Remarks from my “refirement” party

John Hamer gives remarks at his "refirement" photo by Brian Glanz

John Hamer gives remarks at his "refirement"

Thank you ALL for coming. I really appreciate your being here to help me celebrate my “refirement” as I’m calling it. And I truly mean that. It has been a GREAT 15-year run, but I’m excited about this transition to a new stage of my life. A lot of you have asked me what I plan to do next. Well, I have a long “to do” list that includes spending more time with my first grandchild in L.A., and we have another one on the way. I also plan to do more volunteering, more mentoring or tutoring, more writing, maybe some teaching – and of course more hiking, biking, kayaking, reading, drinking and napping! Especially napping.

But I’m not retiring completely. One project may be to archive the history of the WA News Council, as many of you have suggested. We’d like to preserve our legacy somehow. Suzie Burke, our current WNC Board Chair, has graciously offered space for an exhibit at History House in Fremont, so the News Council will be immortalized not far from the Lenin Statue, the J.P. Patches Statue, and the Fremont Troll – which somehow seems very appropriate. Suzie said there’s only one condition: I have to ride as a Naked Bicyclist in the Fremont Solstice Parade in June. I’m sending Mike Egan in my place, since he’s already done that, as the picture of Mike at Suzie’s Gridiron Roast shows. We also got a lot of nice comments when we announced our closing, and if you’d like to add YOUR comments (Pro or Con!), please do so tonight. There’s a bulletin board at the side of the room.

David Horsey congratulates John Hamer and the WNC, alongside other good wishes. photo by Brian Glanz

David Horsey congratulates John Hamer and the WNC, alongside other good wishes.

When we started the News Council back in 1998, many people predicted we wouldn’t survive — including some of our original Founders and Board Members! A lot of other people HOPED we wouldn’t survive, including most journalists in this state, especially some of my oldest friends and colleagues in the newsrooms around town. Right, David Horsey? There’s an old saying: “Never pick a fight with someone who buys their ink by the barrel.” Well, we picked a fight with those who not only bought ink by the barrel, but airtime by the year and pixels by the billions! But as the years went by, even some of my old journalist friends grudgingly accepted us – especially as long as they didn’t have complaints filed against them! The media didn’t always like our complaint and hearing process — but the public loved it! We helped a lot of people who were damaged by media malpractice and had nowhere else to turn. We helped them get their reputations back, in public.

It hasn’t been easy. We’re not a nonprofit that houses the homeless, feeds the hungry, cures the sick, cleans the environment, supports the arts or saves the animals. We’ve just tried to keep the news media accurate, fair, honest and ethical – which I believe affects all sectors of our society. I wouldn’t have done this if I didn’t firmly believe that the news media are the lifeblood of our democracy, and it’s absolutely vital that we have high-quality news and information to make decisions. Today there’s a valid concern about whether we’re getting that – especially since everyone is a journalist today, or at least they think they are. We are all deluged 24/7 with news, blogs, opinion, rumors, videos, photos, from all over the world. I call it a “cyber-tsunami” and we’re in danger of drowning in it. But who can be trusted to be accurate, fair and ethical? These days, you just have to make up your own minds. That’s one reason the WNC is closing: A little citizens’ group like ours is really challenged to keep up. But we tried, and I’m very proud of what we accomplished over 15 years.

Bill Gates Sr., enjoying remarks during Hamer's retirement. photo by Brian Glanz

Bill Gates Sr., during Hamer's remarks.

WNC wouldn’t have survived without the help of everyone in this room, and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that. My hat is off to you! You gave your time, your talent, and your treasure to help us. Some of you had more time, some more talent, and some more treasure. But you all helped, even if just with your moral support.

One person I want to single out tonight is Bill Gates Sr. The WNC literally would not be here without Bill. Patsy Bullit Collins, may she RIP, was on our Founding Board. She told Bill about the WNC and urged him to join our first Working Board. I’ll never forget the day when my fax machine started clicking and an application came with Bill’s name on it. I thought: Nah, this is a joke from one of my friends. But we had a section that asked: What experience do you have that would be helpful to the News Council? And Bill wrote: “A lot of experience.” Period. I thought, Wow, maybe it really is him!

So I called the number on the application and left a message, and Bill called back and said, Yes, he wanted to join our Board. And I said, we’ll have to think about that and we’ll put him on the waiting list…NO, I said he was on Board! He said he was pretty busy running what was then the William H. Gates Foundation, so he might not make it to all our meetings. Well, he almost never missed a meeting in all the years he was on the Board. He did miss one when he said he had to fly to London. I asked what was going on in London. He said his son was being knighted by the Queen. I said, now THAT’S a pretty lame excuse! But Bill’s help was truly extraordinary — financial, intellectual and ethical. I learned so much from you, Bill – about the simple things that are so important in life no matter what we do: Saying thank-you to those who help you, returning phone calls and emails expeditiously (which you always do), being persistent in the face of obstacles. For those who don’t know Bill’s little book, “Showing Up for Life,” I can’t recommend it highly enough. Lots of wisdom here. It’s a great read.

Some say that 80% of life is just showing up, and the other 20% is knowing when to move on. Well, I’m moving on after tonight, and I want to thank some others who have been especially helpful. There is another person without whom the WNC wouldn’t exist, and that’s Kathy Schrier, my half-time Executive Assistant. Kathy came on board almost 10 years ago and she really kept the place running, plus she had the patience to put up with me and all my crazy ideas. Kathy, you’ve been fabulous. And I genuinely can’t thank you enough.

During a loud round of applause for Kathy Schrier. photo by Brian Glanz

During a loud round of applause for Kathy Schrier.

Even after we close the doors of our office upstairs, Kathy and I will continue to maintain the TAO of Journalism Website and promote the TAO concept nationwide and worldwide. These TAO of Journalism “TAOttoos” as we call them were Kathy’s idea, and I want ALL of you to put one on tonight. They last about a week or so, or will come off with soap and water. We have people all over the world who have taken the TAO Pledge and display the seal in print or online, including hundreds of high-school journalists all over the U.S. We have bloggers in India, website sin Australia, and the B-Town Blog in Burien. Our goal is to keep nudging it out there as a way to help anyone doing journalism to gain credibility and earn trust. If journalism is going to matter, it must be trusted – and if it is to be trusted, it must be Transparent about who they are, Accountable if they make mistakes and Open to other points of view. That’s a pretty low bar! It should be a no-brainer. So we’ll keep the TAO going as long as we can. Any proceeds from our WNC Estate/Office/Garage Sale items in the back table will go to TAO website maintenance, mailings of TAOttoos and TAO nylon flyers. So buy something or throw a little money in the pot to help us. Just TAO it!

