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!


Gridiron West Dinner Was “Best One Ever”

The WNC’s 15th Annual Gridiron West Dinner on Nov. 8 at The Westin Seattle to “roast and toast” David Horsey and Patti Payne was “the best Gridiron ever,” according to many who were there.

More than 500 people packed the Grand Ballroom at the Westin, after a VIP reception that included special “Payne Royale” champagne drinks and delicious hand-passed hors d’oeuvres.

Honoree Patti Payne colorfully documented the evening in her Puget Sound Business Journal column, Puget Sound BizTalk, “Flame broiled: Patti Payne and David Horsey get roasted on stage.” Find below an embedded video of the event from the Seattle Channel.

The evening began with a welcome from Emcee Mike Egan, who introduced Anthony B. Robinson for an invocation that expressed appropriate gratitude for God’s gifts of laughter and humor.

Caela Bailey and Kevin Joyce of EnJoy Productions led the audience in “America the Beautiful,” followed by a raucous, rocking version of “I Gotta Feeling (Tonight’s Gonna Be a Good, Good Night)” – which it definitely was.

WNC Board Chair Suzie Burke and Board President John Hamer thanked table sponsors, beginning with Presenting Sponsors at the $15,000 level: Puget Sound Business Journal, Clear Channel Outdoor and Kemper Development Company, who all had front-row tables along with the Horsey and Payne families and friends.

“Boaster” Table Sponsors ($10,000 level) were Boeing, the Peter Horvitz Foundation, and Microsoft. “Roasters” ($5,000 level) were the Sheri & Les Biller Family Foundation, Chihuly Studios, Fremont Dock/U-Park, Lynden Inc., Seattle Mariners, Wells Fargo and Dr. Richard Wollert.

At the “Toasters” ($3,000 level) were Trish Carpenter, Evergreen Health Foundation, Gorton Legacy Group, Cathi Hatch, Dr. Rodney Hochman, Toni Hoffman, The Keller Group, Stacy Lill, Media Plus+, Sue & Robert Merry, Overlake Medical Center, Stewart Phelps, Puget Sound Energy, Marilyn Smith & Christine Warjone, Smith & Stark, Doug & Janet True, True NW Communications, Umpqua Bank, Virginia Mason Hospital, and Wal-Mart.

The menu included an arugula, endive and apple salad; peppercorn filet of beef and grilled swordfish with butternut squash puree and sautéed greens, and a trio of miniature pies for dessert (apple, lemon and chocolate). Wines were from Chateau Ste. Michelle. Centerpiece baskets included a custom-label wine from Northwest Cellars, a jar of homemade jam from Patti Payne, and a cartoon book by David Horsey, plus items from the Puget Sound Business Journal and the WNC.

A video testimonial was shown after dinner, with powerful statements from Bill Gates Sr., Sam Reed, Sue Rahr, Pia De Solenni, Blair Thompson and Dr. Richard Wollert – who all took part in complaint hearings sponsored by the News Council in the past.

Suzie Burke asked attendees to make extra donations to the WNC, which are tax-deductible, to support the organization’s vital work. John Hamer introduced Devon Geary, a U.W. senior who won one of the WNC’s two $2,000 scholarships this year. The other winner, Rianna Ramirez, is a freshman at WSU. The WNC has awarded a total of 28 scholarships in the past 15 years.

All WNC Board Members who were present then took the stage to sing “Hello, David” and “Hello, Patti” – the first of several parody songs. The audience sang along with lyrics projected on two big screens. During the song, Kevin Joyce and Caela Bailey came onstage dressed as David Horsey and Patti Payne. The crowd went wild.

They then sang a parody of “Blurred Lines” complete with “twerking” by Egan that had the audience in stitches. Emcee Egan then did a “Pictorial Tribute” slideshow using vintage photographs of David Horsey and Patti Payne, including baby pictures. Egan’s hilarious verbal “captions” are always a highlight of the event.

Horsey and Payne came onstage and took seats in two large overstuffed golden chairs that resembled thrones, fittingly. Joyce and Bailey returned for a parody song: “Just Give Me Something to Write About,” focusing on Payne.

The first pair of “roasters/toasters” — Constance Rice and Rod Hochman — both poked fun at Payne and got lots of laughs from the crowd.

