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Homeless Crisis in Portland Briefly Invades Live Television During Storm Coverage

For several hours throughout New Years Day most Portland television stations went live to on-scene 'Storm Team' reporters. (The 'scenes', besides being convenient places to stop the truck and set up the shots, were of dubious importance). The 'story' was the much over-hyped New Year's Day Storm of 2004, an easy ratings bonanza on an otherwise 'slow news day'.

During live television 'team coverage' of the weather, an ironic thing occurred on Portland's KPTV-12. One local reporter had staked out her spot on a Portland freeway overpass with a cameraperson, a satellite feed to the broadcast room, and a stack of pre-made snowballs, which she continually threatened to unleash on any ne'er-do-wells who might happen by.

As one man passed the reporter's spot on the bridge, she jabbed the microphone in his face and breathlessly inquired what the man thought of the snow.

"I'm homeless!" he responded, before adding that, "You people in Portland don't know what snow IS!"

The casual observer of this exhange may not have noticed the blood rushing from the reporter's face as she realized her bad luck at having inadvertently uncovered a real story, and how urgently she realized she had to get herself out of reporting it. While the gentleman continued to answer questions that the reporter never asked, with comments such as, "I woke up this morning covered in snow" and "Tonight I might sleep under a bridge", the reporter and two in-studio news anchors stumbled over themselves to end the conversation and move back to the main news of the day. The man was still talking, even though no one, (save me, bored at home), were listening.

In short, the story was about snow. And snowmen. And how much kids like the snow. And how hard it is to drive in snow. And how much business the tire companies are doing putting snow tires on peoples' cars. And how, if you don't absolutely have to be on the road, it is best to stay home, if you have one.

The inconvenient face of a real person suffering from the cold who has no choice but to sleep in it has no place on local television news and, when it accidentally invades a live broadcast, must be removed from the screen at once.

Here's to that nameless man. And here is to all of the people of Portland who are living with homelessness, the estimated 2000 people who live on the streets of a city with less than 400 shelter beds and a government that pretends it is doing something about the problem. This should be the easiest story to report on a 'slow news day'. A reporter might literally trip over the story on the way to setting up the live feed for the 'Storm Team' coverage.

Will this change in 2004?

Oh No! News! 04.Jan.2004 09:38

Ferret Mike

m really tired of the local TV news just doing fluff pieces. Whatever happened to covering the news and not just doing entertaining commercials to boost business and get people's minds off of news. Something has to change.

They could have easily cut that out... 04.Jan.2004 11:08

red suspenders

I wholeheartedly agree that they had "fluff" news all day. They had three or four crews out waiting for a nice wreck to happen in front of the camera.
I would disagree that they tried to immediately ditch that homeless man though. I do beleive theres a delay between the "live" news and when it's actually broadcast. They didn't have to show that tape, and that guy was on TV for a few minutes of coverage.

The flurry of '04 04.Jan.2004 11:47

Mister memorex

The reason that snow is a big news event in Portland, besides the rarity, is due to the fact that too many people are dependent on their vehicles in a culture where it's normal to live 30-40 miles from work, and their lives are disrupted because of this dependence. It seems like all the 'storm team' coverage is one big commercial for Les Schwab. I also find it interesting that they always set up camp for their live coverage on Sylvan hill, one of the highest elevations in the city, and they could be standing in a foot of snow, with spun out SUVs littering the Sunset in the background, while down below 500 feet, where most people live, there could be anywhere from jack squat to a dusting. Then cut to a 6 year old kid standing next to a snowman saying something really profound like "I like snow .....because....it's pretty"

So if I were that homeless man, I'd be pretty pissed too. He should have lobbed one of those snowballs upside her cute little upturned nose. He may get charged with assault, but hey, at least he'd have a warm place to stay and a sense of smug satisfaction.

Try again, red suspenders 04.Jan.2004 13:23


This was clearly a case of a real human being sneaking a real story onto the corporate news. I'll admit that I didn't see the piece, but I did hear about it. Apparently, after she asked what he was doing out there and he said he was homeless, he went on to explain that the shelters don't open till 7 so he had no place warm to go. A real journalist would have pursued this story. But not a corporate stooge. No, their job is to insulate us from any real concerns about the state of our society. Keep our minds numb and our wallets open.

