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PDX, SR and the Matt Davis story…

May 7, 2010

Matt Davis is an odd and unforgiving creature, and one of the hardest working newsmen in the Pacific Northwest. I have written on Matt before. I believe I compared him to Hunter S. Thompson once minus the LSD, and still believe that to be true.

From the moment I met the man he made me nervous, like before getting in a fistfight, or bridge jumping when you were a kid.

Being that I work with some of the hardest brothers and sisters on the streets one day, and have to attend the King’s ball the next, it takes a lot to make me really uncomfortable. Matt made me uncomfortable. Did we having a working relationship, or were we going to go out in the street and duel? You never really knew.

As time went on I realized that Matt didn’t give two shits either way. He was after the story. And you may or may not have information, or be a part of what he was chasing that particular day.  He wasn’t a lazy reporter. He would meet people face to face, and bring himself into the environment he was covering— more than I can say about any reporter in Portland that has ever challenged Street Roots, or myself on a particular issue. While at times I wanted to choke the man for the way he was covering an issue, he always had my respect.

There have been many in people in Portland that Matt has gunned for. He has gunned for both myself, and SR. I consider it an honor. You really haven’t lived in PDX until Matt has you in his cross hairs, but that’s beside the point. Matt along with then news editor Amy Ruiz helped put issues like homelessness, housing and mental health on the main stage— therefore helping groups like SR, Soup Box Under the Bridge, and the Mental Health Association of Portland, etc. gain credibility.

For better or worse, SR and many other social justice activists were sources for his stories, and collectively we often times tipped him off to important happenings. But that didn’t happen just because he was a reporter for a newspaper, it happened because he was a compassionate individual who built real relationships and was trying to get to the heart of a problem, and solve it.

His stories over the past couple of years have spanned far and wide into Portland politics, and have contributed to things like police oversight and reform, a possible housing levy, mental health services and much more. Things that don’t come lightly in PDX, or any city without battle scares.

Today, Matt announced he’s headed south to New Orleans where he’ll find a place to land one way or another. My personal opinion is he belongs on the national and international stage, and if he doesn’t get shot in the Big Easy for his style of writing— I think that’s where we’ll find him one day.

There’s no question that Portland is a better place because of Matt Davis, and the editors at the Merc that let him run wild. I know he has made me a better person and civic leader, and I don’t think I’m the only one.

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