Seattle Times sparks controversy with ad buy

Updated 4:34 pm Pacific. On Wednesday, the Seattle times ran a full page ad (on B6) supporting Rob McKenna's campaign for governor. The sponsor? The paper itself.

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  1. This action makes the Seattle Times the third largest independent contributor to the McKenna campaign, after Our Washington and Stand for the Children WA PAC.
  2. When asked to explain the estimated $76,000 independent expenditure, company spokesmen emphasized that the decision to run the ad was made from the corporate (business) side of the house. It was “completely separate from the journalism functions of the newspaper,” according to Alan Fisco, Seattle Times executive vice president, revenue and new products.
  3. Seattle Times Executive Editor David Boardman echoed that explanation: "The News Department was not part of the discussion or the decision to do this.”
  4. And my verdict is ...


    ... one of sadness.
  5. I want to believe that this was a crazy, not-well-thought out idea that stemmed directly from hemorrhaging newspaper revenue. I'm all for innovation and experimentation. I thought the editorial board extension of its support of Referendum 74 with a social media campaign was brilliant.
  6. But that campaign was about providing a platform for voters to show their support for the initiative. And R-74, that's an issue of civil rights.
  7. Civil rights is not a partisan issue. Partisans argue about what should and should not be considered a civil right. But civil rights -- human rights -- are not partisan. Some call them inalienable rights. 
  8. Ad buy followed McKenna endorsement

  9. If it had not been for this ad campaign, I would not have put those stories about Inslee and McKenna side-by-side and examined them closely, even though my eyebrows reached my hairline when I saw that photo of McKenna in last Sunday's paper.
  10. If it had not been for this ad campaign, I would not have shared that image on Facebook, where an editor friend pointed out that the headline for McKenna is written in present tense and the Inslee headline is written as though he has died.
  11. If it had not been for this ad campaign, I would not have noticed that the summary graph in the McKenna story is positive  ("has developed a reputation for") and the summary for Inslee, negative ("wasn't known for").
  12. Do I think the newsroom has been compromised? Not really. But today there is a seed of doubt -- actually, growing seeds of doubt -- that did not exist on Tuesday.
  13. And for a woman with printer's ink running through her veins, that's truly sad.
  14. Others respond

  15. With newspapers around the country declining to even issue endorsements, a gesture like this one is not only unprecedented, it's controversial. 
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