Bailey and Joyce then reappeared, with Kevin wearing David Horsey’s cowboy shirt, hat and chaps, to sing a parody: “Mommas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Draw Cartoons.”

Egan then introduced Gov. Dan Evans and Gov. Jay Inslee. Evans came onstage and did a hilarious toast/roast of Horsey. Inslee sent a letter saying he was stuck in Olympia for the special session of the Legislature, which he called himself.

Bailey and Joyce then did a duet alternating between “My Funny Patti Payne” and “Dirty Laundry.” People fell off their chairs laughing.

Bob Cremin took the stage to “roast and toast” Payne, and he pulled several items out that he said were found in Patti’s bra – a model airplane, a set of bull horns, and a native American mask. Les & Sheri Biller gave remarks poking gentle fun at Patti.

Joyce and Bailey reappeared for a side-splitting version of “L.A. Workman” with Kevin in black leather pants and a bottle of Jack Daniels in his hand.

Casey Corr and Art Thiel, who both worked with Horsey at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, delivered caustically comedic comments that had the crowd going wild. As fellow journalists, they showed no mercy.

Darielle and Daniel Horsey, David’s daughter and son, took the stage for a funny and moving tribute to their Dad and his cowboy fetish. They noted he often got mad at his computer for not doing what he didn’t tell it to do.

They were followed by Lee Keller and Jill Whitmore, Patti’s daughters, who began with verbal remarks and then took up a cello and keyboard to play and sing a moving musical tribute to their mother: “You Raise Me Up.”

Winners of two raffle packages – a trip to New York City and a trip to Los Angeles — were Meredith Tall and Teresa Hunt, respectively. Centerpieces went to those with red stars on their nametags, who were mostly table captains or who helped in other ways on the event.

Hamer announced a special photo opportunity with “The Most People Reading a Patti Payne Column at the Same Time.” The Puget Sound Business Journal provided 500 newspapers, plus a special discount offer for those who subscribed that night.

Hamer then announced that Patti Payne had offered to host a special gourmet dinner at her home, with wines from DeLille and Betz, plus live music, for couples who agreed to pay $1,000 that night. Proceeds were earmarked for the WNC’s scholarship fund and other educational programs. About 10 people raised their hands to join the dinner party.

Finally, David Horsey and Patti Payne were provided time for “rebuttals.” Horsey presented several cartoons he had done of his “roasters” over the years. Payne was joined by John Ellis on piano and John Giuliani on bass, plus Cutts Peasley on drums, to sing her response. She closed with a moving rendition of “What a Wonderful World” that had the crowd in tears.

A champagne-and-chocolate After Party followed, along with a wacky “Pie Throwing Booth” at which John Hamer and David Horsey posed behind a vinyl portrayal of Michaelangelo’s “The David” statue with the face cut out. For only $20 a throw, people could try to hit them in the face with a whipped-cream pie in a metal pie pan. Several scored direct hits. Hamer and Horsey each got creamed.

This was the WNC’s second-largest Gridiron West Dinner in 15 years, exceeded only by the 550 who attended the event in 2005 to honor Bill Gates Sr. and Mimi Gardner Gates.

“This was the most fun and one of the biggest Gridiron Dinners we’ve ever done,” said President Hamer. “Our goal is to continue doing our vitally important work to hold the news media publicly accountable and to educate the public about media ethics. Stay tuned!”


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!


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 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.


Washington News Council upholds complaints from Leschi School Community and IUOE Local 609 against KIRO7 Eyewitness News

The Washington News Council held a hearing on Saturday, June 16, from 9 am to noon at Town Hall (downstairs) to consider multiple complaints against KIRO7 Eyewitness News. After hearing detailed presentations from the complainants, the WNC’s Hearings Board voted to uphold the complaints almost unanimously.

NOTE: You can watch the original KIRO story here. You can also watch a full video of the News Council hearing itself, thanks to TVW.

See coverage on this story from The Stranger, (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4) Crosscut, The Seattle Weekly (Part 1 and Part 2), Seattle Schools Community Forum, NW Daily Marker (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3) as well as the special feature from

Chris Halsne (left) on KIRO7, talking about Chester Harris (right). Click the image to visit the KIRO story in question. No representatives from KIRO attended the hearing, although they were invited to come. Media participation is voluntary.

