Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Reporting on Trash Raises Stink

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Reporting on Trash Raises Stink

Article excerpt

'Willamette Week' takes its muckraking seriously, to say nothing of literally

If readers of the alternative Willamette Week claimed the Portland, Ore., newspaper is publishing garbage, they wouldn't be far off. A recent reporting gambit, which had two journalists sifting the trash of local officials, has sparked a dispute over the legality, or at least the ethics, of a paper perusing city leaders' waste. Portland Mayor Vera Katz has even threatened legal action. "It's unscrupulous behavior, it's unethical," she told E&P.

The trash talk began in March when Portland police were investigating alleged drug use by Officer Gina Hoesly. During their investigation, officers found traces of illegal drugs in garbage outside Hoesly's house and used it as evidence to obtain a search warrant for her home. The search turned up drug paraphernalia and a diary describing apparent drug use that led to an indictment against the officer in June. A judge recently ruled the garbage seizure illegal, with an appeal pending.

Willamette Week reporters asked Portland Police Chief Mark A. Kroeker whether searching someone's garbage constituted an invasion of privacy. His reply, according to the paper, was that garbage, once placed on the street in front of a home, becomes public property. The paper decided to give the chief, as well as Katz and Multnomah County District Attorney Michael D. Schrunk, a chance to experience someone going through their own garbage. "We felt a need to turn the tables," Editor Mark Zusman said. …

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