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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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.

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TAO of Journalism gets national press on MediaBistro.com

We were thrilled to hear from Lauren Rabaino who blogs for 10,000 Words “Where Journalism and Technology Meet.” Lauren was equally thrilled to find out about our TAO of Journalism campaign and called up Executive Director John Hamer for a nice little feature piece.

Read about it here and share the love!

“TAO Of Journalism” Project Wants to Crowdsource Ethics, Increase Transparency

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Seattle’s BOLD plan for a Journalism Commons

From left to right: Karen Johnson (Seattle Magazine/Hacks & Hackers) Mike Fancher (Journalism Commons PNW) David Boardman (Seattle Times) Lisa Skube (Reynolds Journalism Institute)

Last year Journalism that Matters held its monumental Pacific Northwest Unconference where several projects have since emerged. It was then that Fancher formally launched his mission to “cultivate abundant journalism” and last night marked a significant milestone in that effort.

Twenty-one of the region’s most influential news experts and enthusiasts gathered at the swanky offices of Seattle Magazine to discuss the state of news and information in our region, with the overall goal of finding ways to increase the level of quality journalism across the Pacific Northwest. As a bonus, Banyan Project founder and Harvard Berkman fellow Tom Stites came along for the ride. The “Dream Team” roster included:

Sanjay Bhatt, Seattle AAJA, Seattle Times, and Global Health Journalism Collaboratory
Anna Bloom, Seattle Code for America Fellow
David Boardman, Executive Editor The Seattle Times
Mark Briggs, Director of Digital Media KING-TV
Jacob Caggiano, Washington News Lab (part of the Washington News Council)
Carole Carmichael, Seattle Times
Joe Copeland, Crosscut
Mike Fancher, Former Seattle Times Executive Editor & 2008-2009 RJI Fellow
Brian Glanz, Open Science Federation
Jan Gray, Puget Sound Civic Communication Commons
Monica Guzman, Intersect
John Hamer, Washington News Council
Rita Hibbard, Investigate West
Peggy Holman, Journalism That Matters
Clay Holtzman, SPJ Western Washington
Hanson Hosein, UW Master of Communication in Digital Media Program, Media Space Host
Marsha Iverson, King County Library Services, KCLS Newsroom
Karen Johnson, Seattle magazine and co-organizer of new Seattle Hacks and Hackers chapter
Julie Pham, NW Vietnamese News and Sea Beez (New America Media)
Lisa Skube, Reynolds Journalism Institute
Tom Stites, The Banyan Project and Berkman Center for Internt and Society at Harvard
Luke Timmerman, National Bio-Tech editor – Xconomy

The evening was off to a good start with a few well received announcements. The first came from Investigate West founder Rita Hibbard who was just awarded their second grant from the The Ethics & Excellence in Journalism Foundation. Another item of interest was Seattle Times writer and Global Health Initiative co-founder Sanjay Bhatt’s mention of a new collaborative report on Global Health Journalism. The crowd also warmly welcomed journalist Anna Bloom‘s arrival to our fair city to weave together a new open government system as part of her 2011 Code for America fellowship.

Now that the pump was primed, JTM founder and conversation steward Peggy Holman broke the room up into pairs, followed by small groups, and ending with a full circle report.

Several themes emerged, as we aimed to discuss not just what needed to be done but what was already working. Many were in agreement that Seattle’s strong network of hyperlocal neighborhood sites serve a very unique and valuable role, and Seattle Times Executive Editor David Boardman shared his belief that his publication’s recent “networked journalism” partnership with several hyperlocal sites not only made sense on a civic level, but from a business perspective as well. Everyone nodded their heads at the idea of collaboration, and it was refreshing to hear KING-5 Digital Media Director Mark Briggs talk about how his station and several competitors all got together with the WSDOT before the November snow storm and strategized the best way to get out breaking information over their respective networks and on social media. KING-5 and The Times are also kicking off a “be local” partnership to use their ad reps to help bring in revenue to hyperlocal blogs.  Luke Timmerman of Xconomy reminded us that it doesn’t have to be a zero sum game, and his syndication partnership with the Seattle Times has driven traffic to both sites.

Of course, talk is one thing, but doing is always the challenge. How can we get more work done and bring more voices into the mix? A good part of the discussion talked about some of the events sponsored by journalism organizations and their potential for generating revenue as well as strengthening the role of journalists themselves. The Puget Sound Business Journal and the Northwest Asian Weekly were recognized for putting on successful events that engage their niche audiences face to face and bring in a little extra dough on the side. The role of journalists can also shine through, as we pondered the difference between a hypothetical event about police conduct hosted by the mayor versus the hot sparks that flew from the recent forum on police accountability put on by The Stranger. Luke Timmerman of Xconomy also had good things to report about their events, and was quick to stress the importance of being upfront with your sponsors about the separation between business relationships and editorial decisions in the newsroom. Finding a comfort zone for all parties is important, as questionable events from the Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and The Economist have all received various levels of scrutiny.

Now comes the important part, the follow-through. Business cards were exchanged and the group agreed on quarterly face to face meetings, but how to we grow from there? JTM has always been successful at bringing people in the flesh, and now the time is ripe to flesh out that energy online in a way that increases involvement and productivity. I encourage journalists, students, and knowledgeable citizens of all stripes to join us in this space, start a session, or dive into an existing one like Mike Fancher’s Journalism Commons PNW. Tell us what you need to make this happen.