The complaints concerned two [CORRECTION: actually, three] stories that aired on May 10-11 about an African-American custodian at Leschi Elementary School, Chester Harris. The stories alleged that Harris had “manhandled” or “bullied” children at the school. They also questioned Harris’ past history, which included several arrests but only one conviction.

However, after the stories aired the Leschi School principal, staff, teachers, parents and International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 609, which represents custodians and other school support staff, defended Harris and criticized the KIRO stories. They flooded KIRO with phone calls and emails, contending that the stories were inaccurate, unfair, sensationalized and unethical. They noted that Harris was merely trying to break up a potential fight between two boys, and asked that the stories be retracted and removed from KIRO’s website, which did not occur. Not satisfied with the response from KIRO7, they turned to the Washington News Council and begin filing formal written complaints, plus signing the WNC waiver form pledging not to sue KIRO7 for defamation, as we require.

At the hearing, which was open to the public and the media, WNC President John Hamer welcomed the crowd and briefly described the mission and programs of the News Council, and thanked TVW for filming the hearing for broadcast statewide and posting on the TVW website. Hearings Board Chair Karen Seinfeld explained the hearing schedule and WNC procedures. WNC Hearings Board members then introduced themselves.

Panel members were: John Hamer, Chuck Rehberg, John Knowlton, David Schaefer, Steve Boyer, Eddie Reed, Sandy Schoolfield, Ted Van Dyk, and Stephen Silha. All are current or emeritus members of the WNC’s Board of Directors. Seven worked as professional journalists for many years. Four are past presidents of the WNC’s Board.

Videos of two of the KIRO stories were then shown on a big screen, with help from Jacob Caggiano, WNC communications strategist. [NOTE: The third story was not available for viewing; it had never been placed on KIRO's website. A copy has been requested.]

To begin the hearing testimony, presentations were made by Mike McBee, recording and corresponding secretary for the IUOE, Local 609; Teresa Stout, administrative secretary at Leschi Elementary School; and Laura McMahon, mother of a Leschi Elementary School student. Dozens of IUOE union members, Leschi staff and teachers, and parents of Leschi students attended the event. Many, including Principal Cashel Toner, wore Leschi School sweatshirts to show their solidarity. Custodian Chester Harris also attended, with his son, Brandon.

After the complainants’ statements, WNC Hearings Board members asked questions to get more detail and clarify issues. They then discussed the stories and allegations openly, in what Chair Seinfeld described as “a peek into the jury room.” Finally, after brief closing statements by the complainants, the panel voted on several questions. [NOTE: WNC President and Executive Director John Hamer participated in the discussion but did not vote, explaining that he had expressed strong opinions about KIRO7 and Chris Halsne in the past and thus could be perceived as being biased.] Votes were collected and counted by Kathy Schrier, WNC executive assistant, with help from Teresa Hunt, former WNC executive assistant.


1. Did the KIRO7 Eyewitness News stories of May 10 and 11, 2012, accurately describe the actions of custodian Chester Harris when it contended he was “manhandling” or “bullying” students at Leschi Elementary School and that he “grabbed” a student without cause? VOTE: 8 No, 0 Yes.

2. Did KIRO7′s use of a hidden camera to film Leschi Elementary School students without obtaining permission from the principal, administration or parents violate the privacy of the students or put some students at potential risk? VOTE: 7 Yes, 1 did not vote.

3. Should the KIRO7 story about Chester Harris have included comments from Leschi School officials noting that a previous charge against him by one of the station’s primary sources was found to be false and groundless after thorough investigation? VOTE: 8 Yes, 0 No.

4. Should the KIRO7 story have included comments from school officials noting that another of the station’s primary sources has a restraining order against her from coming onto the Leschi Elementary School grounds? VOTE: 8 Yes, 0 No.

5. Was the KIRO7 story’s report that “little has been done” in response to previous complaints a fair characterization of the actions by the Leschi School staff and Seattle Public Schools? VOTE: 8 No, 0 Yes.

6. Did KIRO7 delete comments from Leschi community members from its website that were critical of its May 10 story and defended Chester Harris? VOTE: 7 Yes, 1 did not vote.