And no, there's no opportunity to cut footage out of a live feed. This, by the way, is the ONLY time we ever see any real stories on the corporate media. Remember the day the channel 12 news photographer was assaulted and kidnapped by the pdx police? The voice of the dazed reporter was still on the air, gamely explaining that the photographer, who hadn't done anything wrong, had been knocked to the ground, had his camera knocked out of his hand and seized, and was then cuffed and stuffed into a waiting police van. Apparently, the cops didn't realize he was a corporate stooge, they thought he was one of us. (This is one of the hazards of posing as a protester.) That should have been headline news! But when the 10pm broadcast rolled around, the story had been erased. Same channel, same agenda.

tried to bail 04.Jan.2004 14:34


Oh yes, I actually saw that news coverage, being too taken up by a project to leap to the control to shut of the mindless chatter about the SNOW. I saw the reporter flinch as the man said he had no place to go and noticed right away how the camerman began to pan left...trying to get that visual out of the way. A homeless man in a snow storm. Whoa! What kind of story is that! Let's instead chirp about alla that snow and how cool it is to be there with lots of cute snow balls and a fun little outing with a warm latte waiting at the end of it. What is WRONG with this picture! And my hat is off to all of you independent filmers and writers who do go out and get the real stories and get punched, battered, arrested and harrassed for doing it.

Well, give em credit 04.Jan.2004 14:53

Walter Fuque

You have to understand, folks! There was really BIG news to report. I distinctly remember a ten minute segment on someone called Ari, who was shovelling SNOW, and shovelling snow, and snow shovelling, for TEN FREAKIN MINUTES! This followed by twenty minutes of the Johnson Creek Minuendo, where intellectually challenged folks each took turns to see who's car would be the last in the pile up, one at a time, while the goalie risked life and limb, throwing body blocks into each out of control Lexus.
As one can see, I have been SNOW bound too long, because I actually WATCHED these stories unfold several times. Who is the intellectually challenged one, you ask?
Anyway, the point is obvious. YOU CAN ONLY COUNT ON THE CORP MED TO REPORT ON THE REALLY IMPORTANT THINGS. Do not expect them to do anything as meaningful as following a real story in action, even if, as in this case, it comes up and bites the "reporter" on the derriere'.

heartless to have HOMELESS 04.Jan.2004 19:02

Cold Canadian

Herein Canada we are experiencing another cold spell,24 below and lower.Pipes frozen ,no water,toilets don't flush,without showers or baths in homes where the pipes have frozen. Mine being one of those frigid homes,not complaining since I feel immensley appriative to have one.Then I think of all those people without;NO WATER,NO SHOWERS,NO FOOD,NO WINTER WARDROBE,NO STORAGE,WITHOUT GOODS TO STORE.This is the season of death for these poor ,forgotten people.Abuse by others after abuse have created this unimaginable situation.The gluttony of consumer Christmas has egnored the true essence of giving.Many of these people suffer already from poor health.That is intensified.Some die unnoticed. Our Canadian and U.S.A. govt. care less and less for our people.Laws,interpretations,and social networks care less for the people.We active,caring citizens now have to redirect the energy and practise compassion,in all our work.Communist countries such as Cuba place housing for all as one of their first priorities.It shames us wealthy countries not to have the same ,sane housing policy in place.How can people develop and share their talents if basic survival has to be their constant goal?Some communities have insufficient shelters which deserve our support,but are bandaids, definately they are not solutions to the real problem.Homelessness requires homes.

Nature bats last 04.Jan.2004 20:40

Nature boy

Subsidizing peoples heat is not a good idea and could turn out to be a cruel yet fatal "practical joke". Because when the "heat" really gets bad while the ones with food and shelter might suffer those that are fooled by governmental subsidies will probably die. Better that they are given subsidies to move south with the sun. In the end, nature bats last.

Must be a portland thing? 04.Jan.2004 23:20


I come from a cold east coast city and when the temperature drops below zero the government immediately launches an effort to get homeless people off the street and into shelters. The evening news programs routinely lead "weather" stories with footage of the "code blue" staffers and volunteers talking to people on the streets about getting into shelters. The same news programs also deal with cold weather tips for the aged and infirm. Sure they have the hyped up "storm teams" out there too and most weather reporting is ridiculous, but at least there is some substance in the midst of all the fluffiness.

Maybe the reporterette was so taken aback because Portland doesn't normally have these "code blue" situations and she is unaware and empty-headed that winter weather isn't just snowballs and snow men???

P.S. At least here, people don't empty store shelves at the first hint of a snow flake as they do back east.

Bum Freeze 05.Jan.2004 00:46


I had noticed there were alot fewer bums downtown attempting their daily demands for my hard-earned money since the "big freeze" hit P-town...

Fantastic, I say. Maybe a few of them will discover that it takes a job and not cheap liquor to keep warm in the winter and actually stop littering up the city.