Now I want to call out a few more people who have helped us. My current Board Chair, Suzie Burke, who has been absolutely vital to our success. And as one of the savviest business people in Seattle, plus one of the most generous philanthropists I know, she kept me focused on the bottom line. My other Board officers, Vice President Heidi Kelly (who was on our original organizing committee in 1998) and Treasurer Tom Ranken. You have been a great team.

John Hamer and current Board Chair, Suzie Burke enjoy Mike Egan's remarks. photo by Brian Glanz

John Hamer and current Board Chair, Suzie Burke enjoy Emcee Mike Egan's remarks.

My past Board Presidents: Stephen Silha, David Schaefer and Cyrus Krohn. Can’t thank you all enough. All those who are on the Board or are Board Members Emeritus, raise your hands. Steve Boyer, whose idea it was to start a News Council in this state. Steve, I blame you for my so-called career. Steve was on our original Organizing Committee, along with my wife, Mariana Parks, Bill Baldwin, Chuck Nordhoff, Heidi Kelly, Joel Horn and Sandy Schoolfield. Thank you all!

I want to thank those who came to us with Complaints: Dr. Richard Wollert and Sheriff John Urquhart. Any others here? Leschi School? Vitae Foundation? Beef and Dairy Commissions? It took courage for you to stand up to the news media that damaged you with inaccurate stories. Thank you. I hope we helped you get your reputations back in public. Our process wasn’t perfect, but it sure beat a letter to the editor and was lots cheaper and faster than a libel suit.

Raise your hand if you donated to the WNC over the past 15 years, whether it was $50 or $100 a year, or as a member of our “100 Friends of the WNC” at the $1,000 level (Herb Bridge, Tom Hayward, Suzie Burke, Karen Seinfeld, others?). If you’re looking for other ways to help improve journalism, Stephen Silha and Peggy Holman are running a group called Journalism That Matters, which I’ve been involved with over the years. Our TAO of Journalism actually started at JTM meeting in Washington, D.C., several years ago. Talk to Stephen and Peggy to learn more about how JTM will help carry on some of the work of the News Council in a larger arena. They’re doing good stuff nationwide.

All of our young WNC interns and scholarship winners over the years, raise your hands. You were a great group, and we were glad to help you – we always paid minimum wage! – and many of you got our $1,000 or $2,000 Dick Larsen or Herb Robinson Scholarships. We gave 30 of them over 15 years, and many of our interns and winners have gotten great jobs in journalism or politics – or both, there is some overlap there!

Part of the crowded room during Hamer's remarks. At right, his wife, Mariana Parks. photo by Brian Glanz

Part of the crowded room during Hamer's remarks. At right, his wife, Mariana Parks.

Our Gridiron West Dinners was one of the most fun events in Seattle every year, and several of you helped with that: Monica Tracey, our event planner; Jim Anderson of Cabaret Productions; Kevin Joyce of EnJoy Productions. All who sponsored tables at our annual Gridiron West Dinners to help “roast and toast” various people. There’s a PHOTO BOARD on the side table with some of the highlights of our 15 Gridiron West Dinners, so check it out.

And finally, our Emcee, Mike Egan, who I’m now going to give the mic so he can give you a little photo slideshow, followed by the “Open Mic Roast” which I know is why some of you came. If you want to say a few words about me, get your name on Mike’s list and he’ll call you in order. But you need to follow the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics in your remarks: Seek the Truth and Report It; Minimize Harm; Act Independently; and Be Accountable. If you violate that code, I will GONG you off the stage. So get your facts right! I know I can trust you, just like we can all trust the media, right? Hah!

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Dear Giant Alibaba: Let My People TAO!

Note: this has been cross-posted at our new TAO of Journalism blog, see taoofjournalism.org/blog.

Forget David vs. Goliath. Try John vs. Godzilla. Seriously.

I’m stuck in an ongoing, multi-year, quasi-legal battle with Alibaba, http://news.alibaba.com/specials/aboutalibaba/aligroup/index.html the Chinese e-commerce company that is now the world’s largest online retail giant. They just reported a 66% jump in revenues to $3.06 billion, and are about to submit an IPO (Initial Public Offering) that could raise $15 billion. They’re huge!

I run a little NPO (Non-Profit Organization) called the Washington News Council. We have only about $5,000 in the bank and we’re closing our office on May 31 after 15 years, although we’ll keep our 501(c)(3) status and continue a few projects online, such as our “TAO of Journalism” pledge and seal.

That’s what the flap is about: A few years ago, we originated the “TAO of Journalism – Transparent, Accountable and Open” concept. It’s a voluntary pledge that anyone practicing any kind of journalism can take. It’s a promise to be Transparent about who you are, Accountable if you make mistakes, and Open to other points of view. That’s a pretty low bar. Your audience holds you to it.

We designed a TAO seal using the yin-yang symbol and applied to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) so we’d have some say over those who chose to use it. We consider it our intellectual property. Any journalist, blogger, website, social-media user, newspaper, magazine, TV/radio station, or newsletter can take the TAO Pledge and post the TAO seal in print or online. It’s a simple way to help earn credibility and win trust.

To promote the idea and have some fun, we also made TAO of Journalism T-shirts, a TAO poster, TAO coffee tumblers, TAO nylon flyers and even stick-on TAOttoos. The idea has slowly spread nationally and even globally. It’s especially popular among student journalists. The national Journalism Education Association endorsed it and has sponsored three nation-wide TAO Pledge Days when high-school newspaper staffers all over the U.S. took the TAO pledge and sent us photos.

Journalism students at Whitney High School (CA) take the TAO of Journalism Pledge.

Journalism students at Whitney High School (CA) take the TAO of Journalism Pledge.

So what’s our beef with Alibaba? One day a couple of years ago the USPTO sent us a letter saying that our trademark application was “on hold” because Alibaba wants to trademark the word “tao.” Really?

