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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Mike Carter and Paul Shukovsky: Seattle’s Drug-Addled News Reporters

posted by on April 24 at 16:14 PM

The announcement came from the DEA. Yesterday at 1 p.m., a press conference downtown would detail a string of pot raids and arrests around Seattle. So I, familiar with the unscrutinizing coverage the daily papers reserve for drug busts, wrote this post to challenge reporters in the mainstream media. Could they ask the sorts of questions about pot busts that they would ask about any other policy issue—why is the government doing this and is the strategy effective? Basically, cover the different sides of the issue.

The Times and the PI sent respectively Mike Carter and Paul Shukovsky. Two smart guys – and solid reporters on other subjects – and they wrote the same old rah-rah stories (almost identical articles) that glorify drug busts. They go like this: feds have announced arrests, they’re cracking down on drugs, about a dozen people were busted, those suspects are likely going to jail. Curtain.

Where’s the rest—like how much the raids cost, if the defendants (or organizations who speak for them) have anything to say about it, if armed raids were the best tactic, and if this will reduce availability of pot? I called Carter and Shukovsky to find out.

Carter: “I think we can let it go that Dan Savage thinks I’m a fucking credulous hack. In fact, we’re going to.” Hangs up.

Shukovsky: “If the Slog is going to award me the super hack of the day, I want a plaque or something. I’m not going to comment to you.”

First things first. Can we get Mr. Shukovsky a “super hack of the day” plaque?

Next, guys, it’s not that Dan thinks you’re fucking credulous hacks. It’s that everyone now knows you’re fucking credulous hacks—on the issue of pot. My polite phone call was your chance to explain that there’s some logic behind omitting the parts of a story that would be included in any piece of objective journalism about these busts—what the Times and PI purports to report—but you refused to talk.

It’s not like you have to take a position to legalize marijuana. Here’s an example of covering two sides of controversial enforcement stories, while remaining objective. For these examples we’ll use stories written by… you.

Carter on a pedophilia case.

[about the enforcement] Assistant U.S. Attorney Roger Rogoff described one of the letters written by Weldon Marc Gilbert as a “template for the misguided, skewed thinking of a typical grooming child molester,” intended to deflect guilt and manipulate the boy into not cooperating with authorities….

[question the enforcement] The recovery of the first letter outraged Gilbert’s defense attorneys because it was reportedly found by a guard in a stack of legal documents. The defense has filed a motion seeking to dismiss the federal charges against Gilbert, alleging the government is guilty of “outrageous conduct” that deprived Gilbert of his constitutional right to legal counsel. That motion has been sealed by a federal judge.

Shukovsky on a whaling case:

Prosecutors charged the whalers with violating the Marine Mammal Protection Act, a misdemeanor that carries up to a year in jail. If found guilty of also violating tribal laws, they could face time in a reservation jail [about the enforcement]….

Johnson, 55, said he was thinking of the next generation of Makah whalers when he launched the hunt for the gray whale [questions about the enforcement]. “The five of us did this to protect the kids,” he said. “If nobody exercises their treaty right — we don’t have one.”

The Makahs signed the Treaty of Neah Bay in 1855, giving up vast tracts of forest lands laced with streams teeming with salmon. The only treaty recognizing a tribe’s right to hunt whales, it’s an acknowledgement that Makah culture and spirituality — not to mention traditional cuisine — are thoroughly infused with whales and whaling.

Good reporting on those issues, gentlemen. See, you didn’t have to advocate for any position to cover those stories fairly. And when it comes to pot, you don’t have to be the DEA’s tools.

RSS icon Comments


Those cubs need to smoke a j, yo.

Posted by Ziggity | April 24, 2008 4:21 PM

I'm not going to lie, I like Mike's response.

Posted by Mr. Poe | April 24, 2008 4:26 PM


More people in prison - more burden on the taxpayers.

Way to go FEDS!

(*cough* LOSERS! *cough*)

Posted by Will in Seattle | April 24, 2008 4:26 PM

Once again, The Stranger picks a fight first, then realizes they had a chance to move the ball forward afterwards, but it's too late because you already made enemies.

