Portland Tribune editor says his paper’s ‘Portlandia’ portrayal was ‘pretty funny’

tribunehqOn last Friday’s episode of “Portlandia”, the Portland Tribune was sold to LinxPDX — “a very successful online blog” — and editor George Heely was demoted to “linkalist.”

New owners Trudy (Carrie Brownstein) and Craig (Fred Armisen) meet with the staff and tell them about the paper’s new direction (“we’re just going to lose the whole print thing”).

Trudy: “People don’t need articles anymore, and we don’t want to provide things that people don’t care about.”
Craig: “They probably read about every fifth word, so just make it those five words.”

George (played by George Wendt) wants to keep doing real journalism, but he’s told to change his ways.

Trudy: “The site is called LinxPDX; we don’t actually have articles. We have links to other articles.”
Craig: “Think of yourself less of a journalist and more of a linkalist.”
George: “But we can still write stories.”
Trudy: “In your free time you can write all the stories you want.”

The tweet that got "70 million hits."

The tweet that got “70 million hits.”

In the end, George becomes the newsroom hero as his tweet — “Charlize Theron NSFW” — sets a LinxPDX record with “70 million hits.” When a colleague looks at him in disgust, George barks at the guy: “Get off my back, will ya? It’s the future!”

I asked the real Portland Tribune newsroom boss what he thought of the episode and how his newspaper was portrayed.

“I thought it was pretty funny,” says Tribune executive editor Kevin Harden. “And, given the state of the industry, I cringed just a bit because it tickled the truth.”

The Tribune shown in “Portlandia” isn’t the paper’s real headquarters, and “I can see why they didn’t use our building,” says the editor. The real Tribune interior “looks like an insurance office, except, of course, for a couple of sports editors’ desks, which look like recycling depots.”

What about George?

Wendt and Harden

Wendt and Harden

“I liked the fact that George Wendt (Norm!) was the editor, because he’s much better looking than me. The episode also fits the industry today, because there are many many times I’ve felt not so much like a journalist, but more like a ‘link-a-list.'”

Was the Tribune involved in the episode in any way?

“We didn’t have a role in the episode, but the Portland Tribune has been used as props many times in ‘Portlandia’ and in NBC’s ‘Grimm,’ which also is shot in Portland. I’ve had lunch a couple of times in the past two years with the ‘Portlandia’ folks … They apparently love the Portland Tribune because, as [director Jonathan] Krisel says, our boxes are everywhere (we’re a free publication) and its says ‘Portland’ on the flag. … The Oregonian, the Advance Publications daily in town, doesn’t say Portland, so nobody cares about it as a prop.”

He adds:

“We didn’t pitch our paper to them as a prop, they just adopted it. That’s fine with us. We’ll take that kind of marketing anytime. The ‘Grimm’ folks actually asked for permission to use the paper’s name in the TV show (they’ve done a few fake front pages as part of their story lines).”

UPDATE: Willamette Week’s offices were used for this episode. “We’re stoked that our stuff is on national television,” say the editors.

UPDATE 2: George Wendt likes this.

UPDATE 3: Watch a brief (3:30) clip from this episode.