“Tao” means “the path” or “the way” in Mandarin Chinese, and has been used for centuries by millions of people. The word is common in book titles, products, restaurants, websites, etc. There are books on The Tao of Business, The Tao of Politics and The Tao of Teaching. I own The Tao of Travel, The Tao of Pooh, and the Tao of Cow. There’s a Tao of Badass book that gives men dating advice and another on The Tao of Sex (I don’t own either of those). There’s a Tao Restaurant in New York and a Tao Beach nightclub in Las Vegas. Tao is totaolly ubiquitaous!

So how could Alibaba possibly trademark “tao”? It would be kind of like trademarking “the” or “and.”

I asked a member of my WNC Board of Directors, who just happens to be former chief counsel to the former Governor of Washington (who just happens to be former U.S. Ambassador to China), what to do. Keep using the TAO of Journalism, he advised, but notify Alibaba. He helped me get some pro bono legal help from attorneys with a respected trademark and patent law firm. They wrote letters to Alibaba. No response.

Our attorneys drafted an agreement and sent it to Alibaba saying that we would not challenge their trademark if it is approved by the USPTO, if they would agree not to challenge our use of the word TAO as an acronym. Seemed reasonable, right? No response.

Meanwhile, we’re continuing to promote our TAO of Journalism pledge and seal. It’s spreading slowly but steadily around the world. We have TAO pledgers in India, Belgium, Spain, New Zealand, Colombia, including individual journalists and media organizations. Hundreds of high-school students all over the U.S. have taken the TAO pledge. We did a 3-part series explaining the TAO of Journalism that ran in The Seattle Times last year.

Can Alibaba possibly trademark the word “tao” and get all those who have used it to stop? Not likely, but who knows?

We’ll keep promoting the TAO of Journalism nationwide and globally. We’ll send posters, nylon flyers and “TAOttoos” to all who take the pledge. It’s free to student publications, but we ask for a $25 annual donation from individual journalists and $50 from media organizations, to help cover our costs of website maintenance, mailings, products, etc. It’s a drop in the bucket compared to Alibaba’s budget. Heck, it’s a drop in the Pacific Ocean!

If Alibaba decides to challenge us, what are they going to do? Seize our assets? Hack into our computers? Take us to court?

Dear Giant Alibaba: Let my people TAO!

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Washington News Council President on Ethics Panel at International Press Councils Meeting in Tel Aviv, Israel

TEL AVIV, ISRAEL — Israeli President Shimon Peres, who just turned 90, had a powerful message for members of the Alliance of Independent Press Councils of Europe (http://aipce.net) gathered here for their 15th annual meeting this month:

“Continue to fight. I know it’s not easy, but you have a mission, not just a profession.”

As head of the only remaining news council in the United States, I know just what he means. So do all the other press council representatives from all over the world who attended the conference, hosted by the Israel Press Council in its 50th anniversary year. http://www.moaza.co.il/BRPortal/br/P102.jsp?arc=27521

Anat Balint, Gal Uchovsky and John Hamer in a panel on "Ethical Dilemmas in the Age of Transparency" in Tel Aviv. Photo credit: Risto Uimonen

Anat Balint, Gal Uchovsky and John Hamer in a panel on "Ethical Dilemmas in the Age of Transparency" in Tel Aviv. Photo credit: Risto Uimonen

“It would appear that the issue of journalistic ethics is not as fashionable, and certainly not as glamorous, as it was 50 years ago,” said Arik Bachar, Secretary-General of the Israel Press Council, in welcoming AIPCE members at the Tel Aviv Hilton.

With the news media in chaotic transformation worldwide, press councils are trying to determine their most effective role in upholding high standards of journalistic ethics, accuracy and professionalism. It’s a tough challenge.

AIPCE is a loose network of independent content regulators for both print and broadcast media. There is no formal membership and no central secretariat. AIPCE members are mostly in Europe, with about a dozen from other nations.

Represented in Israel were press councils or similar organizations from Albania, Armenia, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Kosovo, Moldova, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Serbia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and Ukraine.

The Washington News Council is the only such organization in the U.S., since the Minnesota News Council closed its doors three years ago. A National News Council existed for more than a decade from 1973-84, but dissolved due to lack of support from The New York Times and The Washington Post, although Richard Salant and Mike Wallace of CBS News, plus many other respected journalists nationwide, were strong supporters.

My goal in attending was to discuss common problems, exchange ideas and to offer and receive advice. Over three days of meetings, meals and tours, there was ample opportunity to do exactly that. These people all care deeply about high-quality, accurate, ethical news media.

In an opening keynote address, Lord David Hunt, current chairman of the United Kingdom’s Press Complaints Commission in London, said: “In the UK, we have a crisis confronting the media. I have spent most of my life fighting Parliamentary efforts to regulate or control freedom of expression.” The British press scandals of recent years – phone hacking, bribing sources, invasions of privacy, sensationalism, etc. – led to the recommendation this month to form a new Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), Hunt said.

“It will take over handling complaints from the PCC, but this new body will also have a standards arm with teeth and the ability to fine,” Hunt added. “This new independent board will monitor and enforce the Editors’ Code. In this way, we will be able to avoid Parliamentary control and go for a satisfactory independent regulatory body established by the industry that is able to secure the voluntary support and membership of the entire industry, and thus able to command the support of the public,” Hunt said. “So please wish us luck.”

Can Press Councils Actually Help?

In an opening panel on “Press Councils in a World of Changing Journalism,” moderator Tehilla Shwartz Altshuler of the Israel Democracy Institute noted: “All media are becoming impossible to differentiate. The current regulatory framework has run its course. Without a coherent and cross-platform approach, citizens cannot base their judgments in any consistent way. Where in this bigger picture are press councils?”

Panelist Ola Sigvardsson, the Press Ombudsman of Sweden (http://www.po.se/) , noted: “There is at least one borderline we cannot cross. It is the ‘red line’, so to speak. And that is the word ‘self’ in self-regulation. We can only oversee those media outlets who want to be overseen.”

He acknowledged that many new media outlets may not want to be part of press council systems, but some will: “It’s a good thing that a new media organization wants to be part of self-regulation. That is using ethics as a mark of quality, and differentiating them from those media outlets that choose to stay outside.”