Dan made enemies, that is, and then Dominic is stuck trying to get somebody to talk to him. I think this explains why Feit and Barnett struggle so much to explain why things happen in this town: you burn your rep to the ground and nobody will talk to you. Then decisions get made and you sit on the outside wondering why.

Posted by elenchos | April 24, 2008 4:35 PM

I think it's important to try and see things from their point of view. They'd been tarred and feathered ("fucking credulous hack," and the like) on The Stranger's blog for most of the day. So, even after a "polite phone call," can you really blame them for not wanting to comment? Maybe they thought they wouldn't be heard fairly, particularly since the War on Drugs has polarized so many voices on this issue. It's like shouting across the divide.

Give them some time to cool their heads. And maybe folks should call off their crucifictions as well.

Posted by James | April 24, 2008 4:37 PM

We so mean.

Posted by Dan Savage | April 24, 2008 4:43 PM


Good point.

Posted by Mr. Poe | April 24, 2008 4:44 PM

There's definitely some truth to what elenchos is saying in comment #4, but thin-skin is definitely a strong trait among Seattle Times employees. There just isn't an excuse any more for giving drug warriors a pass on the well-known uselessness of their "operations."

Posted by thehim | April 24, 2008 4:47 PM

I have to agree that the Stranger's rep comes back to bite it when they try to go serious on something. Wasn't this the paper that ran a feature on which TV news reader would be the best to fuck, and explicitly how a few years back?

That said, I hope Dan sends the hack plaque.

Posted by Tiktok | April 24, 2008 4:48 PM

You're kidding, right? You rip both of them a new one, then Savage piles on and rips them another one, and then you're surprised when they don't chat it up with you on your "polite" phone call?

How fucking stupid are you?

Posted by tomcat98109 | April 24, 2008 4:49 PM

Thank you for changing the headline of your post. I don't work for the Seattle Times, nor do I know anyone who does, but I've got to say the animosity the Stranger writers are displaying toward the Times writers recently is unpleasant. I'm not saying that some of you aren't bringing up good points, it's just that the spiteful and gleeful way you are making them comes across as petulance not journalism.

I like the Stranger, I like most of the writers. But as someone pointed out in another slog post recently, you guys aren't the scrappy young upstart paper raging against the big city rags anymore. You are a legitimate source of news and information for a lot of people. The Force is strong with you, how do you want to use it?

Posted by PopTart | April 24, 2008 4:56 PM

Sorry, gang, but I've lost all patience for the credulous, bullshit, hackass "War on Drugs" stenography that daily papers around here insist on publishing again and again. And the Stranger is not a single person; If these crybabies don't wanna talk to Dom because I went and said something mean—and accurate—about them, then I suppose it's cool for Richard Conlin to refuse to talk to Times reporters because Joni Balter said something mean—and inaccurate—about him.

And I actually asked Dom to change the header on this post. I thought it was a bit harsh. Me! Mr. Meanypants! Okay, I'm off to this fundraiser for ex-Times employees...

Posted by Dan Savage | April 24, 2008 5:20 PM

But I liked Mike's response too... but let's not pretend that we could've helped the Times and PI see the light if only we'd been nice and respectful about this. We've been nice and respectful about it in the past—this isn't the first time we've pointed this stuff out—and Dom wrote a perfectly nice and respectful post about it yesterday that both these guys doubtless read before they wrote their stories. And War on Drugs press release regurgitation continues.

Wanna feel sorry for someone? Don't feel sorry for poor Mike Carter or his double at the PI. Feel sorry for the 830,000 people busted for marijuana offenses last year—80% for possession. Reporting like the crap in the Times and PI today keep the War on Drugs roaring along, and they deserve to be slapped for it.

Posted by Dan Savage | April 24, 2008 5:25 PM

Thank FSM that somebody's calling out these "news" people on their unbearable shit.

