Results of Complaint Hearing, Dr. Richard Wollert v. The Seattle Times

Updated June 4, 2013 with a correction from The Seattle Times and June 16 after public, online voting ended.

The Washington News Council held a public hearing on a formal complaint against The Seattle Times from Dr. Richard Wollert, a Vancouver psychologist on June 1, 2013 at Town Hall Seattle.

The Council’s 10-member Hearings Board, chaired by Karen Seinfeld, former Chief Judge of the Washington State Court of Appeals, split their votes on the questions that were considered at the hearing. One question was not voted on, at Dr. Wollert’s request. Read the press release with vote results, and here are the audience vote results from the day of the hearing.

Remote viewers were invited to watch the recorded coverage from TVW, with this link and to participate by voting online, through June 16.

Here are the summary public vote results from the online ballot, in which 51 people participated, and please also see the public comments submitted along with the online votes.

Crosscut.com published coverage of the hearing in an article, “Independent panel: Seattle Times unfair to psychologist,” on June 3. GeekWire published two articles in advance of the hearing, “News Council to webcast hearing on Seattle Times series, sparking debate over public vote,” on May 31 and “Letter: Seattle Times objects to News Council’s ‘quasi-judicial spectacle’ and online vote,” on June 1. The hearing was also blogged by journalist and forensic psychologist Karen Franklin, PhD in “Newspaper unfairly maligned forensic psychologist, news council holds.”

Finally, Dr. Wollert sent this letter to the WNC expressing his “appreciation for the Washington News Council’s exhaustive and diligent adjudication.”

Former Judge Karen Seinfeld leads the WNC Hearings Board

The complaint concerned a series of stories, “Price of Protection,” that appeared in January, 2012.

All complainant and Seattle Times documentation and exhibits can be downloaded as one PDF file, here. The file includes a Table of Contents linking to references internal and external to the file. David Boardman, Executive Editor and Senior Vice President of The Seattle Times, submitted this letter, which was also read aloud during the hearing. Please contact the Washington News Council if you have any difficulties or questions.

David Boardman issued the following correction on June 4th, 2013:

To The Washington News Council and Dr. Richard Wollert:

We at The Seattle Times apologize for any misunderstanding we may have created about Dr. Wollert’s status with Washington State University, Vancouver.  While the university’s director of communications had told us that the title “Research Professor of Psychology” was inaccurate and that WSU had “no personnel paperwork” for Dr. Wollert, the school has since located records indicating that he has an adjunct, non-teaching affiliation. WSU says a more accurate title for Dr. Wollert would include the word “Adjunct,” but they do not believe he was intentionally misleading. Nor were we. We regret the mistake, as does WSU.

Here is the list of Hearings Board members of the Washington News Council. (NOTE: Everett Billingslea, Pedro Celis, Obafemi Idowu, and Martin Neeb were unable to attend. John Hamer recused himself.)

NOTE: Members of the audience were invited to vote along with the WNC’s Hearings Board, either on paper ballots or online. They were also able to vote through June 16 with an online ballot. We requested names, email addresses, and affiliation on ballots to discourage anonymous votes.

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Comments

  1. I wish to publicly express our family’s deep appreciation to The Washington News Council and its volunteer Hearings Panel members for the hours of work they donated to this important public forum.

    Journalists and editors wield enormous power, yet are not licensed by a professional conduct board or governing body like doctors or lawyers. Their ability to inflict great harm to individuals or groups of citizens when they ignore SPJ’s voluntary ethical guidelines can be irreparably devastating and deeply damaging.

    What recourse do citizens have if the Press refuses to monitor itself and each other?

    Independent ombudsman-type non-profit organizations like The Washington News Council provide essential checks-and-balances for public protection through unbiased media oversight. We all should support the work of this important organization so that it can continue to help keep the news media honest and ethical.