John Horgan, who is both the Press Ombudsman of Ireland and a member of the Irish Press Council, (http://www.presscouncil.ie/ )cited the “two poles” — voluntary regulation vs. statutory regulation of the media. “The plus of a voluntary system is that you don’t have issues with enforcement. The negative is that you can’t enforce an ethics code if the press doesn’t agree.” He said the keys are “accountability” for media outlets and “redress” for those damaged by inaccurate stories.

Who Is a Journalist, Anyway?

Many attendees raised the perplexing question of “Who is a journalist today?” The rise of individual bloggers and independent websites has greatly complicated the concept of media ethics oversight. “People look to established media institutions for credibility and authority,” Horgan said. “But how can the credibility of all be enhanced?”

Hanoch Marmari, editor of an Israeli online publication called “7th Eye,” commented: “All press councils must adapt to the cranky and creative media that we have today. For the first time in history, every person can directly influence the world around him.”

Marmari continued: “The oldest institutions of journalism are losing their influence. It is no longer possible to rely on a uniform code of ethics….We need a new definition of who is a journalist.”

He noted that a journalist is not just someone who holds a press card, because many journalists operate outside of any regulatory framework. “We should be defining journalism as a civic art, not as a profession. Thus, we can define the person who engages in this action. Their principles should be transparency, fairness, honesty and an aspiration to uncover the truth.”

Marmari concluded: “The public will be able to enjoy arbitration and complaint-handling services through press councils. If there are physicians without borders, then let us form a coalition of press councils without borders.”

What About Independent Bloggers?

Tal Schneider, an Israeli independent journalist and political blogger who formerly worked for the newspaper Maariv, said she sees little difference in her new role in terms of accuracy and ethics: “It’s always me responsible for every word and every character. The same ethics and the same rules apply to me as if I was a reporter in a paper….Every tweet or Facebook post that I do is a story. It must be well-written, factual, checked in advance and commented on before I put it up. If it’s wrong or it’s violating someone’s rights, it has to be corrected or apologized for.”

She noted that no editors oversee her work or correct her errors: “If I have any problems, it’s only on my shoulders. That gives me some extra precautions. I think a little bit further because it’s only on me.”

Should There Be a Voluntary Seal?

Altshuler noted that press councils could help set standards for all journalistic content, no matter who was producing it. She suggested a voluntary seal to mark guidelines.

Bachar asked if anyone required media organizations to publicize the fact that they cooperate with the councils. “Have you allowed your members to publish a watermark or emblem? I can’t imagine why people don’t want to flaunt it.”

Horgan responded: “Editors are afraid that if they publicize the press council, they will get more complaints! We are urging them to include [an emblem] not on a daily basis, but as part of a template. Most do, but some don’t. We have no way of enforcing that.”

Marmari added: “I can see a universe of multiple kinds of press councils that each individual or organization can accept their terms and work within it.”

Daphne Koene of The Netherlands Press Council http://www.rvdj.nl/english noted that the Dutch Union of Journalists had voted against expanding the council’s jurisdiction to online articles that consumers consider journalistic, “because they see it as a detriment to the purpose of the press council – being an instrument of self regulation for professional journalists – to expand the press council to this new content.”

Lord Hunt of the U.K. said that the new IPSO organization could be a “badge of respectability” for media organizations. He noted that The Huffington Post and other independent bloggers are “seriously discussing signing up for the new body.”

How Much Power Should Press Councils Have?

Press councils vary widely in their oversight and enforcement powers. Some have statutory authority, while others are purely voluntary.

Martin Lavesen of the Danish Press Council http://www.pressenaevnet.dk/Information-in-English.aspx said a big discussion is now underway in Denmark about increasing the power of the council. “Let it assess fines, suspend a newspaper, increase the time allowed for complaints,” he said.

Kjersti Loken Stavrum of the Norwegian Press Complaints Commission http://www.presse.no/ said: “Our profession should put out a promise of which way we should do our process….It must be some kind of promise that we can tell both the public and those who are our sources.”

What About Readers’ Comments Online?

In a panel on readers’ comments, Flip Voets of the Flemish Press Council in Belgium http://www.rvdj.be/node/210 said they issued guidelines for moderating online posts. If media outlets don’t moderate comments, they should “at least have tools to remove inappropriate comments as soon as possible.” The guidelines also recommended no anonymous comments, disallowing comments on controversial stories, and filters to block certain words. But the whole system is voluntary.

Risto Uimonen, of Finland’s Council for Mass Media, http://www.jsn.fi/en/ said his organization set rules for online comments on media sites and required editors to monitor the content and remove inappropriate comments. This guideline change has been in effect for two years and has “succeeded in cleaning discussions,” he said.

Doninique von Burg of Switzerland’s Press Council http://www.presserat.ch/ said they made recommendations two years ago to discourage anonymous comments. “The rules are the same as for letters to the editor,” he said.

The issue is still mostly unresolved, Horgan said: “If the newspaper pre-moderates the comments, then the paper is responsible. If papers do not pre-moderate, they are not liable. These are big legal, ethical and jurisdictional issues.”

Is a Universal Ethics Code a Good Idea?

In the closing session on “Journalistic Autonomy,” the keynote address was from Lorena Boix-Alonso, head of the Unit for Converging Media and Content with the European Commission. The EC recently floated the idea of a universal media ethics code to cover all of Europe, and mandatory press councils with enforcement powers in every nation. But it met with fierce opposition.

“At that you exploded,” Boix-Alonso remarked. “This was a big surprise to us. The intention was good, but we got a completely negative reaction from the people we wanted to protect.”

The EC asked for public input, and so far has received more than 450 comments online. “We will see whether we will do something, do nothing, or wait until the next European Parliament,” she said. “It’s a very good solution to have press councils, but we don’t have any intention of setting standards for them.”

She continued: “The key is to find the right balance between protecting the interest of the media and protecting the public interest.” There are many questions about press councils, she noted, including who should be members, who should fund them, and who can complain. “You may think that all is well and that you have wonderful press councils, but there are countries where it is not happening,” she said.

Adeline Hulin of UNESCO, who is doing her Ph.D. thesis on press councils, said: “Is there an ideal form of media regulation? No, there is no ideal form. Government regulation carries the risk of too much control. Self-regulation carries the risk of overly protecting journalists. Is a co-regulation system good?” Maybe, but she noted that in less democratic countries, any regulation can be misused by government authorities.

My conversations with Tamar Rukhadze, Executive Director of the Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics, confirmed that. She told me that “journalists don’t have to ‘wait for the call’ [from authorities]” because they know where the lines are drawn.

