Eugene Weekly : Coverstory : 10.04.07


Eugene Weekly 25th Anniversary Issue

What are We Doing Here?
An introspective look at our unique publication

Starting the Paper
Silver linings in cloudy times

Thanks for the Memories

Getting Readers Excited
Your editor reflects on nearly a decade of reader response

EW Enviro

And time goes on, and on, and…
Eugene Weekly Timeline


What are We Doing Here?
An introspective look at our unique publication

We boldly asked you readers this fall in the Best of Eugene ballot what you did and didn’t like about Eugene Weekly. You did respond! Look for the most colorful critiques in our Best of Eugene issue on Oct. 25. But, for now, your answers so interested and amused Molly Templeton, our sharp young Best of Eugene editor, that she urged the oldtimers to explain to our readers what this free weekly newspaper is all about. What better time than the 25th birthday of Eugene Weekly?

We bridle a bit at the label of a formulaic “alternative” newspaper, but we like this description written by staff members:

Eugene Weekly serves the Eugene-Springfield and broader community with zest, passion and attitude as an alternative to the mainstream media. We proudly admit to practicing advocacy journalism with a point of view. The reality is that most media practices advocacy journalism with a point of view, but the owners and editors deny it. It’s a big difference that we admit to our biases.

For instance, Fox News labels itself “Fair and Balanced.” A sizeable chunk of America believes that it is. Even The New York Times, forever proclaiming “All the News That’s Fit to Print,” was biased in favor of established power in presenting all the news that might have stopped the Bush-Cheney rush to war in Iraq. How many mainstream newspapers and TV channels do you follow that offer regular sections or segments on labor as well as on business? Not many. That certainly represents bias in coverage.

Our biases are obvious. We think the environment is worth protecting. We believe government should be transparent. We are biased in favor of healthy business and enterprise but against corporate intimidation, monopolies and bribery. We favor peace and justice and think war should be a last resort instead of a tool for oppression. Same goes for police violence. We openly support well-funded education and social services. We are biased in favor of sexual diversity and freedom and against bigotry in all its forms. We view artistic expression as vital to our survival as a species.

Fred Taylor
Anita Johnson
Art Johnson

Another underlying impulse in EW‘s coverage is that we do try to look for solutions, to make a difference, even to lead. Sometimes we succeed. We also fill in the blanks left by the local daily paper and broadcast news in their often superficial reporting. In giving so much space to letters, viewpoints, and local columnists, we try to give voice to a broad, often underrepresented public. In “Slant” we try to avoid pomposity. Sometimes we fail. We try to make all of our lives better with the richness of politics, art, music and culture that this community provides.

The Weekly is a small independent business fueled totally by advertising. In response to complaints that we crowd in too much advertising, our ratio of ads to editorial is about 52/48, consistently lower than the 60/40 or higher ratio of most print media. We are proud of the high quality of our ads from our thousands of advertisers, from the smallest classified to the full-page displays. By the end of 2007, we project that these advertisers will have pushed our revenue to about $1.7 million. At the end of August this year, our display ad sales were up 22 percent over last year, running wildly counter to the national trend. Our revenues, page counts and readership are growing while other papers are shrinking in all these categories.

The occasional small profit we have made in the past has gone straight back into the paper, not to the owners. This year we hope to give bonuses, improve the health care package, raise salaries and even replace some funky furniture.

We have 20 full-time employees, dozens of freelance writers, photographers, cartoonists and interns. And our distribution team of bicyclists and drivers fills 850 boxes and racks in Eugene and Springfield, Veneta, Florence, Junction City, Corvallis, Albany and Salem. Signature Graphics in Portland is printing more than 40,000 papers a week for us, with 42,000 in sight now that UO and OSU students are back. The Association of Alternative Newspapers (AAN) ranks EW in the top five of alternative weeklies nationally for penetration of our circulation area.

More important numbers: According to the independent Media Audit, 81,000 residents are regular EW readers in Lane county alone. Thousands more read us in Linn and Benton counties, and about 35,000 people around the world read us on the web. We just put up “EW! A Blog” and don’t yet have a count on that audience.

This year our staff won 18 statewide and regional awards for editorial and design excellence. For the first time in our 25 years, we won a national AAN award, for Kera Abraham’s five-part series on local eco-arsonists.

EW does not have a publisher. We’re “managed” by a team: Editor Ted Taylor, Director of Sales and Marketing Bill Shreve, Art Director Kevin Dougherty, CFO Paula Hoemann and part-owner Anita Johnson. Our weekly managers’ meetings are open, sometimes attracting as many as a dozen staffers. The monthly financial statements are posted for all staff to peruse.

Owners of EW are: Fred Taylor, retired in Charleston on the Oregon Coast after a 30-year career on the news side of the Wall Street Journal, where for 13 years he was managing editor overseeing as many as 300 reporters; Art Johnson, Eugene personal injury lawyer and civic activist for more than 50 years; and Anita Johnson, Eugene journalist and activist. Both Anita Johnson and Taylor are UO journalism graduates.

Remember that you special people, readers of Eugene Weekly, prompted all these words with your responses to our “Best of Eugene” ballot. We hope our lengthy response will not dampen your continued suggestions, criticism, even compliments. That’s what we need to make EW a better paper.