Knope of the Week: Mark Zusman, Willamette Week

Posted on February 8, 2013


After a long holiday break including a brief jump off the fiscal cliff, the Knope of the Week is rested and ready to anoint the standouts in the local government arena for 2013. This year recipients will not only the incredible fame and glory associated with the award, but they will be recognized with a token of appreciation that will only be known by the recipients.

Before we move forward, take a look back at the 52 recipients from 2012. Each recipient will tell you that life has change drastically with the recognition, similar to a lottery winner minus the money and notoriety. ELGL proudly notes that before awarding a Knope of the Week we test the potential recipient  for performance enhancing drugs. We also proudly note that those individuals have no idea that they’ve ever been tested.

Now onto the beginning of a new year, the 4th recipient for 2013 is …

Mark Zusman, Willamette Week Editor

“Rattle Cages” is what we learned from Mark Zusman, this week’s Knope of the Week. Mark has been rattling cages as editor of one of the best alt-weekly papers in the country. Willamette Week has rattled cages of every sector of life in Portland from governments, criminals, elected officials, music, culture and entertainment. While doing so, Willamette Week has cultivated an incredible family tree of authors and journalists who went on to influence an entire country through writing bestselling books or writing for national magazines and newspapers.

Whether you know it or not, Mark Zusman has influenced your life through creating MusicFestNW and Eat Mobile, developing the Giving Guide, and breaking stories on Sen. Gordon Smith, former Oregon governor Neil Goldschmidt, and the Whitaker School.


Here are headlines from Mark’s presentation:

  • Kent State shooting had a pivotal impact on him. Had a moment of clarity from NYT coverage of the event. “Spoke truth to power.”

  • Homework to ELGL: read a book by a Willamette Week alum. Susan Orlean, Larry Colton, Katherine Dunn, Anthony Bianco.

  • He loves the council manager form of government as much as ELGL does! 

  • “How do you present government work as interesting.” A challenge for journalists covering local government. 

  • Willamette Week is rededicating itself to its guiding principles. Rattle cages, engage imaginatively, be a carpenter. 

  •  “Volume of data and information is changing which creates a quandary for professional journalists.” 

  •  “Nothing creates a shared sense of community more than the opportunity to give back.” Hence the creation of Give Guide.

  •  “Any jackass can kick a barn down but it takes a carpenter to build one.” 

  • MFNW Music Fest NW is a huge PDX event and solidifies Willamette Week as premiere music journalism outlet. 

  • Willamette Week culture coverage includes the largest food cart festival in the nation. 


  • Willamette Week has an investment in getting people engaged in democracy.” Hence, ‘Candidates Gone Wild.’ 


  •  James Pitkin story on illegal gun sales; Story on trash privacy – examples of entering imaginatively into the action. 

  • “Enter imaginatively into the action” – engage the readers. 

  • ‘Hydro Hogs’ edition of Willamette Week resulted in a public records law change that limited access to public records. 

  • Consequence of  Willamette Week coverage of Whitaker school resulted in an immediate community change. 

  • “There can be no higher law in journalism than to tell the truth and to shame the devil.” 

  • Mark interned in DC and then moved to PDX to work for Willamette Week in mid 80s.

  • Measure success by whether changes result from a story.

  • Changing landscape with Oregonian becoming a three day a week newspaper.

Last Week’s Recipient: Megan Messmer

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