Topic: The Seattle Times
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August 5, 2013 at 12:18 PM
One of the final fliers mailed by the Bruce Harrell for Seattle Mayor campaign could lead voters to conclude that Harrell has been endorsed by The Seattle Times. He hasn’t. The Seattle Times editorial board endorsed state Sen. Ed Murray in a lengthy and laudatory column that praised his experience and record.
The Harrell flier includes an “Endorsed by” headline on the left side. What follows below are three legitimate endorsements, a gap, and then the Seattle Times logo followed by a quote, “He’s an ex-football star who has dominated debates this campaign season.” The quote didn’t appear in any news story or editorial but was a tweet July 17 to promote the Times’ online mayoral candidate guide that includes profiles of all nine candidates.
Even one of the legitimate endorsements — “Seattle Democratic Legislative Districts” — is a little sketchy. Harrell didn’t get the sole endorsement in any of the city’s legislative districts. In the 37th, he shared an endorsement with Mayor Mike McGinn. In the 32nd, he shared an endorsement with four others. And in the 11th, which includes only a tiny portion of Seattle, he shared an endorsement with Peter Steinbrueck.
Harrell’s campaign manager, his niece Monisha Harrell, said they weren’t trying to mislead anyone. “There’s clearly a break,” she said, between the “Endorsed by” headline and the Seattle Times logo. “We were trying to show what people were saying about Bruce.”
She also said she doubted that any candidates mention the others in a co-endorsement, but rather just themselves.
October 18, 2012 at 1:56 PM
State Democratic Chairman Dwight Pelz called a news conference Thursday to criticize The Seattle Times Co. for its decision to run a series of free newspaper ads promoting Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna.
Speaking at the Democratic Party’s downtown Seattle headquarters, Pelz said he was “shocked” by the action, which he’d never seen before during his 35 years in Washington politics.
Times officials have said the decision was made by corporate executives without the input or involvement of the newsroom, but Pelz said the action crossed a “sacred line” in journalism and that it would raise questions about the veracity of the newspaper’s reporting. “Previously the reporting was innocent until proven guilty and now I think the reporting at The Times will be seen as sort of guilty until proven innocent,” he said.
Pelz added he didn’t buy statements by Times executives that the ads are merely an experiment to show the power of newspaper advertising and attract more political ads.
“If CBS News announced on a national level that they were gonna donate hundreds of millions of dollars advertising for Mitt Romney to run an experiment to see whether it would elect him President of the United States, I think everybody would be horrified by that,” Pelz said. “The idea that they’re gonna run an experiment that says if we donate advertising to Rob McKenna, we want to find out if this elects him as governor, I think that’s a horrifying precedent and a real poorly designed marketing experiment.”
“If they want to find out if their ads sell soap, you know, run ads for soap and see if it sells soap, but don’t do it for candidates,” he added.
While Pelz focused on the McKenna ads – a $75,750 independent expenditure campaign with newspaper ads scheduled to run through election day — he said he also disagreed with the Times Co. decision to run a similar slate of ads urging a yes vote on Referendum 74, which would legalize gay marriage.
The Times editorial board has endorsed both McKenna and gay marriage.
Asked about the Democrats’ comments, Times spokeswoman Jill Mackie said in an email that the “one-time pilot project” has nothing to do with the newspaper’s editorial endorsements. “It has to do with the fact that we rely on advertising to provide outstanding, unbiased journalism for our community,” she said.
With more than $100 million being spent on political advertising “in our area,” Mackie said the Times “wants to demonstrate that print advertising is a useful and effective means of reaching voters” and added that the paper’s McKenna a campaign “is a drop in the bucket.”
Meanwhile, the gubernatorial campaign of Democrat Jay Inslee seized on the Times ads to raise cash from supporters.
In a fundraising email with the subject line “Un-freaking-real,” Inslee campaign manager Joby Shimomura called the ad campaign “outrageous” and noted it made the Times Co. the third largest contributor to McKenna’s campaign effort.
“We can’t allow this to go unanswered. Will you contribute $3 right now to help us fight back against this unprecedented move?” she wrote.
October 17, 2012 at 11:58 AM
Post updated at 1:20 p.m. with comments from journalism and political experts.
The Seattle Times Co. jumped directly into two of the state’s hottest political contests Wednesday, launching an $80,000 independent-expenditure campaign promoting Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna and announcing a similar effort in support of the referendum to legalize gay marriage.
The company’s move — which drew quick criticism from some journalism and political experts — began with a full-page newspaper ad in support of McKenna’s campaign for governor. The ad, on page B6 of Wednesday’s editions of The Seattle Times, touts McKenna as “an easy way to end the gridlock that threatens to cripple state government,” and promotes the two-term attorney general’s talking points on funding education and creation of private sector jobs.
The decision to run the ad was made by the corporate side of the newspaper and was “completely separate from the journalism functions of the newspaper,” said Alan Fisco, executive vice president, revenue and new products, for The Seattle Times.
The company intends to run a similar campaign in support of Referendum 74, to legalize same-sex marriage, Fisco said in a news release.
Fisco described both efforts as a Seattle Times pilot project to show the power of newspaper political advertising and to attract new revenue for the newspaper. “We decided to try to tap into this important source of advertising revenue by demonstrating how effective advertising with The Times can be,” he said.
Fisco added that the company will analyze the effectiveness of the ad campaigns and present the results to political consultants and campaigns to convince them to advertise more in the newspaper.
“The News Department was not part of the discussion or the decision to do this,” Seattle Times Executive Editor David Boardman said in an email.
But the ad campaign was criticized by some journalism and political experts who said it threatened to damage the credibility of the newspaper’s reporting.
“It’s not the newspaper’s problem, it’s not the publisher’s problem, it’s not even the readers’ problem, it’s the problem of the reporters who are covering these issues and these candidates,” said Roy Peter Clark, vice-president and senior scholar with the Poynter Institute, a journalism think tank in Florida. “Their credibility is at stake.”
“Regular people have trouble believing there is a wall between the editorial side of news, and the reporting side. This would seem to make that even more difficult. However the Times rationalizes this, they are using the resources of the paper to promote a candidate and cause preferred by the editorial side (and, it would seem, ownership). Fair or not to you folks on the reporting side, my sense is the public perception of the Times’ credibility and objectivity takes a big hit here,” said Todd Donovan, political science professor at Western Washington University.
Donovan said The Times characterizing the campaigns as a business decision “strains credibility… It’s a big money contribution by the Times to a candidate, and a big money (in kind) contribution to a ballot measure campaign,” he said in an email.
The Seattle Times editorial board has endorsed both McKenna and R-74, but the ad campaign takes that support to another level.
The contributions in support of the campaigns will amount to between $75,000 and $80,000 each and will be reported to the state, said Jill Mackie, a Times spokeswoman.
The McKenna ad costs will have to be reported as an independent expenditure within 24 hours to the Public Disclosure Commission, said Lori Anderson, a commission spokeswoman. The pro-gay-marriage ads will be reported later as an in-kind contribution to the Washington United for Marriage campaign.
This isn’t the first time the Seattle Times Co. has become directly involved in political campaigns. For example, during the 1990s, the company opposed Initiative 200, which ended affirmative action programs in the state. But it may be the first time, at least in recent memory, that the company has sponsored ads in support of a candidate in a statewide partisan political race.
Seattle Times Olympia reporter Andrew Garber contributed to this report.
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