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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Over 100 Seattle Times Newsroom Employees Sign a Letter Saying Their Paper's Political Ad Buy "Undermines" Their Journalism

Posted by on Thu, Oct 18, 2012 at 3:28 PM

Via Jim Brunner:

Frank Blethen
The Seattle Times

Dear Frank,

We write to express our frustration that The Seattle Times Co. is publishing advertisements endorsing one of the state's two candidates for governor, as well as a statewide referendum campaign.

We reporters, photographers, editors, columnists, producers and artists work every day to carry out this newspaper's mission to communicate the news to the Northwest in as fair and objective a manner as possible. We are proud of our stewardship role and your continuous support over the years, despite significant financial burdens.

That is why the decision to publish these ads is so disappointing. It threatens the two things we value the most, the traits that make The Seattle Times a strong brand: Our independence and credibility.

We know you value those things, too. The Seattle Times Company has done an exemplary job providing value to advertisers while also practicing independent journalism.

The company has explained this decision as a creative attempt to grow revenue during the political ad season. In this economic environment initiatives for more revenue are welcomed.

But consider its effect on The Seattle Times' core mission, journalism.

We strive to remain independent from the institutions we cover. We shine a light on the process from the outside. We are not part of the process.

This ad campaign threatens to compromise that integrity. By sponsoring an ad for one gubernatorial candidate, The Seattle Times—the entire company—has become one of the top contributors in support of that candidate's campaign. We are now part of a campaign's machinery, creating a perception that we are not an independent watchdog.

The publication of the first ad came one day after The Seattle Times showed its commitment to old-fashioned independent journalism by sponsoring a debate between the two candidates, moderated in part by one of our political reporters. During that debate, both candidates pointed to stories or editorials written by our staff to support their points. To the candidates and the viewing public, we weren't part of one campaign or another. We were the arbiters, a trusted, third-party source of information. That is core to our identity.

The ads undermine the work we do and threaten to muddy that perception with the readers who rely on us.


Comments (27) RSS

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Max Solomon 1
don't like it? go inherit your own newspaper.
Posted by Max Solomon on October 18, 2012 at 3:33 PM · Report this
The BTB 2
Posted by The BTB on October 18, 2012 at 3:38 PM · Report this
Fnarf 3
I wish there was a way to support the generally excellent news, sports, and weather staff without putting money in Blethen's pocket.
Posted by Fnarf on October 18, 2012 at 3:41 PM · Report this
Sir Vic 4
Will Blethen respond with one of those "If Obama wins, you're all fired" letters that Team Mittsy has prescribed?
Posted by Sir Vic on October 18, 2012 at 3:51 PM · Report this
Josh Bis 5
I don't mean for this to come across as snarky, but I'm shocked that the Seattle Times still has over 100 newsroom employees.
Posted by Josh Bis on October 18, 2012 at 3:55 PM · Report this
Gay Dude for Romney 6
@3: You could hang out at 13-Coins and buy them drinks.
Posted by Gay Dude for Romney on October 18, 2012 at 3:56 PM · Report this
At the Times, they have a union, so they won't get "let go" for speaking out. What would happen at the Stranger if the same thing happened? We all know.
Posted by hmmmmm on October 18, 2012 at 4:09 PM · Report this
I'm less interested in the contents of the letter than I am in who signed it.
Posted by melville on October 18, 2012 at 4:11 PM · Report this
I agree with melville. Making the names of those who signed public would exponentially increase the letter's effectiveness. Come on, somebody, leak the who dang letter, signers and all.
Posted by abbiehoffman on October 18, 2012 at 4:19 PM · Report this
DOUG. 11
I wonder if Nicole Brodeur had the balls to stand up to Frank this time.
Posted by DOUG. on October 18, 2012 at 4:31 PM · Report this
Ditto. Show me the names. That's the point, right?
Posted by DawginExile on October 18, 2012 at 4:31 PM · Report this
Those reporters that depend on sources? They might find some doors shut on them because of this.
Posted by westello on October 18, 2012 at 4:32 PM · Report this
@13 interesting point, but isn't that essentially the same argument as those who don't want their initiative donations revealed, that it could have professional repercussions?
Posted by DawginExile on October 18, 2012 at 4:51 PM · Report this
I want to see the names, too. While I believe that most of the ST journalists are ethical and adhere to best practices, I know of one who screwed the pooch big time to sensationalize a story.

