Stand Up For Yourselves

Via reader JW, here’s a bit of heartening news:

More than 100 Seattle Times news staffers signed a protest letter Thursday against The Times Co.’s decision to sponsor political ads promoting Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna and the Ref. 74 campaign to legalize gay marriage.

The Times launched the campaign with a full-page pro-McKenna ad in Wednesday’s editions. Company officials described the campaign as an effort to demonstrate the effectiveness of newspaper advertising and attract new political-ad revenue.

But the letter from Times newsroom staffers, delivered Thursday to Publisher Frank Blethen, warned the campaign threatened the newspaper’s credibility with readers.

“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 said, noting The Times had become “part of the campaign’s machinery, creating a perception that we are not an independent watchdog.”

Which is exactly right, and would have been right if the paper’s ads had said the opposite as well. You can’t life the rest of us about how you’re the last bastion of independent democracy while letting your bosses make a mockery of that upstandingness every single day. There’s always a risk in this kind of protest, sure, but in the end the greater risk is looking like you don’t notice, or don’t care, what is being done in your name.

A.

3 thoughts on “Stand Up For Yourselves

  1. Dan says:

    I have to be honest, I’m torn on this one A. Newspapers aren’t objective because people aren’t objective. I’d much rather an outlet wear its biases on its sleeve than pretend to be some sort of neutral observer standing above the fray.
    So if the publisher wants to sponsor political ads, great. Newsroom staffers want to protest, great as well. But spare me the hand wringing over how it damages some (self-)perceived sense of independence. Every goddamn page of a newspaper is an op-ed page, and the sooner we stop with the charade that it’s not the better off both the writers and readers will be.
    We all have opinions. Own that and jump into the fray.

  2. thebewilderness says:

    What they have done is make a joke of their candidate endorsements. Every time that one of the candidates runs an ad that claims an endorsement from the Times it now damages, instead of helps, the candidate by undermining the credibility of both.
    The Times spent a lot of column inches trying to convince us over the years that the death of the PI would be no great loss. They then put on the pressure to the reporters to serve the needs of the advertisers, and lost some excellent reporters in the process.
    Now they will lose some subscribers and blame everyone but themselves for it.
    It reminds me of what my cousin was told early on in her job as patient advocate at a hospital. While her job is to advocate for the patients she must never lose sight of who she works for. It is a fine line to try to walk and newspapers have a history of pretending to try. Not any more.

  3. MapleStreet says:

    The ability of an editorial board of a paper to endorse one candidate or the other has always been a strong way for newspapers to sway elections (although I’ve always wondered why what the newspaper editor endorses should be a measure of my political beliefs).
    Likewise, many news outlets have taken to swaying elections by the tone they use in covering the news (recent example – After second prez debate I posted link to news page with title along lines of Local Politicians say Romney Won. Reading the article, the reporter had apparently talked to one repub leader who praised Romney. Then second half of article is reporter apparently talked to the dem for the area who said Obama won. Someone skimming headlines would have easily concluded that Romney won according to both sides of the aisle.
    As a business / corporation, Citizens United makes it where they can make donations to the candidates of their choice. However, a lopsided contribution puts them into the question of the ethics of Faux News. Goes for direct contributions or contribution of services (ads).
    I’m interested in that the two beneficiaries are a repub candidate and a Gay Marriage bill (which one generally doesn’t associate with the repubs).
    But even with the ethical slime they have already dug for themselves, I gather from the story that they picked 2 causes and gave them space just to show that advertisements have an effect (and persuade others to buy ads). If they are toying with the election process strictly for the purpose of spurring other candidates to spend money on their ads, then they are quilty of some of the vilest cynicism I can think of.
    You’d think they would have learned by the backlash against Pizza Hut’s attempt to get a certain question asked during the debates.

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