More than 100 Seattle Times news staffers signed a letter of protest 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.
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.”
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Times spokeswoman Jill Mackie responded via email, saying there was “not a newspaper publisher in the United States who is more respectful or supportive of journalists.”
Blethen “appreciates the journalists sharing their views and notes their doing so reinforces the reality of the independence/separation between journalism and this effort we are all talking about,” Mackie wrote.
The Times Co.’s $75,750 independent-expenditure campaign in support of McKenna will include newspaper ads through election day, according to state Public Disclosure Commission filings.
The company also will provide about $75,000 in discounts for ads from Washington United for Marriage, the pro-gay marriage campaign, according to Times officials.
McKenna and Ref. 74 have also been endorsed by The Seattle Times editorial board, but the editorial board is not involved in the ad campaign.
The company’s decision to jump into the races as a political donor has drawn harsh criticism from some journalism and political experts.
State Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz blasted The Times ad campaigns at a Thursday news conference, criticizing the company’s statements that the effort was an experiment to promote ad sales.
“If CBS News announced on a national level that they were going to donate hundreds of millions of dollars in 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.
Jim Brunner: 206-515-5628 or firstname.lastname@example.org.