The Willamette Week, like most alternative weeklies, usually takes only potshots at the community's dominant medium - the long, in-depth pieces usually take off in their own independent directions. As perhaps they should.
This week, they did something different, pointing an extremely barbed arrow at the editorial heart of the Portland Oregonian. For no single story has been closer to the heart of that paper than the abuse of methamphetamine. And much of the paper's reportage on that story, the Week says, has been badly flawed.
To back up for a moment: The O's coverage of this subject, led by reporter Steve Suo, has in many ways been remarkable. It has included some superb research - large portions of it reached a peak of journalism any newspaper would aspire to. And it has had substantial legislative effect, not only in Salem but also in Washington. For just one example, people won't be getting their cold medicines the same way, because of these stories.
But we have for some months pointed to flaws in this coverage as well: Its conception of the meth story, as insular and central to a much broader social pathology, has been distortive. Its sense of causes is weak, and its direct argument for solutions fails under slight pressure.
The Willamette Week, which decided to fact-check and critically consider the paper's meth coverage, covers some of those points and more besides. Consider its summary: (more…)