Updated at 3:40 p.m.
More than 100 Seattle Times news staffers – including reporters, photographers, columnists, artists, editors and online news producers – signed a letter Thursday protesting the Times Co’s decision to sponsor newspaper ads supporting Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna and a statewide referendum for legalized gay marriage.
The letter, which was delivered to Times Publisher Frank Blethen, said the decision to publish the ad “threatens the two things we value the most, the traits that make The Seattle Times a strong brand: Our independence and credibility.”
While the Times company has described the ad campaign as a “pilot project” to demonstrate the effectiveness of newspaper advertising, the letter warned of the impact on the newspaper’s core mission of 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 threatens to compromise that integrity,” the letter says, noting the Times had now become “part of the campaign’s machinery, creating a perception that we are not an independent watchdog.”
Asked to comment about the letter, Seattle Times Co. spokeswoman Jill Mackie said by email:
There is not a newspaper publisher in the United States who is more respectful or supportive of journalists. And there is not a publisher who is more personally committed to independent journalism. Frank appreciates the journalists sharing their views and notes that their doing so reinforces the reality of the independence/separation between journalism and this effort we are all talking about. At the present time, I can’t comment on the impact of the letter, but what I do know is that the publisher will be thoughtful in his consideration of the concerns expressed.