WNC Named “Organization of the Year” by Municipal League

The Washington News Council has just been named “Organization of the Year” by the Municipal  League of King County. Here is their press release, sent out today to news media statewide.

This is a great honor for our little non-profit organization. We would like to thank all of our friends, supporters and donors who helped make our important work possible over the past 12 months — and over the past 12 years — to encourage high-quality journalism and media ethics.

Other Civic Award winners this year include King County Sheriff Sue Rahr (Public Official of the Year), BECU – Boeing Employees Credit Union (Business of the Year), and Susannah Frame of KING5 (Government News Reporting). So we’re in really good company!

The Muni League, which turned 100 years old in 2010, is a highly respected organization that supports good government and public service in our region. Past winners of the “Organization of the Year” award include Futurewise, Seattle Works, Urban League, Intiman Theater, Real Change, King County Bar Association, and Pioneer Human Services. We’re honored to join this distinguished group.

The award will be presented at the League’s 52nd Annual Civic Awards dinner on March 31. We invite you to attend to help us celebrate the occasion.

I would personally like to thank the great team that helped “reinvent” the WNC in the past year: Kathy Schrier (executive assistant), Jacob Caggiano (communications strategist), Brian Glanz (web developer) and Heidi Dietrich (blogger, now with AOL Patch). Plus my terrific WNC Board Officers: Suzie Burke, Martin Neeb, Olivia Lippens and Shannon Frew. You’re the ones who really made this award possible.

Finally, special thanks to all the generous donors who supported the WNC and helped us meet the Gates Foundation Challenge Grant by raising $100,000 by Jan. 15, 2011, which was matched by the Foundation. We are determined to keep up this vital work and expand our activities in 2011 and beyond. With your continued support, we’ll do exactly that! Please call or email me with your ideas and suggestions. One last thing: WOO-HOO!


What I Read – Martha Kongsgaard

Martha Kongsgaard was born and raised in Napa, Calif., to a family of jurists, grape growers and cattle ranchers. Kongsgaard met Peter Goldman in law school, married him in 1988 when they founded the Kongsgaard-Goldman Foundation. Her community activities currently include participation on the Washington Women’s Foundation, the national board and the executive committees of Earthjustice and IslandWood, where she is a founding board member. She recently chaired several major capital campaigns, including the Cascade Agenda, the expansion of IslandWood and the building of the LEED-certified Community Center at the New High Point. Kongsgaard has served as the president of Philanthropy Northwest and has spoken broadly about philanthropy and the environmental movement to wide and diverse audiences for the past 20 years. She is currently serving as Chair of the Leadership Council of the Puget Sound Partnership.  She has three sons and lives in West Seattle with her husband, an environmental public interest lawyer, Peter Goldman.


1. What are your favorite local news outlets? Why?

West Seattle Blog to tell me why the ambulance just drove down my street;

West Seattle Herald to tell me about local schools – their administrators, school board members, and their students’ triumphs and challenges, for Its Police blotter, and to know who Ms. Hi-Yu will be this summer;

The Seattle Times, because it is there;

The Puget Sound Partnership’s press clippings;

Sightline’s aggregation of all things enviro;

PI on line, because i miss the old guard;

Publicola, because they are in the minute, young and opinionated (plus i can hear them on the other side of my wall at work);

The Stranger + Weekly when I can;

Eastside Business Journal if i were awake more hours;

Seattle Magazine, because it comes to me online which tells me who is wearing what (but not why).

Grist, but it’s not really local.


2. What do you consider “must reads” every day? Must watch? Must hear?

The New York Times,

The Seattle Times,

(crossword puzzles in both)

Morning Edition and All things Considered.


Mike Allen’s Playlist

I’ve been known to watch FOX news;

[also read The New Yorker, The New York Times Review of Books;

The New Republic, now and again]

. [Read more...]


Live fact check of Obama’s State of the Union

We’re joining in on the action as a special team from the Sunlight Foundation, The Center for Public Integrity, CQ Roll Call, and the Huffington Post brings us a live investigative factchecking presentation of Obama’s State of the Union Address (Tue. 5:30pm Pacific) using Sunlight Foundation’s award winning Sunlight Live platform

Read more from the Sunlight Foundation and get in on the fun!

