WNC contracts with Spokane Spokesman-Review to review RPS coverage and issue independent report with recommendations

The Washington News Council has signed an agreement with the Spokane Spokesman-Review to conduct an independent outside review and analysis of that newspaper’s coverage of the River Park Square (RPS) garage controversy from 1994 through 2005.

Steve Smith, Editor of the Spokesman-Review, first approached the News Council in 2005 to propose the project. Smith had pledged shortly after coming to Spokane in 2002 to conduct such an independent review.

“The review will consider some of the allegations made against the news staff by RPS critics that our coverage was slanted and unethical because the newspaper is owned by the same people who own River Park Square,” Smith said in an Aug. 29, 2006, posting on the newspaper’s website.

John Hamer, Executive Director of the News Council, who signed the agreement along with WNC President Stephen Silha, said: “This is a daunting task, but the Washington News Council is honored that the editor of one of the largest newspapers in the state believes we have the credibility, the expertise and the professionalism to undertake this project.”

The review team will be co-chaired by: Cliff Rowe, founder of the journalism program at Pacific Lutheran University and a WNC Media Member Emeritus; and Chuck Nordhoff, former state director for U.S. Senator Slade Gorton and a WNC Public Member Emeritus.

Several other members of the current WNC Board of Directors will help oversee the project, including Media Members and Public Members.

The WNC has contracted with Bill Richards, a former Washington Post and Wall Street Journal reporter, to do much of the research, interviews and writing. Richards formerly had a three-year contract with The Seattle Times to cover the joint-operating agreement dispute between The Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

“This critique will give our reporters a chance to speak up for the first time, will give us a chance to acknowledge those failures that did occur (and apologize for them) and provide us with an ethical framework that will guide decisions when faced with similar conflicts of interest in the future,” Smith said in his website posting.

“Our goal is to make this an educational project and a case study that can be used in journalism classes in this state and around the nation,” said Hamer.

The review will be conducted pursuant to an agreement signed by representatives of the newspaper and the news council. The agreement is posted on the Spokesman-Review’s website.

The project will take several months to complete. To contribute information or comments, please email info@wanewscouncil.org or call 206.262.9793.