7. Did KIRO7′s May 11 story, an interview with the mother of the boy who was allegedly “grabbed,” sufficiently offset any unfairness in the May 10 and [earlier] May 11 stories? VOTE: 8 No, 0 Yes.

8. Did KIRO7′S story [stories] unfairly damage the reputations of:

a) Chester Harris? VOTE: 8 Yes, 0 No.

b) the Leschi School Community? VOTE: 8 Yes, 0 No.

c) Seattle Public Schools? VOTE: 5 Yes, 3 No.

d) the IUOE, Local 609? VOTE: 3 Yes, 5 No.

9. Does KIRO7 have any obligation, under generally accepted media-ethics codes, to:

a) Retract its stories? VOTE: 4 Yes, 4 did not vote.

b) Remove the stories from its website? VOTE: 4 Yes, 4 did not vote.

c) Air a follow-up story setting the record straight? VOTE: 3 Yes, 5 did not vote.

d) Apologize to all those whose reputations were damaged? VOTE: 4 Yes, 4 did not vote.

e) All of the above? VOTE: 7 Yes, 1 did not vote.

f) None of the above? VOTE: 0 votes Yes or No.

Members of the audience were also given ballots and invited to vote. A total of 40 ballots were received. Not all voters voted on every question. (Members of the public were also invited to vote and comment online. Voting was open until June 30; results are posted below.)


1.Yes 0, No 39
2.Yes 38, No 1
3.Yes 39, No 0
4.Yes 36, No 3
5.Yes 0, No 38
6.Yes 37, No 2
7.Yes 2, No 36
8.a) Yes 39, No 0 b) Yes 38, No 1 c) Yes 35, No 2 d)Yes 35, No 0
9.a) 0 b) 1 c) 5 d) 2 e) 33 f) 0

We also invited members of the public who were not able to attend the June 16 hearing to vote online on the same questions. More than half of the 45 who voted online were not connected to the school, the union, or the media. Again, not everyone voted on every question. Here are the results of these votes:


1.Yes 2, No 40

2.Yes 40, No 2

3.Yes 43, No 2

4.Yes 43, No 1

5.Yes 3, No 41

6.Yes 35, No 0

7.Yes 4, No 35

8.a) Yes 41, b) Yes 39, c) Yes 33, d) Yes 23

9.a) 17 b) 17 c) 18 d) 17 e) 39 f) 2


The Washington News Council first received a formal written complaint on May 14 from the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 609, which represents Harris and other staff in Seattle Public Schools (see their letter to KIRO, summary of the case, and WNC complaint form). The WNC also received numerous individual complaints from the Leschi School administration (see their letter to KIRO), staff and teachers, followed by complaints from many individual parents, and finally from the Leschi PTA. The number of complaints totaled 15 [UPDATE: 16] – which is the largest number of complaints against any stories in the WNC’s history. After reviewing the complaints, and deciding that they raised “serious questions of journalistic performance and ethics,” the WNC accepted them for its process. The first step was to notify KIRO that the complaints had been received and accepted.

The complaints were hand-delivered to KIRO’s front desk on May 25, addressed to Todd Mokhtari, news director. [NOTE: Mokhtari was then still employed by KIRO but subsequently left for another job in Los Angeles.] An addendum including the PTA’s complaint and a list of requests to KIRO were hand-delivered on May 31. KIRO was asked to respond to the complainants and to the WNC by June 1. However, KIRO did not respond to the WNC’s phone calls, emails or written letters.

Many parents and teachers also expressed concern because KIRO did not get permission to film students whose faces are clearly visible in the broadcasts. Some families had domestic-violence issues, so showing students’ faces on TV put them at risk, complainants said.

KIRO also had deleted negative comments about the story from its website, upsetting parents and teachers who had commented online. Several complainants noted that KIRO relied on sources who had previous conflicts with school administrators, and relied on sources from members of the same family though presented them as being from two separate families.

WNC hearings are not a legal proceeding, but an open public discussion of media ethics and performance. There are no sanctions for the news media other than publicity. Media participation in the WNC’s process is entirely voluntary, but under News Council guidelines, hearings will proceed with or without the media organization’s attendance. Their non-participation does not prejudice the Hearings Board’s votes. A table with KIRO’s name on it was available in case the station’s representatives decided to attend. They did not.