Arik Bachar lamented that “Those who most should enjoy the benefits [of press councils] are not sufficiently committed anymore. Only a few mainstream outlets remain members, while this huge jungle out there is doing whatever they want.”

At the final session of the conference, Bachar concluded: “We should keep searching for the best solution that will keep the press honest, accurate, and – most important – free.”

What Lessons Can the WNC Offer?

In my panel at the AIPCE conference, “Ethical Dilemmas in the Age of Transparency,” I urged press council members to consider doing what the Washington News Council has done, including:

  • Webcast hearings on complaints and invite the public to vote and comment along with council members, to help “democratize” the process and “crowdsource” ethics.
  • Help educate students and citizens to encourage more media literacy and outside oversight of journalistic ethics and accuracy.
  • Urge media outlets to take the “TAO of Journalism – Transparent, Accountable and Open” pledge and display the TAO seal as a way to increase credibility and public trust. (http://taoofjournalism.org)

Will any of these efforts work? Who knows? As Israeli President Shimon Peres said on the opening night, it’s not easy. But what else is working? Not much.

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On the Organization of News Ombudsmen 2013 Annual Meeting

“You hold journalists accountable in much the same way that the media holds the public accountable.”

That’s what Marc Duvoisin, Managing Editor of the Los Angeles Times, told about 40 ombudsmen gathered in L.A. for the annual meeting of the Organization of News Ombudsmen last week.

However, he warned: “It’s conceivable that ombudsmen can be captured by their newsrooms” and fail to provide the tough, independent oversight that the job entails.

That’s not conceivable in Washington State. Why? Because there are no active, full-time ombudsmen at any news organization in this state anymore. The few news outlets that ever had ombudsmen – to hear complaints, resolve disputes and hold journalists accountable for inaccurate, unfair, or unethical reporting – all have eliminated the position.

The Washington News Council acts as an “outside ombudsman” for print, broadcast and online news media in Washington State. We review complaints from individuals or organizations who believe they have been damaged by flawed stories about them. We are independent and autonomous, funded by private donations. We accept no government support and are not subsidized by any media organizations. We’re also now the only news council left in the United States, since Minnesota’s closed its doors two years ago.

The number of ombudsmen at U.S. news organizations has also declined in the last few years, due mainly to financial problems in the industry. However, ONO membership has grown by 38 percent overall because new ombudsmen are being named in other countries around the world.

The concept of news ombudsmanship is actually 100 years old this year, according to Al Stavitsky, Dean of the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, who was keynote speaker at the ONO convention.

In 1913, Ralph Pulitzer, owner of The New York World, established a Bureau of Accuracy and Fair Play at his newspaper. His goal was to improve standards in the age of “yellow journalism,” Stavitsky said. The Bureau’s director reviewed citizen complaints, solicited responses from reporters and editors, and wrote back to complainants addressing their concerns.

Decades later, Norman Isaacs, Editor of the Louisville Courier-Journal, created an ombudsman position at his newspaper in Kentucky, which inspired others nationwide. But many newspapers – including most recently The Washington Post — have eliminated the position as a full-time job.

Stavitsky titled his talk, “Pundits in Pajamas,” and noted: “Lots of media criticism is now available online.” But he asked: “Does all that online commentary accomplish what an ombudsman would accomplish? Can independent media critics, tweeters, bloggers or in-house media writers accomplish much the same thing as ombudsmen formerly did? Some say, ‘We can live without ombudsmen because there’s so much media criticism out there.’ But is that enough? My answer is no. Independent media commentary can amplify and supplement the work that ombudsmen do, but it can’t replace them.”

Stavitsky advised: “Leverage your core mission by engaging the crowd, but not at the expense of your own analysis. Use new tools to assess the state of journalism. Step up your game. Keep fighting the good fight. Your work has never been more important.”

Kirk LaPointe, former ombudsman for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and the new executive director of ONO, said today’s challenge is “information literacy.” He teaches media ethics at the University of British Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism, and observed: “There’s lots of news advocacy. We should help people understand and make sense of all the noise out there. Help everyone be more media literate, not just students.”

[NOTE: LaPointe will be the speaker at a Washington News Council breakfast on June 12 at The Rainier Club. Call 206.262.9793 for more details.]

But many ombudsmen, who work for media outlets that are struggling financially, may be hesitant to alienate their bosses or to offend colleagues they see every day. The position is sometimes called “the loneliest job in the newsroom” – even by ombudsmen themselves.

Margreet Vermeulen, ombudsman at De Volkskraant newspaper in Amsterdam, told the group that there are now only two ombudsmen left in The Netherlands, down from 12 not long ago. “Yes, newspapers are an endangered species and so are news ombudsmen in my country,” she said. “Ombudsmen are not seen as part of the solution.”

Stephen Pritchard, ombudsman of The Observer in London and president of ONO’s board, said: We’ve got to get more ballsy about what we do. How can we redefine ourselves? Traditional media, if it’s going to survive, must be credible. Credibility is an incredibly serious issue for news organizations.” Pritchard advised his fellow ombudsmen to: survey their audience’s views of their role; write about all the cases they handle in a year; go out and talk to the public at schools, colleges, town halls and community centers; use social media, especially Twitter, to publicize what they do; and write better, more entertaining columns. “Don’t be dull!”

Rhonda Shearer, founder of iMediaEthics.org, a national media-critique site, called on ombudsmen to be tougher on their own profession: “Take off the boxing gloves and use bare fists. Start reporting on what goes on inside the newsroom. Name names. This is a messy business. There’s a lot of arm-wrestling that goes on in newsrooms. When we’re writing, there should be more of a window into behind-the-scenes emails, conversations between reporters and editors. Show more of the messiness of the business.”  She added: “Think like a reporter. What would be of interest to the larger public? Do more inside baseball.”

Michael Getler, ombudsman for the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) and former ombudsman at The Washington Post, had this advice: “It’s a matter of doing our job more conscientiously, writing fair but tougher columns and not shying away from anything. If you don’t challenge journalists, their standards begin to slip. Reporters may not like it, but they know deep down when they were wrong.” Getler added: “The ombudsman’s role is to remain independent. You need to have somebody in-house who can be critical. Show you can take a punch, and not just give a punch.”