We all work with weak colleagues, but this one did some serious, serious damage.
Posted by Fizgig on October 18, 2012 at 5:11 PM · Report this
theophrastus 16
@8 those that walked the guild strike line against the Seattle Times back in 2000 almost universally were slowly re-assigned to lowlier positions and/or had those that crossed the line become their very unsympathetic bosses. Their guild was a very weak safety net indeed.
Posted by theophrastus on October 18, 2012 at 5:12 PM · Report this
Okay, it's a letter. But what are they going to do about it? Where's the "or else"?
Posted by rutabaga pie on October 18, 2012 at 5:18 PM · Report this
Keister Button 18
The ads undermine the work we do and threaten to get us journalists confused with the ludicrous editorial team by the readers and whatever subscribers we might still have.

Posted by Keister Button on October 18, 2012 at 5:25 PM · Report this
Cascadian 19
@17, the only "there else" there could be would be a mass resignation. They can't even organize a strike, because that kind of action isn't allowed under our country's meager labor protections.
Posted by Cascadian on October 18, 2012 at 5:32 PM · Report this
Cato the Younger Younger 20
@8, I heard from two former staffers at "Seattle's Only Newspaper" you get your ass canned.

But I am sure those two were just making it up
Posted by Cato the Younger Younger on October 18, 2012 at 6:04 PM · Report this
Ummm, kidz, if you click on the link in Eli's post, you'll see the letter, signatures and all.

Many of them don't write legibly, but with the aid of their Newsroom staff page I could figure out these:

Kenneth Rosenthal, Lynn Thompson, Steve Miletich, Emily Heffter, Kristen Jackson, Kathy Long, Alan Berner, Danny Westneat, Holly Henke, Brian Cantwell, Nicole Brodeur, Keith Ervin, Sara Jean Green, Rick Lund, Mike Lindblom, Sanjay Bhatt.

And that's only from the first (of three) page of signatures.
Posted by N in Seattle on October 18, 2012 at 6:34 PM · Report this
The link simply shows the letter, not the names.
Posted by sarah70 on October 18, 2012 at 6:42 PM · Report this
Oops, now I see the names. More than 110 of them. Blethen surely can't fire all of them -- not all at once, at least.
Posted by sarah70 on October 18, 2012 at 6:46 PM · Report this
Holy smokes, the names are there. Wow. I wish there was a way to support those brave souls and/or some effective way to protest the paper's stupidity.
Posted by abbiehoffman on October 18, 2012 at 7:42 PM · Report this
lauramae 26
I think that it is great that the employees don't like the Time's boneheaded decision to sponsor a political ad. However the Times has officially become irrelevant on any issue that any one on its staff would report.

I'll never read it again. I'll never buy it again. Hopefully many people, regardless of which candidate they support will follow the same.
Posted by lauramae on October 18, 2012 at 8:06 PM · Report this
I think the Inslee campaign should shut the Times out of their press conferences and calls. McKenna set the standard for what is considered a journalistic outlet, I think turn about is fair.
Posted by Mr John on October 18, 2012 at 11:04 PM · Report this
Mister G, you're on a tear this evening. In some of these posts you bring up some points (I agree, Washington Dems have gotten lazy) but then I remember you're the nut job who insisted that the city of Seattle was gonna create a flora Gestapo and take all our Japanese maples away! You're still that dofus. You're sadly not a troll but rather whatever WiS or SRotU are. Which, frankly is even sadder.
Posted by CbytheSea on October 19, 2012 at 12:09 AM · Report this

You don't have to like policies like those, but what's fake about them?
Posted by Alden on October 19, 2012 at 7:39 AM · Report this

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