Life in Portland Blog

The Portland Mercury vs. the Willamette Week

 Choose Your Weekly Weapon Wisely, Young Jedi...

Choose Your Weekly Weapon Wisely, Young Jedi...

Everything You Need to Know About the PDX Weeklies

There’s a ton of amazing stuff going on in Portland, Oregon, pretty much all the time, so it’s extra helpful to have a guide. And unless you moved here to be closer to local friends who already have the inside scoop on everything Portland, that probably means you're soon going to be consulting one of PDX’s alternative weeklies: the Portland Mercury or the Willamette Week.

They’re both free and both are widely available, so price and access are moot points. Which one should you choose? And yes, before you ask, you have to choose just one. Just kidding! You can read both if you want to, but many long-time Portlanders have a strong loyalty for one or the other.

So, are you a WW reader or a Mercury person? Here’s everything you need to know in case you’re new to town, or in the event that you haven’t quite made up your mind yet.

The Portland Mercury Has the Edge on the Arts

Take a look at the navigation menu on the Portland Mercury’s website. Now compare it with the Willamette Week. Notice anything different?

 PDX Merc -- Not Afraid to Get Weird on Ya.

PDX Merc -- Not Afraid to Get Weird on Ya.

If you’re looking carefully, you’ll see that the Willamette Week has only two arts-related sections: music and arts. In contrast, the Mercury has sections for music, film, art, theater, and books, and that’s telling.

Generally speaking, the Portland Mercury has more in-depth coverage of Portland’s arts scene. If you’re the creative type, then you’re bound to enjoy the scope of their local arts section just a little bit more than WW.

The Willamette Week Is Serious About Local Politics

 WW -- Get Dialed Into Local Politics.

WW -- Get Dialed Into Local Politics.

Before Mercury readers get all up in arms, hear us out: we know the Mercury does a fine job of covering local politics, but there’s no denying that WW takes things a bit more seriously on this front.

It’s the only weekly alternative newspaper to have won a Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting for its exposé of former governor Neil Goldschmidt’s sexual misconduct. It broke the story about Senator Gordon Smith employing undocumented workers at his frozen food-processing plant, publicly railing against illegal immigration all the while. And it doesn’t end there: the Willamette Week has a track record of strong reporting.

More People Read WW

According to the Association of Alternative Newsmedia, Willamette Week has a circulation of around 70,000, whereas the Portland Mercury’s is closer to 45,000. But what does that have to do with anything? Well, you can either do what all the cool kids are doing, or you can be a rebel and… never mind.

 WW Headquarters.

WW Headquarters.

In the end, both papers are pretty huge. If you really want to stick it to the man, you could start your own ‘zine (or website).

The Kids Are Alright (With the Mercury)

Portland, Oregon is a young city, generally speaking, so it should come as no surprise that the median readership ages of the Mercury and Willamette Week are relatively youthful. But the Portland Mercury’s readership skews a bit more footloose and fancy-free – 42.5% are single, 95% go out for drinks at bars or clubs, and more than 40% throw parties.

 Mercury Headquarters.

Mercury Headquarters.

In contrast, WW readers are a bit more attached, financially secure, and educated. Thirty-two percent are single, and 75% hold college degrees, compared to the Mercury’s readership at 67.7%.

The Mercury Will Make You Laugh, Willamette Week Will Make You Think

There’s certainly some overlap in Portland’s two most popular weeklies, and plenty of reason to read both of them. But if we had to sum it up, it might go something like this:

The Mercury has more swagger than the Willamette Week. It’s full of stylishly garish illustrations, and it’s not afraid to show some skin. The Merc has columns from cultural luminaries like icon of love Dan Savage, and the irreverent (formerly) local comedian Ian Karmel. It always knows where the best parties are, and it’s your best friend if you’re craving a fun night out on the town in PDX.

But as you know, that friend who’s always up for painting the town red can be difficult to take seriously at times. If you’re more in the mood for some lighthearted but credible discourse, then you might be better off with the Willamette Week. And as a bonus, only the WW features the weekly Jonesin’ crossword puzzle by none other than Matt Jones.

Of course, there’s no need to choose just one. They’re free! Pick them up the next time you’re out, and make up your own mind.

[Photos Via: OregonLive; WhoNeedsNewspapers; WW; Merc]