Upstart paper finds its voice
A decade later, Tribune holds onto promise of early days
As the Portland Tribune celebrates 10 years of telling stories, five current writers from our original staff in February 2001 share their thoughts on the beginning, the changes and the future:
Nobody gets to help start a newspaper in their hometown anymore.
But that was the opportunity presented to me 10 years ago by the Tribune and its early leaders.
The possibility was unique, and such a challenge -many, many people said it couldn't be done -that this lifelong journalist from Cleveland High decided to take the leap of faith.
As I walked through a very foggy downtown Portland that evening, going from my former office to my new one in a matter of minutes, it felt like I was in a time tunnel, with an uncertain life on the other side. It was scary, yet exhilarating.
Our staff had only a few weeks to get to know one another and decide countless policies and styles -what type face for a photo caption? who covers what? -let alone who had the authority and final call on everything from headlines to deadlines -and even who could utter those famous words: 'Stop the presses!'
Somehow, we put out our first few issues without much in the way of computers, phones or even desks, as our newsroom was being stocked on the fly.
Everyone's energy made it possible -and made it so much fun. I'll always remember both our official staff meetings and our unofficial gatherings in and out of the office. All departments were united in wanting to make the Tribune different -and great. We pooled our ideas and talents, debated courses of action, planned the next issue or shared a few beers.
Nobody said it was going to be easy. That was before 9/11, economic downturns, huge increases in the cost of printing and delivering newspapers, and a widespread decline in major print media across the country.
During the years, we -like newspapers here, there and everywhere -have lost far too many capable people and great friends to fiscal realities. Most of us still are able to keep in touch, though, and I'm grateful for every Trib alum.
The Tribune has hit the decade mark, and it's all thanks to our many, many loyal readers. You trust us to tell it like it is. To give you a fresh perspective on the city we love. To tell stories about the people who make Rip City what it is.
Ten years ago, I was two years out of graduate school with a spiral perm and a wire service job that involved checking faxes for urgent news alerts.
I'd never heard the word 'blog'or called anything'sustainable.'
I did not own a cell phone - I took pride in being one of the last holdouts against the newfangled technology.
When I took a job at an upstart paper called the Portland Tribune,I showed up at the fourth floor of our downtown office building and I was glad I had bought that cell phone, finally.
We had little to work with, except the missive to find the stories we felt would be most compelling to local readers. In other words: follow our passions.
Today, that independent spirit has remained, and it's what I appreciate most about the Tribune.
During the years, I've covered cops and courts,City Hall,schools and sustainable news. It's been a steep learning curve. As a rookie reporter,I forgot to turn off my cell phone in Council Chambers one day. When it went off, I got the evil eye from then-Mayor Vera Katz. From that day on, I made sure it didn't happen again.
I've trudged through a swamp, climbed below the deck of a city bridge, spent a night aboard an aircraft carrier and traveled to the Gulf Coast for a firsthand account of the BP oil spill disaster.
I've been on countless ride-alongs with the police and visited maybe half the city's schools. And the Tribune has documented it all along the way.
A decade older, I've had two beautiful sons and returned to work after two maternity leaves.
Sadly, I've seen most of my friends and colleagues who did amazing work here fall victim to rounds of layoffs during difficult times. We're constantly being asked to do more with less.
But I'm humbled to be part of the small family that remains. My grandpa, a lifelong salesman who lives in Florida, always told me: 'The day your work stops being fun, you should quit.'
It's been long enough ago now, the memories are blurred a bit. But I haven't forgotten the excitement of being in on the ground floor of a new product when the Tribune opened its doors for business in February 2001.
Nobody nationally was attempting to start a newspaper, but Bob Pamplin was eager and willing. So were his new employees.
Taking over the fourth floor of the 620 S.W. Fifth Building, the Trib staff swept into action with initiative and focus on being a new journalistic voice on the city scene under Publisher Don Olson, company President Dwight Jaynes and Editor Roger Anthony.
Ten years, two national 'Best Non-Daily' awards and hundreds of editions later, I'd say we hit a lot of our goals.
It's a different world today. We've gone from printing twice-weekly issues to once a week. Now we're updating our website daily, providing fresh news with different angles that you won't read or hear elsewhere. I'm writing four sports columns a week, three of them only for the website..
The staff is slimmer now - isn't that the case with every business these days? But we proved wrong the folks who predicted the Trib would go away within a year or two.
I get calls, comments and e-mails weekly from people who appreciate our publication. Thanks for that.
Makes me glad I took the leap over here.
I had reported on Portland for more than 15 years before I was offered a job at the Trib, first for Willamette Week and then for my own alternative newspaper, PDXS. I accepted because of the excitement involved in launching a new publication that was going to take a fresh look at the city.
The coverage would also be greater than anywhere I had worked before because of the ability to work with the other media outlets owned by Bob Pamplin, including KPAM 860 and the regional newspapers published by Community Newspapers.
I did not know how much the news business would change in the next 10 years, though. I still remember when our offices in downtown Portland were shaken by an earthquake shortly after we started. The Feb. 28, 2001, quake shook the building for what seemed like a long time, even though it was only a matter of seconds.
It happened on a Wednesday, the day before our Thursday issue. After the excitement passed, editors and reporters quickly met to discuss how to cover the story in the next day's issue.
These days the question would be how to cover the story now. In 2001, the Portland Tribune did not have a website. Neither did most newspapers or TV or radio stations - at least not one that people went to for breaking news.
Today, virtually all news outlets have websites they update several times a day, including the Tribune (portlandtribune.com). Our first story on the earthquake would have appeared there a few minutes after the shaking subsided. By Thursday it would have been old news.
Although no one has figured out how to get rich publishing news on the Internet, there's no going back.
I recall vividly the marching orders from the folks who started the Tribune. We would compete with other media outlets, offer mainstream news as an alternative to The Oregonian and cover stories that interested Portlanders.
I'd say, after 10 years, we've more than held our own - through staff changes, economic factors and Internet evolution. Our paper is still bold with color, and stocked with interesting stories - in print or online, it's better stuff than you'll find anywhere else.
I wish we still had two print editions per week - or more - but I'm also excited about the potential of our website. With good people producing stories, the medium to tell and show the stories should not matter.
Having worked at newspapers for 13 years before joining the Trib staff in 2001, I envisioned the excitement and challenge of competing against The Oregonian and other media outlets. Covering mostly sports, including the Oregon Ducks football team, I've enjoyed great satisfaction in our paper making an impact in Portland.
About a month into my first job, years ago at my hometown Ketchikan Daily News in Alaska, my editor advised me to not talk in terms of 'a career,' but pursue something you find fun and fulfilling.
It has been fun and fulfilling at the Tribune, and enjoyable working with all the wonderful people, past and present. Every day has been a pleasure to work with one of the outstanding sports journalists in the country, Steve Brandon.