It was a sick feeling, before Christmas, when the staff here at Eugene Weekly realized this paper had been the victim of embezzlement.
It was an even sicker feeling when we realized the extent of the damage that had been done by the embezzlement was compounded by financial mismanagement.
The Weekly has never taken things lying down, but this was a gut punch. We were financially drained, deeply in debt and emotionally strung out. With no money for payroll we laid off our entire staff.
And then we put out the question we knew our readers would be asking: Where’s the damn paper?
Well, here’s your damn paper.
And it is your damn paper because it’s you who saved it. We were fighting, but it was the community who rose up to keep our inky pages in those red boxes. One minute we were going under and our plight was making headlines in The New York Times, the Associated Press, The Washington Post and newspapers across the country. Local TV stations and KLCC jumped in first, as did The Register-Guard.
They asked some of the questions you were asking, including: Who did this? And, more importantly, can the Weekly survive?
The criminal investigation is ongoing — in the hands of forensic accountants and the Eugene Police Department. We know who did it. Would we love to say more? Yes. And we will. But, right now it’s an open investigation.
The other news sources asked: How do you feel? Crushed and hopeful.
In a time when local papers across the country are disappearing, the weird and wonderful community here in Lane County is changing the story.
This unique paper that punches above its weight in investigative journalism, launches the careers of countless reporters and sometimes sports an occasional typo is printing — the week before Valentine’s Day.
The story isn’t over yet. We’re still plotting our path forward. We’re still fundraising. We’ve brought in a new, outside accountant and a local businessman has been looking at our financial model. We’re also talking to experts in the industry about how to be the Weekly you love and more. We are back in the red boxes, we are still punching, and we still need a little help from our friends.
So Many Giving So Much
Within hours of Eugene Weekly posting about the embezzlement, offers to contribute and fundraise poured in. As the paper looked at more than $200,000 in losses and debt, the community looked at its local newspaper and community touchstone, and said, “Not so fast.”
EW’s GoFundMe page is filled with notes that brought tears to staffers’ eyes. Checks in the mail came with even more poignant messages about what the Weekly meant to our readers.
And businesses — some of them hurt by the January ice storm — rose up to support the paper. Coffee stand Metro Brü was among the first, posting, “Our local paper we keep stocked outside the shop has been a victim of embezzlement and we would like to donate $1 from each drink on Wednesday 1/10.”
If you are looking for Valentine’s ideas, longtime EW advertiser Harlequin Beads and Jewelry held a two-day fundraiser in mid-January and re-upped their ads in the paper when they heard it was going to print. Pearl Day Spa held a five day fundraiser giving EW 5 percent of proceeds.
Tracktown Pizza held one of its daylong flyer fundraisers Feb. 7, and New Zone Gallery has kicked off an art sale (see the What’s Happening Calendar). On the horizon is an event at 255 Madison Feb. 16 to 18.
That’s a lot of love.
Metro Brü is at 2378 W. 11th Ave.
Pearl Day Spa is 1375 Pearl St, ThePearlDaySpa.com.
Harlequin Beads and Jewelry is 2833 Willamette St., A, HarlequinBeads.com.
Track Town Pizza is 1809 Franklin Blvd. TracktownPizza.com.
— Camilla Mortensen
Caffe Pacori’s Creativity Saving Eugene Weekly
When Eugene Weekly was going under, Eric Pierce, Caffé Pacori owner, wanted to do more. After some discussion with their designer, Brit Howard, Pierce and Howard made a decision together. At the time, no one was stepping up to make fundraising T-shirts, so they wanted to “do more, but not in a tacky way.”
That is where the idea for an iconic custom Eugene Weekly T-shirt and poster design came to be.
Howard is behind the timeless design featuring EW’s iconic red box alongside eye-catching colors and shapes. The garments, screen printing and ink are all the courtesy of Pacori, along with their white-glove delivery service.
Howard wanted to make something that people could wear even after the Weekly got back on track, and indeed she did. The shirts are being extended for pre-order through Feb. 11. Caffé Pacori’s goal is to sell 1,000 shirts, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to EW.
Howard says, “Local journalism is so important. I hate reading on my Kindle, and I need my horoscopes in print.”
255 Wallis St., Suite 3, Eugene. Order a T-shirt or coffee at Caffé Pacori.com/shop. — Faheem Khan
Bo’s Got EW’s Back
Longtime Eugene resident, wine proprietor and owner of Bo’s Wine Depot Boris “Bo” Wiedenfeld-Needham believes that Eugene would lose part of its core identity if Eugene Weekly went away.