Edward Schumacher-Matos, ombudsman for National Public Radio (NPR), agreed:

“I do think we need to step up our game. It means much more than just being a judge, but engaging the audience more in the new trends that are happening in the newsrooms.” He responds to all complaints online, he said. “And sometimes I don’t even rule. I just toss out questions. I may say, ‘I don’t know; what do you think?’ I’ve tried to get our reporters to engage online with me. We talk about these things in the newsroom. Why don’t we have that discussion online, moderated by the ombudsman?”

Ed Wasserman, dean of the School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, has proposed “credentialing” by ONO of interested citizens who would be trained in media ethics, and then act as “public ombudsmen” in their communities. Wasserman conceded it would take a lot of work, significant funding, and entrepreneurial leadership. But in the new digital media age, a broader view of ombudsmanship may be needed.

“We’re protecting a practice, not a practitioner,” Wasserman said. “We should come up with a set of principles of ombudsmanship if we’re going to take this on the road.” He noted: “Mistakes stay forever. Errors hurt. Corrections seldom catch up with them. And people don’t believe corrections.” However, he added: “The courts aren’t the best place to resolve complaints….Don’t give up on rigorous standards of verification and fact-checking. There’s no substitute for good journalism that gets it right in the first place.”

David Jordan, editorial policy and standards editor of the BBC in London, added: “We’re all in the business of trust in our institutions, and we’re all in the business of accountability….The links between the expectations of your readership, and the link to accuracy, are strong. An ombudsman contributes to the bottom line by contributing to the trust of readers in the newspaper. If you can’t establish that, you’re in trouble.”

In other parts of the world, some innovative efforts are under way. Among the most interesting is in Argentina, where Cynthia Ottaviano is the new ombudsman for the Argentinian Public Broadcast Authority’s Defensoria del Publico. It was created by the Argentinian Parliament but has no sanctioning capacity. It holds public hearings, hears complaints, does educational forums and reaches out to the unions, schools and others nationwide. Ottaviano told the ONO group:

“Our role is that of servers, as a mediator, as a bridge. Our advocacy is for the public, the readers, the viewers, the listeners. Why do we not incorporate ways to allow the audience to generate a debate on the standards that we defend? Why can’t we have them participate and get involved? Be proactive. Hand out media codes of ethics. Invite the participation of everybody. Then the audience can be the ones to judge the complaints. Without participation, there is no democracy.”

Yavuz Baydar, ombudsman at Sabah in Istanbul, Turkey, was part of a group that visited Egypt recently to discuss media reform in the Middle East. People from Libya and Jordan also attended, and most of the participants were women, Baydar said. In a workshop on media self-regulation, journalists were encouraged to set up media councils, hear complaints from readers, viewers, and listeners, and take criticism from other journalists.

“The pressure for media accountability is high,” in the Middle East, Baydar said. “Only 10% of the stories are accurate. Some form of media self-regulation is needed.”

After three days of meetings and informal discussions, a universal consensus on the role of news ombudsmen was elusive, at best. ONO members all know that the media-accountability game has changed, and are trying to find their most effective role in the new online digital age.

As Kirk LaPointe, the new ONO executive director, put it: “In the past, the public connected through letters and phone calls. Today, there’s a whole lot of connecting going on through comments, media criticism, blogs, and other organizations. If ombudsmen don’t address it, you run the risk of being irrelevant. You should pay attention to other things that play a role in the reputation of your organization. There needs to be new consideration given to what’s being said about the journalistic conduct of every media organization.”

Jeffrey Dvorkin, the outgoing ONO executive director and former ombudsman at NPR, asked: “Are we doing an old job in a new media environment? ONO is really about a discourse. There are more people engaged in that discourse than at any time in the history of the world. There’s lots more media criticism now, but they’re not doing it very well. Ombudsmen have to be more evangelical. We’re doing the right job at the right time. And we’re needed now more than ever.”

In the closing session, Stephen Pritchard added: I can’t remember an ONO conference where we talked so intensely about the job!” Then the meeting was adjourned – with the future of news ombudsmanship still unclear. Needed now more than ever? Perhaps. But to do what, exactly?

NOTE: The Washington News Council will hear a formal complaint against The Seattle Times at a public hearing on June 1 at Town Hall (9 am to noon). Audience members will be invited to vote along with the WNC’s Hearings Board. The hearing will be videotaped and webcast by TVW, and online viewers will be able to vote as well. No news council in the world has ever done this, as far as we know. It’s an experiment in expanding the concept of “outside ombudsmanship” to the public. Join us! Weigh in!

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GiveBIG and GetBEER! GiveBIG May 15 and Stop By Our Office

SPECIAL OFFER: If you GiveBIG! on May 15 as part of The Seattle Foundation’s campaign to help ALL non-profit organizations in our community, then you can GetBEER! on May 15, 16 or 17 (noon-6 pm) at the WNC office above the Pyramid Alehouse across from Safeco Field.

Seriously! The Washington News Council is offering ONE FREE BEER to anyone over 21 who can SHOW PROOF that they donated on May 15 to ANY organization on The Seattle Foundation’s GiveBIG list.

This is our way of thanking all those who donated so generously to the wonderful non-profit organizations in this area. Come toast our community’s fabulous philanthropic spirit! (ROOT BEER is available for minors and/or teetotalers. Pretzels are optional.)

Just stop by the WNC’s office above the Pyramid Alehouse at 1201 1st Avenue South to get your free beer, PLUS a $5 OFF discount card to the Pyramid Alehouse (while they last).

DIRECTIONS: Climb black metal stairs on front of Alehouse to top floor; turn left down long hallway to WNC office in Room #331.

BONUS: Anyone who donates to the WNC will also receive a cool WNC/TAO coffee travel tumbler — but only IF you come visit our office.

Call 206.262.9793 with any questions.

Hop on down! Raise a glass! GiveBIG a BigCHEER and GetBEER!

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Our Advice for Britain’s new National Press Regulator

In the wake of recent scandals, Britain’s politicians want to regulate the country’s naughty media. Our own Washington News Council might make a better model.

England may soon have its own NPR: the “National Press Regulator.” Sound scary? It is.

The Economist calls it a “rotten deal,” arguing that the British NPR would be “set up by a royal charter, underpinned by statute, and monitored by a new recognising body, whose first set of members will be appointed by yet another committee, itself partly government-appointed …[N]ewspapers that fail to sign up will be subject to harsh exemplary damages.”

