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Thursday, October 18, 2012

State Democratic Party Chair Says the Seattle Times Company's Political Ad Buy Is "A horrifying precedent and a really poorly designed marketing experiment."

Posted by on Thu, Oct 18, 2012 at 12:45 PM

Dwight Pelz
  • E.S.
  • Dwight Pelz
At a press conference this morning, Washington State Democratic Party Chair Dwight Pelz said he's never seen anything like the Seattle Times Company's current political ad buy in his 35 year of doing politics in Washington State.

"I think it crosses a sacred line in journalism," Pelz said, with former KING 5 news anchor Mike James standing by to hammer the point home.

"The Times has never made its overwhelming support for [Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob] McKenna a secret," Pelz continued, noting that previously, this support was contained on the editorial page.

Because of that, until now Pelz said he has been giving the paper's news reporting an "innocent until proven guilty" presumption when it comes to questions of bias. Now that he paper is bankrolling $80,000 worth of ads for McKenna through Election Day, Pelz said, he will be giving the paper's news reporting a "guilty until proven innocent" presumption when it comes to questions of bias.

"Unfortunately, I think it casts questions on the veracity of the journalism that comes out of the Times," Pelz said. He called the paper's gambit, which is supposedly meant to prove the power of print advertising, "A horrifying precedent and a really poorly designed marketing experiment."

Then Mike James stepped up to the podium and said he doesn't even buy the idea that the newspaper is conducting a marketing experiment.

"I don't buy this experiment," James said. "It’s more like petulance. It’s like saying, 'People aren’t paying enough attention to our editorial endorsement, so let's go out there and support it with political ads to see if that makes a difference.'"

James said he's been hearing from friends in the Times newsroom that they're outraged about their company's move—which matches what I've heard—and he thinks "the damage it has done to this newspaper's credibility may be irrecoverable."

Pelz then said he wishes that, if the Times Company was really determined to conduct a public experiment to prove the value of print advertising, it would have done it "on soap or cars—don't do it on elections with three weeks to go."

Asked whether the Times Company's experiment will end up proving the value of printed political ads if McKenna wins, Pelz shot back: "No."

He quickly added: "He's not gonna win."


Comments (16) RSS

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tomsj 1
I don't disagree with the Democratic Party Chair that a newspaper's mission should be limited to reporting the news rather than manipulating it. But, I wonder if he'd have taken this position if the Times had dropped $80K on Inslee. And, what about Times' campaign to push approval of R-74? Is the Democratic Party Chair against that campaign, too?
Posted by tomsj on October 18, 2012 at 1:03 PM · Report this
Eli Sanders 2
@1: Pelz said he's against that campaign, too. We asked him about this at the press conference, and he replied: "I think it's a bad idea whenever they do it."
Posted by Eli Sanders on October 18, 2012 at 1:18 PM · Report this
Free Lunch 3
If they really wanted to test the effectiveness of print ads, they should have done something directly measurable.

Advertise something that currently does not rely on advertising for sales, and track the sales at a few locations. Example: RC Cola. That would be a more valid experiment.

But that wouldn't accomplish the goal here, which I take to be getting a piece of that huge Citizen's United cash cow. It must drive Blethen crazy that TV and radio stations are are pulling in piles of cash, selling ad time at inflated rates, and he's getting almost none of it.
Posted by Free Lunch on October 18, 2012 at 1:18 PM · Report this
The R-74 support is a smokescreen. The "marketing experiment" is a lie. This is all about Frank's ego and getting an anti-tax hand puppet into the governor's chair. And like so many of Frank's business moves that have been borne out of ego and petulance and greed, this too will backfire.
Posted by DOUG. on October 18, 2012 at 1:19 PM · Report this
What is the difference between what the Times is doing, and what political bloggers regularly do, beside the scale? Both blur the line between journalizum, advokasy, advertizing, and shillery. The Times is supposed to quietly die, say the bloggers. That is the difference.
Posted by hmmmmm on October 18, 2012 at 1:23 PM · Report this
It's hard to believe that Mike James thinks this will jeopardize the Times' credibility, because that implies he's thought that the paper had credibility before this.
Posted by sarah70 on October 18, 2012 at 1:35 PM · Report this
"And, what about Times' campaign to push approval of R-74? Is the Democratic Party Chair against that campaign, too?"

You see, a Democrat / Progressive / Liberal will take a stand AGAINST something that is advantageous to them if it will help the cause of equality.

While a Republican / Tea Party / Conservative will take a stand AGAINST something that is advantageous to them as long as it maintains or reinforces inequality (with them above other groups).
Posted by fairly.unbalanced on October 18, 2012 at 1:41 PM · Report this
I'm guessing the Times had more subscription cancellations yesterday than in any other single day in the paper's history.
Posted by I Got Nuthin' on October 18, 2012 at 1:48 PM · Report this
There are so many ways to point out the bullshit nature of this. I've already mocked and ridiculed the supposed experiment in other threads. But let me add one more reason this is bullshit:

If the Times were truly interested in an "experiment", they could readily enlist the assistance of UW researchers to craft a proper experimental program and study method. They already have UW support on the Election Eye blog, they've gotten their assistance on analyzing voting data (as in the case of the Gonzalez primary), etc, etc.

But, of course, most researchers I know there would scoff at such an infantile idea as this and call Dear Publisher a fucking idiot.
Posted by mayberrymachiavelli on October 18, 2012 at 1:51 PM · Report this
Ballard Pimp 10
The Times has never made a secret that it is the Republican Party organ in Western Washington, so no one is too surprised at this. The problem for Blethen is that, now that he has claimed this is a "marketing experiment", he will in fact prove that print advertising is utterly useless in political campaigns.
Posted by Ballard Pimp on October 18, 2012 at 2:27 PM · Report this
@5: The difference is that the Times has attempted to hold themselves above political bloggers as an independent, non-partisan government watchdog. Their move to endorse and financially support (through the donation of ad space) a candidate in a partisan race is idiotic and hurts the credibility of their writers and their news coverage. And, yes, the donation of space to the Yes on R-74 campaign is also stupid and counterproductive.
Posted by J.R. on October 18, 2012 at 4:40 PM · Report this
Teslick 12
What J.R. said.

Like others, the stated reasoning is so utterly unconvincing that I really can't believe that anyone in The Times management thought anyone would believe it. I would a *little* bit more respect for this move if they would have just come out and said they want "their side" to win. A pile of dog crap remains crap, no matter how many times you say it's oddly shaped chocolate.
Posted by Teslick on October 18, 2012 at 6:09 PM · Report this
It's too bad that a newspaper just can't be a newspaper anymore providing information. Now it has to have a view and an agenda.

That's why online blogs are flourishing and newspapers are dying.
Posted by writerinthesky on October 18, 2012 at 10:44 PM · Report this
What if the Times had simply reprinted its McKenna endorsement?
Posted by Mister G on October 18, 2012 at 11:29 PM · Report this
Free Lunch 15
@14 - I guess if they blew the endorsement up to full-page size, added eye-catching graphics, boiled the text down to a couple key phrases, and reprinted it every day between now and the election, that would be a fair comparison.
Posted by Free Lunch on October 19, 2012 at 12:38 AM · Report this
It would be nice to know the number of cancellations, due to the "experiment" with THE TIMES. Mine is among those.
Posted by Dinah2 on October 21, 2012 at 10:02 AM · Report this

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