The entire hearing was filmed by TVW and may be viewed at It was also aired on TVW stations statewide, and is available on DVD. It will be used in high-school and college journalism classes statewide as a case study in media performance and ethics. If KIRO decides to respond to the hearing results in any way, their response will be posted on the WNC’s website and added to any instructional materials used in classes. We cordially invite KIRO and Cox Media Group executives to respond, by phone, email, written letter or on the air.

You can see the complete packet of complaint materials, a total 26 different documents regarding the case. Please call the WNC office at 206.262.9793 with any questions.


Did You GiveBIG on May 2? Then GetBEER in May!

SPECIAL OFFER: If you GaveBIG! on May 2 as part of The Seattle Foundation’s campaign to help ALL non-profit organizations in our community, then you can GetBEER! any day in May (M-F, noon-6 pm) at the WNC office above the Pyramid Alehouse across from Safeco Field.

The Washington News Council is offering ONE FREE BEER to anyone over 21 who can SHOW PROOF that they donated on May 2 to ANY organization on The Seattle Foundation’s GiveBIG list.

This is our way of thanking all those who donated so generously. Come toast our community’s fabulous philanthropic spirit! (Root beer is available for minors and/or teetotalers. Pretzels optional.)

Just stop by the WNC’s office above the Pyramid Alehouse at 1201 1st Avenue South, Room #331, between noon and 6 pm to get your free beer, plus a $5 OFF discount card to the Pyramid Alehouse (while they last).

NOTE: Be sure to check Mariners’ and Sounders’ game schedules first. Parking is tight on game days!

BONUS: Anyone who donates to the WNC anytime in May, will also receive a cool WNC/TAO coffee travel tumbler — IF you come visit our office. Climb black metal stairs on front of Alehouse to top floor, then turn left down long hallway to WNC office. Call 206.262.9793 with any questions.

Hop on down! GiveBIG a BigCHEER and GetBEER!


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?


WNC To Hold Hearing on Vitae Foundation vs. KUOW Complaint

***UPDATE*** we now have the hearing video and full set of documents involved with the complaint as a downloadable PDF. We also have national coverage by The Washington Times and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s Ombudsman. Plus local coverage in Sound Politics and the Northwest Daily Marker.

The Washington News Council’s Board of Directors has set a date for a hearing on a formal written complaint from the Vitae Foundation against KUOW 94.9 FM concerning a story that aired April 13, 2011.

The hearing will be Saturday, March 31, 2012, from 9 am-noon, at the University of Washington’s Communication Department, Room 120. It is open to the public.

You can download a PDF collection here to read the basic complaint and initial correspondence between Vitae and KUOW.

WNC Hearings Board Chair Karen Seinfeld presiding over the Sue Rahr v. Seattle Post-Intelligencer case

Karen Seinfeld, Chair of the WNC Hearings Board and former Chief Judge of the Washington State Court of Appeals, will preside at the hearing. (UPDATE 3/16/12: Former Washington State Supreme Court Chief Justice Gerry Alexander will be presiding in Judge Seinfeld’s place at the hearing.)

The WNC Hearings Board will be comprised of current and former WNC Board Members, including Martin Neeb, Scott Forslund, Shannon Myers, Bill Gates Sr., Steve Boyer, John Knowlton, Erik Lacitis, Charles Rehberg, David Schaefer, Paula Selis, Chris Villiers and Walt Howe.

The WNC recently received two grants from the Gates Foundation and Microsoft for 2012 operating expenses.

To see how a WNC hearing works, here is a link to a video and background information of a 2006 hearing in the Sheriff Sue Rahr vs. Seattle Post-Intelligencer complaint, held at Town Hall Seattle.

(The P-I chose not to participate in the hearing, which is their right as media participation is voluntary. They posted a 17-page written response on their website, much of which was read into the record by Judge Seinfeld at the hearing. Had they attended, they would have had full opportunity to “stand by their stories” in public, respond to questions from the Council, and make their case in an open forum.)