Can you imagine the outrage if anyone proposed that in the United States?

Read the rest of this piece from April, 2013, at Crosscut.com.

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Washington News Council To Close Its Seattle Office

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – April 1, 2013

The Washington News Council, which just began its 15th year of operations and added 15 new members to its Board of Directors (Fact Check: True), announced that it will close its Seattle office on May 1.

The WNC will move lock, stock and beer barrel to London and “reboot” itself as the British News Council (BNC), with oversight of all newspapers, television and digital media in Great Britain.

“The British press are a total mess,” said Prime Minister David Cameron. “We’re confident the Washington News Council, having totally reformed the media in your state, can do the same for us.” Cameron said he was inspired by an April 1 article about the WNC on Crosscut.com.

The British press have faced harsh criticism after phone-hacking and police-bribery scandals involving dozens of journalists there. A government inquiry led to a proposal to create a new National Press Regulator (NPR) to oversee the British media, with power to levy fines on bad or unethical journalists. (Fact Check: True.)

“Our mission here is done,” said John Hamer, President of the WNC. “We have transformed the news media after 15 years.”

He cited several truly extraordinary changes, including:

  • Journalists are always careful to get the facts right, be fair and balanced, and leave their personal opinions out of all stories.
  • Journalists are always transparent, accountable and open, following the WNC’s “TAO of Journalism” pledge.
  • Journalists always double- or triple-check every fact before reporting, especially on Twitter and other social media.
  • News organizations always admit mistakes promptly, run corrections prominently, and humbly apologize for errors.
  • Journalists never do stories mainly aimed at winning Pulitzer Prizes, Emmy Awards or other journalism contests.
  • Citizens here completely trust major news outlets and generously support them with paid ads, subscriptions and/or donations.
  • KIRO7 TV’s “investigative” reporter Chris Halsne, who has been the subject of dozens of complaints to the WNC over the past decade, has left the station. (Fact Check: True.)

Suzie Burke of Fremont, Chair of the WNC Board, said: “We invite everyone to drop by the WNC office in Room #331 above the Pyramid Alehouse for a free beer on May Day from 6-8 pm to help us celebrate.” (Fact Check: True.) “And once our new office opens above London’s Fleet Street Pub, feel free to fly over for another beer…on us!”

CONTACT: John Hamer (jhamer@wanewscouncil.org), Soon-to-Be British News Council’s Chief Hacker-Whacker and Anchor-Spanker.

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Gridiron West: A Not-to-be-Missed Bipartisan Post-Election Bash

Imagine it’s a few days after Election Day. Your candidate(s) won! You had a big victory party to celebrate. Now what?

Well, one thing you can’t wait to do is see your friends whose candidate(s) lost, right? Come on, admit it: You know you do.

You’ll give them a big grin, slap them on the back and say, “Hey, maybe next time!” You long to rub it in a little, right?

Oh, you’ll pretend to be sympathetic, and say things like, “Well, it was a close race. Two strong candidates. Could’ve gone either way!”

But inside you’re gleeful, feeling triumphant, savoring the win – in a restrained and understated way, of course.

Click Here for Tickets to the Gridiron West Dinner :: A Can't-Miss Post-Election Bash!

Click above for details and tickets!

This is why God invented passive-aggressiveness. You can make nice while your inner dialogue does the gloating: “Yessss! We won! You’re toast! Bwahahahahahahahahaha!”

You lust to see the pained looks on their faces, a wan smile that turns into a pathetic grimace as they avert their eyes and try to change the subject to, like, the weather or something. Sweet.

Am I right? You know I am. That’s your deep-down dream, whether you voted for Obama or Romney, Cantwell or Baumgartner, Inslee or McKenna, Del Bene or Koster, Owens or Finkbeiner, Dunn or Ferguson, Drew or Wyman, Kelley or Watkins, McCloud or Sanders.

Whoever prevails in these tough, hard-fought, deeply felt races, there’ll be winners and losers – feeling happy or crappy, cheerful or tearful, woo-hooing or boo-hooing.

So…what if you could come to a big bipartisan post-election bash, where you could tweak your friends and trash their losing candidates – in an oh-so-compassionate manner, of course. After all, this is Seattle, not Chicago.

You could share a bottle or two of wine with them, and hope they might even tear up a bit. Then you’d console them magnanimously, put your arm around their shoulders, hand them a hankie and feel a thrill run up your leg.

After a few drinks you might even concede that the pendulum swings back and forth in a democracy — the worst form of government except for all the others, as Churchill said. Be the bigger person. Let your friends save a little face. You’ll feel even better about yourself.

Well, this is your lucky day: You’re invited to a big post-election bash where you can do all of the above, and more!

The Washington News Council’s 14th Annual Gridiron West Dinner will be held on Sunday, Nov. 11, at the Washington State Convention Center. This historically schizophrenic, inspiring/depressing, invigorating/eviscerating event will bring together hundreds of folks from all sides of the political divide.

The program will “toast and roast” (ambiguity intended) Governor Christine Gregoire and Congressman Norm Dicks. Both are stepping down at the end of their terms, so it’s the perfect opportunity to cheer and/or jeer two lame ducks. “Toasters/roasters” include Republicans Slade Gorton and Ralph Munro, Democrats Maria Cantwell and Brad Smith, and several others from both parties.

A snap from Gridiron West Dinner 2011

All candidates for statewide offices have been invited, and some of them may actually show up – especially the winners!

But here’s the hitch: You have to bet on the come, by getting your tickets or reserving a table BEFORE Election Day. Yes, you must commit to being there even if you don’t know whether you’ll be cheering or crying. Deadline: Monday, Nov. 5.

Confident that your side will win? Man up! Woman up!

Go to http://wanewscouncil.org/gridiron and click through to our “cart” to buy tickets or a table of 10. The room is filling up fast – and so far it’s half Democrats, half Republicans.

A big bipartisan crowd, where we can all “just get along” — at least for one night. Civility, toleration, peace, love and understanding will prevail – on the surface, anyway. Underneath, total war. Is this a great country, or what?

Oh, by the way, it’s Veterans Day, so we’ll honor all the veterans who fought for our right to fight all night, disagree without being (too) disagreeable, bury the hatchet (figuratively speaking), and feel good about our messy, feisty, sloppy, scrappy democracy, where no argument is ever really settled.

