PORTLAND, Ore. — The year 2022 was a big one for The Story, with the issues we covered ranging from heat to homelessness, a midterm election, drug decriminalization and mental illness. Here are some of the segments and stories viewers watched and read the most:
During the peak of Oregon's summer heat, tenants at a Newberg low-income housing complex received notice that they'd need to get rid of their window-mounted AC units or be evicted. Tenants we spoke to said that they couldn't afford the portable units that housing officials were allowing.
But, this story ended up being one of the most heartwarming of the year. After watching our initial report, a viewer stepped up and bought some portable units for the tenants most in need, delivering them with the help of the hardware store. Here's the follow-up story we did.
If you're familiar with The Story, then you know that we spend a lot of time reporting on Portland's problems. And, anecdotally, ragging on Portland is a favorite pastime for many Portlanders, Oregonians and even people who live outside of the state. So it came as some surprise when a TIME article listed Portland among its "World's Greatest Places 2022."
We followed up with the travel writer who wrote the piece for TIME, and she was adamant about her impression — highlighting the city's food and the atmosphere of inclusivity.
"I have traveled to so many places and I get the same question when it's not Portland," writer Sucheta Rawal told us, in part. "It may be Mongolia. It may be the Middle East. My job as a travel writer is to actually go there. Things happen everywhere, but it's only once we go there and experience it that we really know what is actually going on.”
Earlier this year, the entire news staff of the Herald and News, a newspaper in Klamath Falls, left their jobs — leaving a virtual news desert in the Klamath Basin. One of the reporters told us that it was the result of long-term issues with low reporter pay and heavy workloads
And it's not as if there's a lack of news to cover in that region of Oregon. It's been a flashpoint for worsening drought conditions, wildfires and conflicts over water rights. But the mass-resignation was also a symptom of a larger problem, as small-town news outlets increasingly fold or struggle to attract journalists who can or will work for the low wages they're offered.
This year we've done a series of stories taking a closer look at Measure 110, the revolutionary voter-approved initiative that decriminalized user amounts of narcotics in Oregon while funding drug treatment programs. It passed in 2020, but the rollout has not exactly been smooth.
When we talked to law enforcement officers in Portland, they blamed decriminalization for the explosion in fentanyl-related crime on the city's streets. The father of a 15-year-old boy who left home to pursue his drug addiction agreed. But proponents of the measure countered that these are national trends, not unique to Oregon post-decriminalization.
Most recently we took a look at the country that inspired Measure 110: Portugal. Speaking to the man who spearheaded Portugal's drug decriminalization program, we saw the differences between what they've done and what Oregon is doing — and perhaps what we're doing wrong.
The 2022 midterm election shaped up to be a surprising one, featuring three major contenders — and for the first time in Oregon history, all of them were women.
It was a contentious race between Democrat Tina Kotek, Republican Christine Drazan and unaffiliated candidate Betsy Johnson, and polling right up until November showed Kotek lagging slightly behind Drazan as Johnson pulled a not-insignificant share of support. But Johnson's support began to erode closer to the election, and Kotek maintained a lead over Drazan on Election Day, leading to the Republican's concession a few days later. Kotek is now set to take office in January.
It's not new, precisely, nor is it imminent, but it is inexorable: The Oregon Department of Transportation will be instituting tolls on certain parts of I-5 and I-205. In November, we looked into where these projects are in terms of their development, and what commuters can expect in the years ahead.
The piece that's furthest along right now concerns a stretch of I-205 on either side of West Linn. ODOT plans to add tolling stations to the Tualatin River and Abernethy bridges, dinging commuters at each crossing. And the price could range anywhere from $.50 during off hours to $2.20 at peak congestion, per pass over one of the bridges.
Over 30 years ago, a man named Frank Gable was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of 42-year-old Oregon Prisons Chief Michael Francke. Francke was stabbed to death outside the Department of Corrections headquarters, on the grounds of the Oregon State Hospital, in 1989.
But Gable maintained his innocence, and he was released in 2019 when a judge found that Gable's trial excluded evidence that another person confessed to the crime, among other issues. This year, a federal appeals court upheld that ruling — ending Oregon's attempts to put Gable back in prison.
Woman held hostage in downtown Portland shares perspective on state’s response to mental health crisis
In 2019, a Portland woman named Melissa West was held hostage at knifepoint by a man in the midst of a mental health crisis. That man, Christopher Hall, was later found guilty except for insanity and committed to the Oregon State Hospital.
After watching "Uncommitted," a KGW documentary series that covers the gaps in Oregon's involuntary commitment process, West wanted to share her story publicly with the hope of inspiring changes to the system.
One aspect of Portland's homelessness crisis that we covered a few times this year involves squatters taking over vacant homes. In some cases, they've broken in to stay temporarily or use the electricity to charge their electronic devices. In other cases they've moved in and filled the lot with vehicles and piles of junk.
A homeowner we spoke to in August said that he was out of town when squatters moved into the place. When he returned and approached the house to tell them to leave, he said that they assaulted him and he had to go to the hospital. After that, he was trying to sell the house with the squatters still inside.
Areas of Oregon saw record heat this summer, though perhaps not comparable to the deadly heat dome event over the summer of 2021. And according to a new interactive model, the heat waves we've seen in the Pacific Northwest over the past several years are not going away — in fact, they're going to get progressively worse year after year.
A nonprofit created the tool, called "Risk Factor." It allows people to get an educated guess on how heat, floods and fires will likely affect their homes within the next 30 years.
Those stories are among the ones that got the most attention over this past year, and a few of them are likely to pop up again as we move into next year.
Finally, here are some honorable mentions that are near and dear to our hearts:
Okay, how to explain this absurdly "meta" experience ... during the run-up to the November election, we fact-checked some political attack ads, including from both sides of the Oregon 6th Congressional District race. There were a few misleading assertions in these ads, but mostly things taken out of context. So, when we fact-checked Republican Mike Erickson's ad about Democrat Andrea Salinas — finding that the ad lacked some important context — his campaign then took snippets from our show, out of context, and used them in the next attack ad! It was all completely legal, of course, but we were a bit nonplussed.
You probably won't be surprised to know that elections are a big deal at local news stations like KGW, and it's when we're fully "all hands on deck." This year, producer Ashley Koch documented the goings-on to give you a behind-the-scenes look at our newsroom on election night.
This year we lost a real friend of the station. Longtime political analyst Len Bergstein passed away at the age of 76. He began his career in politics running campaigns here in Oregon and later ran his own consulting firm, and over time became a frequent contributor on KGW.
For decades, Bergstein lent us his insight into politics in Portland and throughout Oregon. He was even with us during the outset of this most recent midterm election race. He'll be sorely missed here at KGW.