The WNC received the Vitae Foundation’s formal written complaint on June 9, 2011, and the Council’s Board of Directors accepted it for our process after careful review. The WNC’s Board unanimously agreed that the complaint raised “serious questions of journalistic performance or ethics,” which is our main criterion for acceptance. The Board takes no position on the merits of a complaint at that stage, however.

We notified both sides that the complaint had been accepted and began a 30-day resolution period, encouraging both Vitae and KUOW to seek a compromise resolution. WNC convened a meeting on July 14, 2011, at the WNC office with Guy Nelson, News Director of KUOW and Pia de Solenni, representing the Vitae Foundation. The resolution period was extended for another 30 days, and extended again through the end of the calendar year. Both sides were urged to continue seeking a compromise.

Following WNC’s three-part recommendation of a proposed compromise resolution, Guy Nelson did conduct a brief telephone interview with Debbie Stokes (CORRECTION: An earlier version identified her as “Debbie Nelson.” We regret the error.) of the Vitae Foundation on Sept. 30, 2011, and posted the transcript on the station’s website. However, the station did not acknowledge that the original story was incomplete and misleading, as they had conceded privately. Nor did they do an on-air story, which was part of the proposed compromise. Nelson said they would “seriously consider” doing a follow-up on-air story, which was part of our proposed compromise, but set no timetable.

The WNC tried through 2011 to mediate Vitae’s complaint, hoping that a satisfactory compromise resolution could be reached. WNC Board Members believed that a resolution was possible. However, in January 2012 it became clear that resolution was unlikely. More than six months had passed — far exceeding the WNC’s normal 30-day resolution period — and there had been little progress.

Under the WNC’s Complaint and Hearing Procedures guidelines, if the complainant is not “satisfied with the news outlet’s proposed resolution to the complaint,” a hearing date to air the issues is scheduled. Vitae was not satisfied with KUOW’s response and therefore requested a hearing. The WNC’s Board, after careful deliberation, agreed to set a hearing date.

A hearing is not a trial, but an open discussion of journalistic standards, which is healthy and helpful for both sides — and for the general public. WNC has asked both parties to submit final written statements by March 10 that include “any new information obtained or agreements reached during the process of trying to resolve the complaint.”

WNC’s Complaints Committee will phrase questions for the Council to consider at the hearing, identifying “which actions by the news outlet allegedly violated standards of accuracy, fairness and/or journalistic ethics.” Final wording of the questions will be shared with both parties and made public at least 10 days prior to the hearing.

One resource the WNC may use at the hearing is National Public Radio’s newly revised Ethics Handbook, which was just released last week.

WNC’s guidelines also state: “Parties may continue to try to resolve the complaint prior to a hearing, but if they do not reach a resolution before the day of the hearing, the hearing will proceed.” If the complaint is resolved to both KUOW and Vitae’s satisfaction by March 30, the hearing will be cancelled.

For further information about the complaint or questions about WNC’s process, contact:

John Hamer (206.262.9793)
President and Executive Director
Washington News Council
1201 1st Ave. South, #331
Seattle, WA 98134

8:30 a.m. – Doors open to Room 120, U.W. Communications Building, to public and news media. (Open at 8 a.m. to WNC Hearings Board)

9:00 a.m. – WNC President John Hamer welcomes attendees,
makes brief remarks about WNC complaint & hearing process.

9:05 a.m. – Hearings Board Chair Gerry Alexander calls hearing to order, asks all Board members to introduce themselves

9:10 a.m. – Opening Statement (15 minutes) by Vitae Foundation

9:25 a.m. – Opening Statement (15 minutes) by KUOW

9:40 a.m. – Rebuttal Statement (5 minutes) by Vitae Foundation

9:45 a.m. – Rebuttal Statement (5 minutes) by KUOW

9:50-10:30 a.m. – Questions (40 minutes) by WNC Hearings Board

10:30-10:45 a.m. – Break

10:45-11:30 a.m. – Discussion (45 minutes) by WNC Hearings Board members (questions of Vitae and KUOW only to clarify issues)

11:30 a.m. – Chair Alexander asks if either party wants a brief recess to reconsider positions or eliminate questions. If so, action is taken.

11:35 a.m. – Closing Statement (2 minutes) by Vitae Foundation

11:37 a.m. – Closing Statement (2 minutes) by KUOW

11:40 a.m. – WNC Hearings Board votes on written ballots, which are counted by WNC staff. Vote results announced by Chair Alexander.
Hearings Board members confirm their votes by show of hands.

