exhausted,
they received roughly 700 energy assistance requests each month.
The federal government distributes LEAP (Local Energy Assistance
Program) funds to the State of Oregon. Multnomah County receives a
share of those funds and distributes LEAP grants to service agencies in
the city. Miller and other social service leaders are in the dark
as to whether the county will release additional funds. "We
believe more funding has arrived from the federal government, but we do
not know what we will have to work with," said Miller. "The county
has suggested we already exceeded our allocation of funds in the
last cycle and that new funds may be used to cover what was already
Mary Li, Manager of the Multnomah County
Office of School and Community Partnerships, concedes that the process
can be confusing. "I am hesitant to say how much money we will
have to work with. We may receive an additional $250,000 this
month or nothing at all . . . at this point we are reading the tea
leaves. Nothing is certain. Budget issues in Washington or
Salem could change what we receive at any moment."
"We just need to know where we stand," said Miller. "We have
generous private donors but with the demand for assistance exceeding our
resources, additional funding is critical."
In 2003, the
federal government allocated 1.79 billion dollars for
energy assistance nationwide. According to Oregon
Representative Peter DeFazio, the 2003 energy assistance budget was
slashed $300 million from fiscal year 2002. "We've reached an
emergency situation in Oregon, and I think the President should exercise
his authority to release energy assistance money immediately," said
DeFazio. To make a
Impact and assist families with their heating
costs, call (503) 988-6000.
Tribune Columnist Phil Stanford Dishes the Dirt
Inspired by his recent columns on the history of Portland in the 1950's,
Portland Tribune journalist Phil Stanford is preparing Portland
Confidential, a secret history of criminals, political leaders, and
colorful characters that shaped life in Rose City at the mid-century mark.
"I talked to vice cops, madams, gamblers, prosecutors, and other
old-timers to get the full story," said Stanford. Graphic Arts
Press plans to release the book in the fall of 2004.
Moving On Up to the East Side
Portland Opera is moving to new
headquarters, purchasing the five-year old KPTV building located next to
OMSI. In a jingoistic press release, outgoing Portland Opera
Director Robert Bailey
purchase is a momentous event for the company."
flack John Hampton, "Owning a facility provides long-term stability and
enables the company to control costs, including annual operating savings
of approximately $350,000 when the project is fully funded with a paying
tenant." In other words, they will find a room mate and split the
City officials privately grumbled over the purchase this week.
Portland Opera is a non-profit organization, and the city will lose
property tax revenue from this sale. A commercial tenant would
have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to city coffers over
the next decade.