Newly announced Seattle mayoral candidate Tim Burgess tried to get off on the right foot yesterday with The Stranger, offering them an exclusive story about his decision to get into the race.
In a flattering piece about Burgess, a city councilmember with whom The Stranger has often disagreed, Dominic Holden wrote: “Giving an advance interview to The Stranger is classic Burgess; it’s his cunning genius to neutralize critics by talking to them.”
It was a clever piece of strategy by Burgess, known for media savvy honed as a former journalist and advertising executive and in two terms on the City Council. The Stranger tends to go overboard for its favorite candidates. In 2009, the paper published a cover with McGinn’s face on it at a crucial point in the race, and wrote long articles in his favor, including one that called his opponent an “idiot” in the headline. In other words, it’s not a bad thing to have The Stranger on your side, and Burgess may have seen an opportunity, since The Stranger has been less than supportive of the mayor recently.
The only problem was that The Stranger’s scoop was not really a scoop. The Seattle Times, PubliCola, and The Seattle P-I had stories and interviews prepped for publication at 5 p.m. Tuesday, the same time Burgess told Holden he could put up his story. Holden noticed, and today posted a long Facebook status taking the councilmember to task. He wrote:
“Tim Burgess promised to give The Stranger a scoop on his run for mayor, even approaching me with the idea, but he was not true to his word. In our hour-long interview last week, he agreed that we could publish the story last night at 5:00 p.m., before any other news outlet. Burgess unequivocally guaranteed that he would not confirm his candidacy to any other news outlet until after The Stranger published its story.”
In the comments, Burgess apologized: “Dom is right. Dom was the first journalist I entrusted with my plans to announce. I sat down with him a week ago for my most extensive interview. As word of my announcement spread yesterday afternoon I granted other interviews.”
Still, it looks like his early effort to co-opt The Stranger’s support fell flat.