Some good stuff to expect are a shared calendar that streamlines journalism events across the board, as well as a “behind the curtain” collaboration that shows how journalism gets done and reveals the networks that make good stories happen.

Brian Glanz put together some awesome tools, and the fire’s just warming up.

This post is a part of the Carnival of Journalism project initiated by David Cohn at the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri. This month David assigned the Carnival to answer the question: “Considering your unique circumstances what steps can be taken to increase the number of news sources?”

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What are the information needs of the Puget Sound region?

Last month a group of local journalism creators/innovators/enthusiasts convened at the Alki Arts Studio in West Seattle to welcome Reynolds Journalism Institute Fellow Lisa Skube. Skube has been trekking the country as part of her mission to accelerate the field of journalism in the digital media world, and she provided great fodder for discussion on the information needs of our community. WNC’s John Hamer and Jacob Caggiano took part in the brainshare hosted by Journalism that Matters.

There was talk of collaboration, platform fatigue, content management, relational impact, Facebook engagement, and even a funding success story with a dash of optimism thrown in for good measure.

Please check out Lisa’s video highlights of the evening and learn more about the work she is doing with RJI.

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WNC’s 5th Annual Gridiron Dinner “toasts” Jim Ellis and John Ellis

The Washington News Council “toasted” Jim Ellis and John Ellis at our 5th Annual Gridiron West Dinner on Friday, Nov. 7, 2003, in the Skybridge at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center. Nearly 400 people attended the gala event to honor the Ellis brothers, who have been civic leaders in the Puget Sound region for decades.

The event was a fun-filled evening of comedy, song parodies and affectionate toasts. This year’s “toasters” were (for Jim) Charley Bingham, Slade Gorton, Ken Hatch, Sally Jewell, Gerry Johnson, and Phyllis Lamphere and (for John) Doug Beighle, Phyllis Campbell, Don Covey, Howard Lincoln, Bob Myers and Patti Payne.

In response to their “toasters,” Jim and John and Patti Payne teamed up for a surprise musical song-and-dance routine. The audience was delighted by seeing Jim and Patti singing and dancing, accompanied by John on the piano. The evening also featured comedy by Master of Ceremonies Mike Egan, and Frank Sinatra song parodies sung by David Koch and David Scully of Cabaret Productions, with Scott Warrender on the piano. A video tribute done by Larry Cali and Ken Jones was another highlight.

News Council Chairman Bob Utter and Past President Eddie Reed welcomed the crowd. WNC Treasurer Carver Gayton and Executive Director John Hamer thanked table sponsors. For the fifth year in a row, members of the Washington News Council took the stage to sing a song: “High Hopes.”

Guests were encouraged to fill out membership envelopes and two were drawn at the end of the evening for prizes: 1) lunch for 10 with Jim Ellis at the Convention Center and 2) dinner for 4 with John Ellis in the owner’s suite at Safeco Field during a Mariners’ game next season. The two prizes were won by Bob Carlile of KPMG and Jim Warjone of Port Blakely Tree Farms. The winning envelopes were drawn by Kerri and Daniel Ellis, John’s grandchildren.

Table sponsors at the “Visionaries” ($5,000) level were: Boeing, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Microsoft, King County Journal, Seattle Mariners, and PEMCO. Tables sponsors at the “Movers” ($2,500) level were: The Gallatin Group, Premera Blue Cross, Preston Gates & Ellis, Puget Sound Energy, Sandy Schoolfield & Jon Kechejian, Washington State Convention & Trade Center, and Weyerhaeuser. Table sponsors at the “Shakers” ($1,000) level were Dr. Richard Baxter, The Benaroya Company, Carolyn Duncan, Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs, Fremont Dock Company, Gorton Legacy Group, Merriman Capital Management, Barry Mitzman, Mountains-to-Sound Greenway, Chuck Nordhoff, Parsons Brinkerhoff, Patti Payne, Bill & Jill Ruckelshaus, Wes Uhlman & Associates, Robert Utter, William Van Valkenberg, and the Washington Farm Bureau.

Chateau Ste. Michelle provided wines and Creative Ice Sculptures did the spectacular centerpieces, which featured a Seattle Mariners baseball and an evergreen branch inside each ice globe. One lucky person at each table won the ice globe and got to take it home.

The King County Journal provided reprints of a front-page article on the Ellis brothers that ran on Sunday, Nov. 2. David Horsey of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer did the drawing that appeared on the invitations and the programs, and presented framed copies to Jim and John at the end of the evening.

Jim Ellis is founding partner of Preston Gates and Ellis, founder of Metro and the Lake Washington clean-up campaign, father of the Forward Thrust public-works program, chairman of the Mountains to Sound Greenway, and past president of the state Convention and Trade Center. He is also a Founding Board member of the Washington News Council.

John Ellis is chairman emeritus and a member of the board of directors of the Seattle Mariners, former top executive of what is now Puget Sound Energy, a partner in the Seattle-based law firm of Perkins Coie, and has served on the boards of numerous community organizations, including Seattle University.

The Honorary Advisory Committee for the event included: Doug Beighle, Phyllis Campbell, Don Covey, Dan Evans, Bob Flennaugh, Bill Gates Sr., Slade Gorton, Peter Horvitz, Sally Jewell, Phyllis Lamphere, Howard Lincoln, Bob Myers, Patti Payne, Norm Rice, Charles Royer, Bill Ruckelshaus, Frank Shrontz, and John Spellman.

Videotapes of the event are available. Call our office for details.

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