<a href=”http://sunlightfoundation.com/live/” mce_href=”http://sunlightfoundation.com/live/”>Sunlight Live – 2011 State of the Union</a>


WOO-HOO! We met the Gates Foundation Challenge!

Photo by Kslavin on Flickr available here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kslavin/1019160565/#/

The Washington News Council met the Gates Foundation’s Challenge Grant target by raising $100,000 in total donations by the deadline of Jan. 15, 2011. We received the Foundation’s matching check for $100,000 in the mail this week. We are extremely grateful to the Foundation for its continued generous support of the WNC and our important work.

This news is especially welcome because we recently learned that the Minnesota News Council, which was the model for the Washington News Council when we were founded in 1998, is closing its doors after 40 years. The MNC’s president, Tony Carideo, told the National Newspaper Association’s paper (January 2011 issue) that an inability to secure adequate funding and a decline in the number of complaints were primary factors. The council’s former executive director, Sarah Bauer, told me that she would move into the offices of the Minnesota Newspaper Association, which founded the MNC, as its program director.

Over the past 40 years, much of the MNC’s support came from that state’s newspapers and other media outlets, including local television stations. However, their funding declined severely in recent years due to the financial problems of the news industry in Minnesota.

In contrast, the Washington News Council was not founded by or significantly funded by news organizations when we began. We invited news outlets to join us and help shape our council, but nearly all declined. Instead, we sought and received funding and support from foundations, corporations, associations and many individuals — and thus did not rely on media donors (which some might consider a conflict of interest in any case).

Still, the WNC did copy the MNC’s by-laws, guidelines and procedures when we formed. We flew their then-director, Gary Gilson, to Seattle in September 1998 for our kick-off breakfast at the Washington Athletic Club. Gilson and I personally visited newspaper publishers and editors in Seattle, Tacoma, Longview, Vancouver and Spokane to tell them about the WNC and encourage them to participate. We pointed out that public accountability through an independent outside citizens’ organization such as ours could help increase their levels of credibility and trust. Most did not see that then, but many have since come to agree. Even some major media leaders who initially opposed the News Council have since written us checks, co-sponsored our events and supported our scholarship program. We thank them!

We are sorry to see the MNC go, but are glad to report that the WNC is now stronger than ever. We have just matched (for the second year) a $100,000 Gates Foundation challenge grant to sustain and expand our activities in 2011 and beyond. We have diversified our funding sources and redesigned our website. Our online community is growing steadily. Our TAO of Journalism pledge and seal is gaining adherents nationally and globally. Our new OMG (Online Media Guide) for Washington state is in the advanced beta stage. We are active participants in the Journalism That Matters organization, and I am part of JTM’s guiding “Collaboratory” group. We have now awarded 22 scholarships to students statewide. We recently held our 12th annual Gridiron West Dinner, an entertaining and successful “toast/roast” of five former Mayors of Seattle, and are planning our next event.

When I ask people if a news council is still needed, with all the new and easy ways of responding to the news media on the Internet, through comments, blogs, hyperlocal websites, Facebook, Twitter and other means, they tell me: “You’re needed now more than ever.” Why? Because if someone or their organization is damaged by inaccurate, unfair or unethical news reports, online digital response mechanisms may not be enough. The News Council is still here to help review complaints and provide recourse to those who are damaged by media malpractice. Our phone continues to ring with calls from potential complainants. In some cases, we counsel them on how to obtain corrections, clarifications and/or apologies. In some cases, we mediate compromises with the media outlet. In other cases, we may hold a formal public hearing. Increasingly, we are taking our complaint process online — such as in the “virtual hearing” we held on a complaint from Secretary of State Sam Reed against KIRO7 Television. (Citizens upheld the complaint by overwhelming margins in a series of online votes.) Our website features a “Washington NewsTrust” section where the public can nominate and rate news stories, and we’re working with Scott Rosenberg of MediaBugs to make his innovative bug tracking system applicable to Washington state news media and give citizens another new feedback tool.