That’s why from sunrise on Friday, Feb. 9, to sundown on Saturday, Feb. 10, 10 percent of all sales made at both Bo’s Wine Depot locations in Eugene and Springfield will benefit EW.
“I’ve lived in Eugene for a long time,” Bo says. “I can’t imagine Eugene without the Eugene Weekly.”
“Eugene would lose one more thing that makes Eugene, Eugene,” he says. Without the Weekly, Bo says, Eugene would lose an important cornerstone facilitating watchdog journalism that holds the powers that be accountable.
“We need a muckraker like Eugene Weekly,” he says.
364 E. 40th Ave., Eugene and 1879 Pioneer Parkway E., Springfield, BosDepot.com. — Bentley Freeman
Baseball season approaches and so does a 50/50 fundraiser hosted by the Eugene Emeralds for Eugene Weekly
The Weekly will hit a home run this spring as local MiLB team Eugene Emeralds plan to fundraise and support the newspaper. The Ems kick-off their season in early April. “We’ll pick a Friday or Saturday night, a big night,” says Allan Benavides, Eugene Emeralds general manager. “Let’s get a bunch of people there.”
EW won’t strike out or be left on base with the help of the team. Once a game night is chosen, half of the ticket proceeds will go to the newspaper. The Ems are hands-on when it comes to the community, whether it’s the Girls and Boys Club, the Scouts or this radical newspaper. “It’s what we do in the community year round that I think has given us” community and support, Benavides says. When the sun starts shining again and the flowers start blooming, head down to PK Park for a cold beer, a glizzy and a good time supporting your local paper and cheering on the team.
Sweet People of Sweet Life
Sweet Life Patisserie helped lead the charge — fundraising for Eugene Weekly on Jan. 9 — hoping to inspire other locally owned businesses to help out. Sweet Life co-owner Catherine Reinhart says it was devastating to see what happened.
“What a horrible Christmas,” she says of the shutdown and layoffs right before the holiday.
After seeing Jan. the 4 Tacovore fundraiser, Reinhart decided with her business partner and sister Cheryl Reinhart to do what they could to get the word out, in hopes of inspiring other businesses to join the charge.
“We’re so proud of having a local newspaper that does something that no other local publication does,” Reinhart says. “It helps keep the community feeling like a small community… that we’re all still connected.”
“It would be devastating to have the Weekly go away,” she says. “We’d be losing a really important part of our town.”
1609 E. 19th Ave. or 755 Monroe St., SweeLifeDesserts.com. — Bentley Freeman
Hot Mama’s Wings helps EW fly again
Michael Marzano has owned Hot Mama’s Wings with his wife, Angie Marzano, since its founding in 2011. Since the restaurant opened, his goal has been to make it a strong part of the community. “Hot Mama’s Wings is more Eugene’s than mine,” Marzano says.
Marzano also considers Eugene Weekly to be an integral part of Eugene’s community. He has read the paper often, and its office is located close to Hot Mama’s Wings.
When he heard about the embezzlement and that EW was forced to discontinue printing, Marzano reached out to see if he could do a fundraiser, which took place Thursday, Jan. 18, as the community was recovering from the ice storm. The restaurant donated a portion of all the day’s sales to the paper.
With EW returning to print after more than a month of being fully online, Marzano says he is thrilled that Hot Mama’s played a part in bringing the paper back to the community.
“I’m happy that [Eugene Weekly] wasn’t taken away from our town,” Marzano says. “Eugene is very fortunate that they were able to raise enough money for the Weekly to go back into print because once again, it’s more the city’s paper than anyone else.”
420 W. 13th Ave. HotMamasWings.com. — David Ainsworth
Nelson’s Helps EW One Spicy Margarita at a Time
The Mexican restaurant in the Whiteaker that has dominated EW’s Best Of issue in recent years, winning awards including Best Restaurant, Best New Restaurant, Best Server, Best Latin American Food and for, its food cart, Best Take Out and Best Food Truck, put on a fundraiser for the Weekly last month. On Wednesday, Jan. 10 Nelson’s in the Whit donated $1 of every menu item sold to help fill up those red boxes.
“The Weekly has helped establish Nelson in the Eugene area and brought him to a wider audience that maybe wasn’t in the Whit,” Nelson’s co-owner, TJ Mooney says. “We wanted to be there for you guys.”