Got courage? Got guts? Got cojones/ovaries? Get tix! See you there.

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News Council Praised at World’s Largest Rotary Club

Paul Ishii

Paul Ishii - President of Seattle Rotary

The Washington News Council received two strong   “testimonials” about our work during Rotary Club of Seattle meetings in recent weeks – one from Rotary President Paul Ishii and the other from former Microsoft Chief Operating Officer Bob Herbold.

On Oct. 3, Rotary President Paul Ishii told the 500+ club members that he had been the subject of an inaccurate story in The Seattle Times alleging that an employee of the Mayflower Park Hotel, where Ishii is general manager, would not be covered for lost wages while recuperating from a gunshot wound received when he helped stop an armed robber.

That was untrue: Paul will cover employee Roberto Sandoval’s wages and benefits while he is unable to work. Paul had called the reporter and the online version was corrected and the paper also printed a correction on Page A2 in the Sunday paper. However, The Times the day before had published an editorial based on the inaccurate news story that repeated the erroneous information and urged donations to a fund to pay for Sandoval’s lost wages. The editorial remains uncorrected online at the time of this writing — although The Times did print a correction on the editorial page three days later.

“It’s pretty scary to be labeled guilty in the newspaper. I felt like a shmuck,” Paul told the 500 Rotarians gathered for their weekly lunch meeting. He said he was deluged by angry emails and phone calls based on the incorrect story and editorial. Uncertain how to proceed, Paul said: “I called John Hamer of the Washington News Council at home really early on a Saturday morning and he walked me through step-by-step on what I should do.”

Paul followed my recommendations, and The Times made the corrections, which appeared within a few days, in both the news and editorial sections. Paul thanked me and the WNC for our help – and also thanked The Times for setting the record straight.

Bob Herbold

Bob Herbold - Retired executive vice president and chief operating officer of Microsoft

A week later, on Oct. 10, former Microsoft executive Bob Herbold was the featured speaker at Seattle Rotary. Here is part of what he said:

“The news media are a significant part of the problem that democracies are having in making tough decisions. Specifically, any time a politician suggests a change to just about anything, the media will find someone disadvantaged by that change and will showcase that ‘victim.’ That kind of sensationalism is what attracts an audience, be it readers or viewers. Given that virtually all politicians have as their first priority getting re-elected, they back off and shy away from change in the future.”

In the Q-and-A session, I asked Bob this question:

“Bob, you cited the media as being part of the problem. But under the First Amendment, we can’t have any government control or regulation or censorship of the media, and we don’t want that. What two or three things would you suggest that might help address your concerns about the media?”

HERBOLD: “It’s a big challenge, especially with all the media on the Internet and in the blogosphere. People can say anything they want to. There is some good information on the Internet, but a lot of it is just bias, inaccuracies, and slanted opinion.

I honestly don’t know what to suggest. It’s a real challenge. It is getting increasingly difficult for leadership to exist in a democracy, particularly the kind of very courageous leadership required to clean up the huge financial messes that so many democracies find themselves in.

“You’re going to be in business for a long time, John. The Washington News Council gets involved in cases of bad or inaccurate stories, and tries to help people who have been damaged by the media. That’s how John makes his living. And it’s an important job.”

The Washington News Council would like to thank Paul and Bob for their comments — which were completely unsolicited and a nice surprise!

NOTE: Both Herbold and Ishii have donated to the News Council in the past and have also attended some of our events.

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Journalism Students take the TAO pledge!

The TAOttoo - graphic by Summer Thornfeldt

“Do you like tattoos?” was my standard pickup line.

OK, pretty cheesy, but hey, it worked most of the time.

I was sitting at a table at the Washington State Convention Center for two days last week surrounded by about 4,000 high-school journalists from all over the country.

It was the national Journalism Education Association/National Student Press Association’s annual spring convention. The Washington News Council had an information table in the exhibit hall, along with dozens of college journalism schools, printing companies, yearbook publishers, etc. Most of the exhibitors had elaborate displays with banners, literature, video screens, bowls of candy, notepads and other giveaway items.

How to get students to stop at our table? We decided to give away temporary tattoos, which we unashamedly called “TAOttoos.” The words “TAO of Journalism – Transparent, Accountable and Open” surround a black-and-white yin-yang symbol in a circular seal about the size of a poker chip.

They were the inspiration of Kathy Schrier, the WNC’s part-time executive assistant, who is also executive director of the Washington Journalism Education Association and helps organize this conference every year.

I wore a TAOttoo on the back of each hand. I’d hold them out to show the kids as they walked by with their backpacks, gift bags, notebooks, cellphones, printed programs and handfuls of candy from the other tables. Most slowed down and stopped to learn more.

Here was my pitch: “The word TAO means ‘the path’ or ‘the way.’ This is a voluntary pledge to be Transparent about who you are, Accountable when you make mistakes, and Open to other points of view. If you take the pledge for your high-school newspaper or yearbook, you can wear and display the seal. If you do it today I’ll give you TAOttoos for every member of your staff. I’ll give you a cool poster with the TAO Pledge to hang in your newsroom. And I’ll send you a digital version of the TAO Seal to print in your paper or post on your website. It’s free. All I need is the name of your publication and an email address.”

By the end of the two days, about 200 students from all over the nation had taken the pledge and put the TAOttoos on their hands, wrists, arms, necks or cheeks. I insisted they put them on before they left the table, and even provided wet paper towels so they could apply them on the spot.

Jacob Caggiano, my young WNC communications specialist, took over the table for a few hours one day while I did a session on the TAO concept in a large WSCC meeting room, and a roundtable discussion on opinion/editorial writing.

When I got back, I heard Jacob deliver his own version to a couple of young girls who approached the table: “So, tell me about your ethics,” Jacob said to them.

They giggled – and stayed to chat. They took the pledge and signed the sheet. He gave them a poster. He gave them TAOttoos. They put them on the backs of their hands and seemed delighted at the result.

Another girl came by and took the pledge. She was an artist and showed us her portfolio. About two hours later, she came back with a graphic she’d just done and said we could use it on our website.

Summer Thornfeldt of Boise, Idaho, thanks for the TAOttoo art, which we’ve posted here.

It’s totally TAO — Transparent, Accountable, and Open. How cool is that?

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