Moreover, while the MNC’s demise means we are one of the only remaining news councils in the United States (New England and Hawaii have smaller but similar groups), respected and robust press councils exist in many nations around the world and their number is growing. Last year we joined the Association of Independent Press Councils of Europe (AIPCE), which has several members (like us) outside of Europe. (See their website for a full list.)

The Minnesota News Council inspired us to form and their closure is a loss for Minnesota citizens and journalists. But we’re alive and well, and committed to our mission of promoting excellence and ethics in journalism. As an article in the same January issue of the NNA’s paper put it: “Washington News Council reinvents itself on the Internet.” They got that right, and we will continue to reset, reboot, recreate and reinvigorate ourselves. If you believe that high-quality, accurate, ethical news media are vital to democracy, join us!


What I read: Dann Mead Smith

Dann Mead Smith of the Washington Policy Center (http://www.washingtonpolicy.org) has led this independent public-policy think tank to a position of growing influence since he took over as WPC President in 2001. The Center, based in Seattle with satellite offices in Olympia and Eastern Washington, has more than doubled in size in the past decade and now has a staff of 17 and a $2 million operating budget. (Full Disclosure: I was Vice President of the organization when it was the Washington Institute for Policy Studies in the mid-1990s.) The WPC focuses on programs and activities that promote free-market solutions to state problems. Its fulltime research centers address education, environment, government reform, health care, small business, technology/telecommunications, and transportation issues. Its WashingtonVotes.org tracks all bills and votes in the state Legislature. Its “Policy Guide for Washington State” lays out 150 recommendations. Dann is on the board of trustees of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce and a member of Seattle #4 Rotary. He was appointed by Gov. Christine Gregoire to the Washington State Performance Review Citizen Advisory Board, and the WPC was part of Gov. Gregoire’s budget committee that made recommendations for her proposed budget for the next biennium.

1. What are your favorite local news outlets? Why?

Puget Business Journal – they really have the best local coverage of both business and policy issues.  With the downsizing of staff at the local dailies, the PSBJ covers policy and legislative issues better than anyone.
TVW – not only do they provide  a great service with their coverage of the Legislative Session, but they also have great weekly shows that cover policy issues and they produce in-depth reports on what is happening in Olympia that affects all of us. Up Front with Robert Mak – no one covers local politics and issues better than Robert so it’s great to have him back on KING TV.  This is the last of the local issues shows on the major networks and the only place to go in-depth on local issues every Sunday.

2. What do you consider “must reads” every day? Must watch? Must hear?

I am still a fan of reading the actual newspaper vs. online, so I read The Seattle Times every day.  I also read the Puget Business Journal every week and try to catch “Up Front” on Sundays and “The John Carlson Show” on KOMO radio when I am in the car.  And I would add The Olympian during the legislative session as they have the best daily coverage.

3. Do you consume news through: print, television, radio, laptop, smart phone, ipad, podcasts, other?

Mostly via print and radio.

4. Do you use Facebook, LinkedIn, and/or Twitter for news and information?

I use Facebook and LinkedIn but not for much for my daily news, mainly just to connect and post information.

5. What online news sites or aggregators do you visit regularly?

I visit the Olympian during Session, sign up for the Puget Sound Business Journal’s daily email, and try to visit the Wall Street Journal’s OpinionJournal as often as I can.

6. Do you regularly visit any individual blogs for news, analysis and opinion?

I have to say both our Washington Policy Center blog, washingtonpolicyblog.org and our OlympiaPolicyWatch.org, because I think we really do break news and with the downsizing of the Capitol press bureau, you have only limited places to get your local news.  I also visit Sound Politics from time to time.

7. Have your news consumption habits changed in the last few years? If so, how?

I still prefer to read a newspaper but I definitely get more Information from the internet.

8. Do you read for fun? If so, what? Last novel you read? Non-fiction book?

After reading and editing public policy publications all day, I prefer not to read for fun when I get home from work.  I tend to read management-type books and the last one I read, which is great, is “6 Habits of Highly Successful Managers” by John Cioffi and Ken Willig.  The best way for me to relax is to read a music magazine and I have been hooked on NME and Q which are both from England.