It's not just the establishment media's total failure to accurately report on the War on Drugs--it's EVERYTHING: the Bush administration, the economy, healthcare, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US as a state sponsor of torture, and on and on and on.

The establishment media's not even bothering to try to make their right-wing propaganda and lies even remotely believable anymore.

And then it's a mystery to these dicks that newspaper circulation is dropping like a lead balloon as people look elsewhere for some kind of honest information.

Well, duuuuuuhhhhh.

Posted by Original Andrew | April 24, 2008 5:29 PM

Thanks, Dan. Good points in @12 and @13.

It's time to Just Say No to both the War on Drugs and the War on Countries Starting With The Letter I.

Both are abysmal wastes of time and scarce taxpayer resources.

Meanwhile, the Red Bushies still get high just as often. And still avoid combat service.

Posted by Will in Seattle | April 24, 2008 5:33 PM

Red Bushies?

Posted by James | April 24, 2008 5:39 PM

The criticism of the PI and Times is completely justified.

The Stranger makes no claim of being unbiased. They openly advocate positions. Their bias is open. They are an alternative paper, and intentionally smart ass.

But both the Seattle Times and the PI claim to be above all that. They claim to be unbiased journalists (other than their op/ed pieces). To be objective. To question. To tell both sides of a story. You never see a story about gay rights in the Times or the PI without them also throwing in a quote from some raving right wing nut job, for balance.

So where is the balance in these articles? Where are the questions? Seattle overwhelmingly voted to de-emphasize pot busts a couple years ago. It is obvious that a majority of Seattle residents either don't give much of a fuck about pot smokers, or think it should be legalized altogether. You'd think reporters in Seattle might take that into consideration when reporting on a big splashy pot bust.

If pot wasn't illegal, all they'd have is a couple of nurseries selling nursery supplies (like every other nursery in the state), and some people growing plants in their house (like the orchids and violets in my front window).

So why spend all that time, money, and effort to bust a few grow operations? Do such raids work? Are they cost effective? Are they unnecessarily dangerous, either to the police or the suspects? Do they actually reduce the amount of pot on the streets? Do they make us any safer? Would simply legalizing it make us safer? Does filling our prisons with everyone involved in pot growing or smoking help or harm society in any measurable way? Now that those businesses have been shut down, did they ask all the remaining employees (most of whom probably had no idea about the sales to pot growers) how they will pay their rent next month?

These are all legitimate objective questions... none of which were asked by the "reporters". The reporters didn't ask anyone other than the cops giving the press release any questions. Nothing from the defendants. Nothing from people who advocate for any other position for dealing with drug issues besides locking everyone up.

This is not unbiased reporting. This is advocacy journalism... Advocating for the DEA.

Posted by Reverse Polarity | April 24, 2008 5:40 PM

#16, you know, Busheviks.

Posted by w7ngman | April 24, 2008 5:44 PM

Word up Dan! Word!

Posted by el Rutherford | April 24, 2008 6:00 PM

I didn't say "mean" by the way. Who cares about mean or not mean?

It's just that you're supposed to rape, then pillage, then then burn. Rape, pillage, burn. In that order. Is that so hard? This burn, pillage, and rape shit is not helping. It's poorly thought out.

Posted by elenchos | April 24, 2008 6:04 PM

This was probably Mike's assignment: "Do a story on the pot busts."

If you want 50 inches about the war on drugs and how much all these things cost, maybe you could give a guy a couple of days.

Responsible journalism doesn't come out of thin air.

Posted by Hey you | April 24, 2008 6:09 PM

Some of y'all been watchin too much of The Wire. Drugs on the table!

Posted by YAWWWWWWWWWN | April 24, 2008 6:24 PM

Uh... Hey you?

Deadline pressures doesn't excuse what Carter and his double at the PI busted out today. Carter wrote 14 paragraphs on that DEA press conference. There was a photo and the story jumped. And you want us to believe that Carter just couldn't possibly make a single phone call to, say, NORML, or former SPD chief Norm Stamper (surely they have his number on file), and obtained one, single, measly balancing quote? We're not asking for an anti-drug war screed. Only for the balance the Times practically snaps itself in half auto-fellating itself about providing the "community."