12:00 p.m. – Hearing is adjourned by Chair Alexander.


Students nationwide sign up for TAO of Journalism program

Tao of Journalism signup 2012

The staff of the Eagle's Eye News at Ruskin High School in Kansas City, MO takes the TAO of Journalism Pledge during Scholastic Journalism Week, Wed., Feb. 22. They were one of 20 student groups across the country to take the TAO Pledge last week.

Student journalists from across the U.S. took the TAO of Journalism Pledge during annual Scholastic Journalism Week, Feb. 19-25, promising to be Transparent, Accountable and Open (TAO) in their work as journalists. Student journalism groups are invited to take the TAO Pledge at any time, but Feb. 22 was set aside as National TAO of Journalism Pledge Day.

As the TAO of Journalism enters its third year, the momentum grows as more professional journalists and student journalists take the TAO Pledge and carry the TAO Seal on their work. It is a way to help instill public trust.

“We are trying to hold ourselves more accountable,” said David Gaines, newspaper adviser at Moffat County High School in Craig, CO. “This seems like a great way to make a pledge; let others see that we have made a commitment, and then hold each other to it!”

Congratulations to the following student media groups who have made a public commitment to be Transparent, Accountable and Open (TAO) in their work:

Mane Thing (newspaper)
Arlington HS — Riverside, CA

The Golden Word (newspaper & online)
Cibola HS — Albuquerque, NM

The Spoke (newspaper) & (online)
Conestoga HS — Berwyn PA

The Image (yearbook), Pirate Press (newspaper) & DPNews (broadcast)
Dos Pueblos HS — Goleta, CA

Tiger Topics N the Red (newspaper)
Fishers HS — Fishers, IN

The Buzz TV
Fort Mill HS — Fort Mill, SC

The Spectacle (newspaper, broadcast, online news, yearbook)
Mesa Vista HS — Ojo Caliente, NM

The Blue Print (newspaper)
Moffat County HS — Craig, CO

OTVX (broadcast)
Oldham County HS — Buckner, KY

Overland Scout (newspaper)
Overland HS — Aurora, CO

Pirate Press (newspaper), ECHO (yearbook), PattonvilleTODAY (Online
Pattonville HS — Maryland Heights, MO

Premier (newspaper)
Premier Learning Academy — La Marque, TX

The Echo (newspaper & online)
St. Louis Park Senior HS — St. Louis Park, MN

The Raven Report (newspaper)
Sequoia HS — Redwood City, CA

The Eagle’s Eye (newspaper)
Ruskin HS — Kansas City, MO

Smoke Signal (newspaper)
Stafford HS — Falmouth, VA

The Oracle (newspaper)
Steinbrenner HS — Lutz, FL

The Hawk (yearbook)
Susquenita HS — Duncannon, PA

The Yell-Kat
Yellville-Summit HS — Yellville AK

By taking the pledge, the student media listed above will be sent the TAO of Journalism Seal to post as a public promise to practice ethical journalism.

Congratulations to all participants!

Kathy Schrier, M.Ed., MJE
Washington Journalism Education Association
Washington News Council / TAO of Journalism Project


Transpartisan Alliance Salon on the Role of Media in Society

Transpartisan Alliance -- Blog PostOur president John Hamer will be speaking tonight as part of a panel hosted by the Seattle’s Transpartisan Alliance. Here’s the details from their Meetup page.

Monday, January 30, 2012, 6:00 PM

*John Hamer, co-founder of Washington News Council
*Ethan Casey, veteran journalist, editor, and author (
*Peggy Holman, co-founder, Journalism That Matters and author, Engaging Emergence: Turning Upheaval into Opportunity.

What does our society need from the media?

And how do we get the media we need?

We will start off the evening with short presentations on this topic from three great panelists:

Interactive activities and open discussions will follow!

Come, add your perspective, and meet other people concerned about this issue.

Soup and bread will be provided, and you are welcome, but not expected to bring a snack for yourself or to share.

Enter the church from 2nd Avenue.

St Thomas Church

165 NW 65th St., Seattle, WA (map)