Newsweek magazine has a piece this week lauding Nigel Jaquiss, the investigative reporter for Willamette Week who broke the sex scandal story about Portland Mayor Sam Adams - and also raking The Oregonian over the coals for dropping the ball on this and other tough stories.
It was Jaquiss who revealed that Adams, who is openly gay, had a sexual relationship with a young man named Beau Breedlove and lied about it. Adams first met Breedlove when he was 17 but denies that he had sex with him before he turned 18, and Breedlove confirms that story. But there are plenty of doubters, and Adams is under heavy pressure to resign.
In 2005 Jaquiss won a Pulitzer Prize for revealing that former Portland mayor and Oregon Gov. Neil Goldschmidt had sexually abused an underage babysitter, starting when the girl was just 14.
"Jaquiss's scoop [about Adams] is significant not only because it represents the second huge political figure his journalism has humbled in a period of four years, but also because of whom he beat out to get the story: the much larger and much more heavily financed Oregonian," writes Newsweek.
"Over the years, the daily has earned something of a reputation in Oregon for avoiding sacred cows, after it dropped the ball on two gigantic stories: the sexual abuse and harassment of female staffers and lobbyists by Sen. Bob Packwood in the 1980s, a story The Washington Post broke even after Packwood reportedly harassed one of the Oregonian's own reporters; and the Goldschmidt scandal, which the paper not only failed to pursue but took a beating from the public over after accepting the former governor's confession and using his choice of words - 'affair' - to describe what Oregon law considers rape in its front-page headline."
The Newsweek story is a fun read - and a valuable reminder of why we need alternative news outlets, even in cities that have quality mainstream papers. The Good Gray Lady of Portland does outstanding reporting on many issues, but it appears to be so tightly wired into the Portland establishment that it's not as aggressive as it should be in going after members of that establishment like Packwood, Goldschmidt and Adams when they misbehave.
"The Oregonian still has a huge stable of talented, great reporters, and they do a lot of really good work," Jaquiss told Newsweek. "But Portland is a one-party town, a go-along, get-along town where people don't question the orthodoxy. They're very comfortable having a real absence of critical debate of most issues."
Hmm ... does that sound like any other town we know?