At least people here have shelter 05.Jan.2004 01:44


I live in Changchun, a city of about 7 million people in North-east China where between the months of November and March he temperature does not go above -20. People here are poor. This is not glittery Bejing or Shanghai. The average monthly income for a lower class family (most of the population here) is about 800 - 1000 yuan ($100-120). Say what you may about labour and human rights here, and you can talk about Tibet or Taiwan, or about non-union General Motors plants here which take jobs away from the USA, but every person here has a place to sleep. Maybe it is 8 men on cots in a small room, but at least it is warm. Nobody in China (at least in the city, I haven't seen the countryside yet) freezes to death in the winter. Kind of says something about the richest country in the world.

Moronic Media 05.Jan.2004 06:38

Jim Davis the3rdman666@removespam.hotmail.com

Yes, it was a slooow newsday. I try not to watch too much TV even on a day off from work, but I saw the report in question here. It was both funny and tragic. Funny how the reporter lost control of the situation an added bonus was how the report became demeaning to the homeless person.

What was really offensive was this reporter's claim that she was going to "help" this person and update the audience on the status of the homeless guy. (I'm sure the most they did was buy the guy a bottle of Thunderbird so he wouldn't keep interrupting their ''important'' broadcast.)

Wish more people, homeless or not, would take the time to broadcast these moron's reports. Can you imagine a live feed being interrupted by the words "fuck the media?" I can hardly wait.

reprieve 05.Jan.2004 08:14

real downtowner

Ever since the snow started falling, I've noticed fewer of those yuppy suburbanites in their lexuses prowling around the streets using up my hard-earned oxygen. And fewer of those PBA bums downtown stealing my hard earned labor for their selfish gains.

Fantastic, I say. Maybe they will learn that it takes more than a skating rink and other people's sweat to keep them rolling in the winter, and actually stop littering up the city. Now, if we could just get rid of those fatheaded "downtowner" types who swooped in during the sickening gentrification era and now consider themselves "downtowners," we would be cool.

speaking with Wes 05.Jan.2004 08:32


Yes, the fact that people are ignored on our winter streets does say a lot about this rich country. You are right about that. The article which began this string was also making that point. The opportunity for a real story was pushed into that reporter's comfort zone and she put up the shields. A lot of us do that. Read the posting just above yours. Homeless are "unsightly" and a bother. So the real story lies underneath the snowballs, under the radar scope of most of us and that speaks volumns about this rich country.

here, ask KPTV to occasionally broadcast some ACTUAL news 05.Jan.2004 10:09


Look at this! There is no shortage of ways to contact the station and let them know you would like to see real, actual news broadcast every now and then. Tell them about stories you'd like to see, criticise them for stories you didn't see, and for those that were obviously spun:

The phone number for KPTV, when I called just now a real person answered after the first ring:
(503) 906-1249

News hotline, you can tell them about breaking stories:

Address for writing:
FOX 12/UPN 49
General Manager: Teresa Burgess
14975 NW Greenbrier Parkway
Beaverton, OR 97006-5731


Contact email:
Director of Programming Lee Petrik

Here Goes 06.Jan.2004 08:18

Fuck It

Hey I know we can send them to Iraq thats where all the money is going. Oh; um well maybe we can borrow some of our money back from illegal aliens that they get from welfare, and medical to help combat the frostbite. Oh maybe I know we can ask the vets to help. Oh now I forgot thats right they have to pay deductibles on their medicine now. Oh thats right the veterans are some of the people sleeping on the street. Oh well fuck it let them cross the border into Mexico, um u know tit for tat. Damn I'm good

Smell the Coffee 06.Jan.2004 21:07


I have worked with the homeless in both Portland 25 years ago and in Blugene for 15..wake up! Nobody in political power gives a rat's ass about the homeless problem. This is the truth and it will help you all with your internal anxieties when seeing folks in pain, and living hopeless and stuck lives. It is totally sad.

Thanks, CaptainPlanet 07.Jan.2004 10:05


Thanks for posting that contact info for kptv.
Here is the email I've just sent to them. It doesn't cover every issue, but I aimed to keep it focused so as not to sound like an overwhelming rant. Anyone, please feel free to take any wording from this and use if for more emails, to kptv and elsewhere.

Does anyone have a list of email addresses for the other local stations?


Dear Lee Petrik,
What is happening to Portland's homeless population during this severe freeze? I am in the dark about this issue because neither kptv nor any other local media seem to be covering it. I have heard through Portland indymedia that all the city's shelters are full, and that at least one homeless person has died from the cold, but that is was barely reported on the television news.