You know, the same community that overwhelmingly approved I-75—despite the Times urging a "no" vote on the initiative that made busts for marijuana possession the SPD's "lowest law-enforcement priority."

And since when does "Do a story on the [police busting X]" equate to "Do a one-sided, biased piece that presents just one side of the story—the state's, the Fed's, the SPD's—to the exclusion of all other sides of this story"? Oh, wait, I know since when: since the start of the glorious War on Drugs.

What he said:

The reporters didn't ask anyone other than the cops giving the press release any questions. Nothing from the defendants. Nothing from people who advocate for any other position for dealing with drug issues besides locking everyone up.

This is not unbiased reporting. This is advocacy journalism... Advocating for the DEA.

Posted by Dan Savage | April 24, 2008 7:06 PM

The carry-page in the Times contained an ad for the Rick Steves Comcast Special / Website.

Posted by six shooter | April 24, 2008 8:07 PM

Have you ever worked at a real newspaper, Dan? Or have you just sat on your little velvet tuffet for the last few years fronting a free, tranny-ad supported tabloid? I hardly think you or Domenic are the AUTH-or-IT-eee on this subject. Your posts come off as "I'm right, you're wrong, so be it" but no one here takes you seriously - neither one of you. Your copy runs alongside a twink grabbing his moose knuckle with the text, "It's all yours." Oh right, that's real WSJ stuff - Pulitzer shit.

These reporters simply did their jobs. Interpretation and judgment are labeled as "commentary" and neither was presented as such. Or in the Times' case, interpretation and judgment fall on the useless op/ed pages - when it's not NYT warm-ups.

Until you've done your time at a daily, shut your steaming pie hole.

Posted by Comment on your ass | April 24, 2008 9:19 PM

@21 - Read the story. A manifesto about the War on Drugs is not necessary. However, isn't asking questions about the effectiveness and cost of the recent raids straight out of Journalism 101? It doesn't have to be nasty. Just basic questions.

Dominic - Next time disguise your voice and say you're from the Seattle Weekly.

Posted by Mahtli69 | April 24, 2008 9:38 PM

Nope, Dan wouldn't know real journalism if it bit him on the ass - he's made that perfectly clear many times. I'd bet he doesn't even know the significance of my nick.

Posted by etaoin shrdlu | April 24, 2008 9:41 PM

It may comfort you all to know that half of either newsroom, P-I or Times, could pass a fucking drug test.

Posted by Tomacherly5 | April 24, 2008 9:41 PM

@25 Objectivity does not exist, particularly in news. When it comes to daily papers, "objectivity" means, "conforming to the most widely held biases." Dan Savage and Rupert Murdoch ain't got a lot in common, but being up front about their biases is one thing, and one I respect.

Posted by Gitai | April 24, 2008 10:06 PM

I think nothing symbolizes the total futility of the drug wars quite like typesetting nerds showing up in this thread.

Posted by brent | April 24, 2008 10:11 PM

What about the editors? Aren't they supposed to tell these reporters to go make some fucking phone calls? The bias in these pot stories is institutionalized. (I wonder if the papers' health columns would touch pot issues, pro or con. ) I think Dan is being too nice to these guys. Both reporters wrote weak stories and they know it. Their editors should step up to the plate and confront -- in print -- the issues raised by The Stranger. If anything, it would sell some papers, right?

Posted by ROAG | April 25, 2008 12:01 AM

I'm sure we can expect a well-thought response in the pages of the Stranger in the coming weeks, right?

Just as soon the Stranger clears out the editors box of 3-year-old recycled stories about Seattle City Hall's poorly operated green building.


Posted by Smoke 'em if you got 'em! | April 25, 2008 8:50 AM

Just a reminder (from Shukovsky's story):

If found guilty of conspiracy to manufacture marijuana, they face a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years to life in prison and a $4 million fine.

This is for selling gardening supplies.

Posted by poppy | April 25, 2008 9:48 AM

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