“If you are the mayor of a city, I can pretty much guarantee that you are going to be closely scrutinized by your local newspaper," said Kelly McBride, an expert on media ethics at The Poynter Institute, in response to this morning's claims by Mayor Mike McGinn's wife that he's being bullied by the Seattle Times.
"And," McBride continued, "that’s how it should be. Nobody wins when the local press is a champion of the most powerful person in town.”
At my request, McBride read the article that led McGinn's wife, Peg Lynch, to cancel her subscription to Seattle Times last year.
“Sure, there’s a fair amount of snarkiness there," McBride said of the piece. "I don’t think that that’s unusual in politics. And even from the news side, I think that there is a trend in this country to make news writing more edgy, and I think that it’s an attempt at being edgy. Bullying? No.”
(It should be noted that David Boardman, executive editor of the Seattle Times, is on Poynter's board of advisers. McBride, who volunteered that information, said that Boardman has no authority over Poynter's budget or its hiring and firing decisions.)
I told McBride that the editorial page of the Seattle Times is definitely not fond of McGinn, and that McGinn's wife feels that dislike has seeped into the paper's news coverage, in more than just the article in question.
“Maybe there are lots and lots of little digs over time, but even then, that is really common," she responded. "Go and see what the The New York Times says about Bloomberg, or what’s going on locally in D.C.... Seattle’s a big city, and you would presume that the chief executive is a pretty worldly person—meaning, he’s been around the block a few times. You don’t get to that kind of position without being roughed up a bit.”
Lynch, McBride said, "may not understand the nature of the relationship between the watchdog and the guy with all the power.”
A question McBride cannot answer, but that's on my mind: Given McGinn's anemic poll numbers and the precarious state of newspapers all over the country, who actually is "the guy with all the power" in this situation?
To the polls!
Who is powerful enough to actually bully the other?