Surely the death of a Portlander from this weather is big news? If the person was middle-class and had died in their broken-down car, or died in their powerless home, it would be headlines, right? So why is the death of a homeless person given so little coverage? Does kptv think the homeless are second class citizens whose plight is irrelevant to its viewers? That its viewers only want to see themselves reflected in its coverage? That the death of a human being of a certain class is not important?

Portlanders want to know the whole story of their city, not just the story of those privileged to have homes and cars. The coverage from your station and others, mostly tells we who are warm in our houses what we already know: It's snowy, it's icy, some roads are closed, and we shouldn't go out if we can avoid it.

Please make an effort to tell us what we don't know, and even go so far as to tell us, by co-ordinating information, how we, as fellow citizens of this wonderful town, might help the city and the shelters help the homeless. Our fellow Portlandlers risk not just inconvenience and discomfort, but death, due to these conditions. That seems like a big news story to me.

grrrr kptv 07.Jan.2004 10:07


I sent that email, and this is what I got back:
I will be out of the office through Friday Jan. 10th. I will be returning on Monday Jan. 13, 2004

Anyone know where else emails can be sent?

julia, it was really easy to get the contact info 07.Jan.2004 14:40


Knowing the stations call letters were KPTV, I just went to www.kptv.com and found their home page. There is a "contact us" link on that page, from there I had to click "Station Information" to get the phone numbers, mail addresses, and email addresses. There is a lot more there than I had posted.

You can do the same for any station or even just about any company or corporation. Go to koin.com or katu.com and you get their websites. Go to the site walmart.com for Walmart, there is a "company information" link near the bottom. If by some chance the website name is not the same as the station / company name, use www.google.com to search for the company. It just takes a little time, in most cases, to find out how to send them correspondence.

Portland News Media ("Good for .... well,nothing i can think of") 12.Jan.2004 17:47

William K Kidd

The Portland news media has once again (as if they didn't do it daily anyway) proved that there is very little, if any chance at all that quality reporting exists in this city. For one thing,and i may be a little off the subject for just a sec,sleet sleet sleet it was sleet darn it!! Of all the citys i've lived in I never in my life thought I'd see such disreguard for Noah Webster. "Ice pellets" can be hail,sleet, or even an ingredient of a margarita. George Orwell's vision of newspeak in the book 1984 has hit the Portland news media wide open full throttle. I"m embarrassed to even listen to the news in this area. We went from light drizzle to snow to SLEET to freezing rain and finally to just plain rain. Call a duck a duck you silly people. No one wants to hear channel 12,or any of the rest of the media in Portland change the english language. You only make yourselves look amateurish by inventing terminology and pushing it on the public, and yes you at chanel 12 are the most notorious of all media in Portland for doing this. By the way there are 2 reporters in portland that so far I havent caught rearranging english language(Kelly Day and Reed Coleman).Kudos to you 2....... for now.
There are very little ratings to be gained by reporting on the homeless during a winter storm, or any other time i agree and understand this but how could any self respecting reporter shun a story that walked up and slapped you in the face? I came to this Town in 1995 originally and relocated here permanently in 1998. Homeless,hungry and carrying nothing but a few light upholstery tools I dragged myself out of my hell and do very well here. How you ask? Someone paid attention to me and saw the potential i had and the rest is history.
That guy the reporter wanted to talk to till realizing he was homeless then shunned may have had the human interest story of a lifetime to tell but now we will probably never know. Consider this, the reporter had no idea the guy was homeless, a great indication that there was more to this man that meets the eye. I would lay 4 to 1 odds that the guy has a good education,a job skill that is in demand, or maybe even a superbowl ring on his finger and only needs a boost up to get it going again as was the case with me.
Homeless people that can't be helped ,employed,or for that matter dont want to be helped are probably over 90 percent of the homeless population in this area and true enough there are few rewards for getting involved with these types, but i believe channel 12 passed on a chance to get to the people some insight on the small percentage of homeless Portlanders that have all the capacities to get out of the gutter except for that one little thing we all need to keep going, care of others. Congratulations channel 12 on kicking a man while he is down.
Mike Tyson could even learn some nasty tricks from you guys LMAO If you dont want to interview homeless people by all means dont interview them but dont start then cut off . The man you mistreat may very well be your boss in the near future. Having lived on the streets in the Portland area for a perion of about 1 year i know most of the homeless by name, and dam near can identify all of them by face so my earlier comments on the value of the majority of most are valid though less than nice , but true. In all fairness to the media it is true that noone wants to be incumbered with reports on homeless people that want to be homeless and come to portland to leech from the kindness of the good people who help them knowing that the only fruits that will ever come from such help is encouragement to not do better, but we all need to eat, even the worthless people eat and god will reward the helpers of these folks and punish the worthless for being a parasite intentionally.
Channel 12 do yourselves a favor and redeem yourselves, go in depth on the streets talk to the homeless. See what they have to say. I Dont mean the same ole same ole you see every day in and around city center and Waterfront Park . Find the people that are hungry for improvement and are able to support themselves not with a hand out but a leg up. There is in my estimation about 100 to 150 people in the homeless population of im guessing to be 1500 maybe that only need that "leg up". A leg up is less expensive than a hand out and does a lot more good in the long run as well. My perscription will get you an award if applied properly and the people that view your news broadcast WILL watch with interest a report on homeless that shows a re-entry to the world most of us enjoy.
In the end since we all know channel 12 and the rest of the news media has no interest in doing a good report on the homeless, the weather ,or any other subject for that matter and insists on only either getting their stories all wrong, making up vocabularies, and or just plain screwing it all up and then giving yourselves a pat on the back for doing so i ask myself ,What is the Portland news media good for....well,nothing i can think of.
Those Southeastern rednecks you make so much fun of for their stupidity , and different accent, are constantly outdoing you all by getting it right every single time. You all should take a lesson from the Memphis news media or even Tupelo miss channel 9 WTVA are very much more than a notch above you all in "FACT", you remember being taught the F.A.C.T. Rule of news? Fast. Accurate. Consice,and True ? I guess not LMAO even i know that rule and ive never taken a class in news reporting. Your viewers will not leave you though because the entire population would have to relocate to another area to get a better quality newscast . There is simply no real quality in Portland with the exception of the 2 reporters i mentioned earlier and given time even they will fall in the same rut the rest of you are in cause they are running with dogs and that means the fleas will attack them as well eventually . I hope they have a good flea collar cause i dont want to see the last 2 i respect start screwing it all up to. I can watch every different broadcast in Portland and never ,I mean NEVER get a matching set of facts.
That is all of my commentary and i would like to point out that i am a novice typist and a poor writer so forgive the punctuation and format of this article please. I proofread the article and think it is free of any mispellings but dont swear to it thank you for your interest in my opinion.