Nelson’s raised $500 for the Weekly through its fundraiser and their own contributions to the cause.
Mooney adds, “We’re a community; we help each other out.”
400 Blair Blvd. NelsonsintheWhit.com — Emerson Brady
Tacobout Love for Eugene Weekly
In early January, Tacovore took to social media to spread awareness about the Eugene Weekly’s embezzlement and ceasing to print. “We really don’t want our true local paper to go out of print in weird times like these. Keep it weird, Eugene, and keep it Weekly,” the popular taco restaurant posted on its Facebook page Jan. 3. On Jan. 4, the taco shop held an all-day fundraiser. Community members came out for tacos, chips and guacamole and, of course, the restaurant’s extensive drink menu despite dry January being in effect for some.
“We had a great turnout and everyone was asking about it,” Tash Alo, Tacovore assistant general manager, says of the fundraiser. “We all miss the Eugene Weekly and we get on our breaks and do the crossword,” she says of how much the paper means to the staff.
Alo says that 200 or more people turned out that day to support the cause. “It was almost every other person in line was asking about it and making sure their money was for sure going to them [EW],” she says.
Alo says they hope the fundraiser brought visibility to the paper’s struggles and that the staff wants to see it back in print.
“It felt really good. We hope it helped.”
530 Blair Blvd. Tacovorepnw.com — Alicia Santiago
Cuchulain’s Hybrid Benefit
Cuchalain loves Eugene Weekly’s snarky liberal sensibility. “Your words, not mine,” the musician tells EW in a phone call (and he’s right).
Cuchulain — his real first name, which he performs as and only goes by in the press; say it “Ka-HOO-Lin” — moved to Eugene with his wife in 2020 from the California Bay Area. EW, he says, also helped them find stuff to do in town. So, when news of the paper’s financial problems broke, Cuchalain wanted to help.
A full-time musician, in late January, the singer-songwriter held an EW benefit at The Hybrid Gallery in the Whit, playing acoustic-leaning, singer-songwriter fare sung in a baritone and showcasing a subtle sense of humor, a little like Randy Newman, Jonathan Richman or David Byrne.
Showcasing his full band line-up, Cuchulain also entered the 2024 NPR’s Tiny Desk contest for a chance to appear on the beloved online series with a Brazilian-flavored song featuring horns and a bossa-nova-ish groove, “Darling, Don’t Sing ToMe So Sweetly.”
Search Cuchulain on YouTube or streaming platforms and give this relatively new addition to Eugene’s music scene a listen. — Will Kennedy
Old Nick’s for EW
Emily Chappell’s decision to host a Eugene Weekly benefit at her business highlights the impact of local journalism. Chappell, who owns and operates Old Nick’s Pub in the Whit, says EW’s reporting helped her insurance company backtrack on covering part of her cancer treatment.
“The Eugene Weekly coverage is probably one of the reasons they reversed their decision, and it saved my life,” Chappell continues in an email. “Besides that, times are hard for all of us. It’s vital that we support one another and our cultural institutions. The Eugene Weekly is the heart of the community and has to be protected,” Chappell says.
Eugene’s Grrlband, several local comedians and local DJs chipped in at the Old Nick’s benefit. Look out for Dungeons & Dragons events, magician’s brunches, drag events and a Mystic faire at Old Nick’s soon, Chappell adds.
“I hope 2024 is a better year for all of us, and it certainly will be if we can all come together as a community and support and love one another,” Chappell says.
211 Washington St., OldNicksPub.com.— Will Kennedy
WOW Hall Raising Love for EW
WOW Hall had us dancing the night away at its Eugene Weekly Benefit Concert last month. The night kicked off with an open mic featuring musical acts from community members and later local acoustic bands such as Wellington Drive, the Back 40 and The Check graced the stage with tunes and words of support for the paper.
“The Eugene Weekly is a voice for the community,” says Deb Maher, WOW’s director of operations. “It’s important to us at the WOW Hall and the community as a whole to see Eugene Weekly continue.”
Maher says that event attracted a crowd of all-ages and was attended by 150 people. In addition to live music, the fundraiser also held a raffle with prizes such as a photograph of Jerry Garcia with the Grateful Dead done by a local photographer. The event raised $2,500 with all of the proceeds going towards supporting the Weekly.
WOW Hall, 291 W. 8th Ave. WOWHall.org.— Emerson Brady