And so how many have to freeze to death before we do something 13.Jan.2004 10:00

Someone who cares

Although I did not see this report, I am very aware of our homeless and their plight year round. As we sit in our warm homes with our conviences how easy it is to judge these people. A state with the highest unemployment rate for the past few years means that many of those that are homeless are not just men down on their luck. There are many families with small children that suffered through this weather and will probably see more of it in the coming months. I say if we have to watch this coverage all day then at least show something that will get people off their butts to help their fellow man and children. The richest country in the world and we can't even seem to take care of our own. How sad...I for one have gathered warm clothing, blankets and anything else I think these people who are down on their luck can use, me and a few friends will be distibuting what we collect over the coming months to any who need it. I challenge those that have all their comforts met to step up to the plate and help where they can.

Any of Us Could Be Homeless 08.Feb.2004 15:22

N. R. Key

I'm quite thankful I did not see that calloused reporter trying to ignore the homeless man while doing an live outdoor report on the snowy weather in Portland. I live in southern Oregon where winter weather conditions traditionally are quite severe, so snow is no news to me. However, a young man very dear to me was homeless in Portland, and did wake up one morning covered with snow, at about the time the reporter was trying to come up with her cutesy snow story. About 18 months ago, this young man was employed and had a home. Then one night while on his way home, he was left for dead by a hit and run driver. Now, he is doing the best he can with permanent disabilities, without health insurance due to cut-backs with the Oregon Health Plan, and without public assistance. I used to be thankful to live in a country that helped the poor and disenfranchised. The past few years cause me to wonder where we are going as a nation. Do we stop to think that those society wants to ignore may actually be the majority? Where will we be if the true majority rise up to exercise the power they don't seem to know they possess?

Homeless Search Engine + New Crisis Web Portal 16.Sep.2005 10:36


http://www.SpareSomeChange.com is a neat homeless/poverty search tool I made, anyone can go to a local library to use free internet to use (even those suffering homelessness are allowed in North American libraries for free internet/computer access)
I have also made a customized EMERGENCY type search engine that links only to crisis situation type websites (like relief aide, evacuation planning layouts, crisis management setup and others relating to disasters caused by terrorism, natural disasters, poverty, disease and man-made war), see http://www.CrisisSearch.com ... This niche portal was made after the Katrina devastation and hopefully it will assist humanity in/during the next disasterous crisis...