Op-Ed Rejected by Seattle Post-Intelligencer after Hearing

WNC President Stephen Silha submitted the following op-ed piece to the Seattle P-I after the Oct. 21 hearing, but the P-I declined to publish it:


By Stephen Silha

We live in an age when accurate reporting is more important than ever – on the international, national, and especially the local level.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s series on systemic problems in the King County Sheriff’s Office — “Conduct Unbecoming” — has performed a significant public service. Perhaps that is why it recently won a C.B. Blethen Award for investigative reporting.

However, the series was deeply flawed. It often became inaccurate, incomplete, and biased to prove a point.

That’s why the Washington News Council – a representative group of journalists and citizens – reprimanded the P-I at an Oct. 21`hearing where Sheriff Sue Rahr and her public information officer, Sgt. John Urquhart, presented their case.

They argued convincingly that the P-I “unfairly disparaged” her office, created unwarranted fear of county police, and made it hard to recruit highly qualified officers.

At the three-plus-hour hearing (which can be seen archived at www.tvw.org), the council considered 11 specific questions about journalistic fairness in the ongoing series and coverage.  In eight of the questions, a majority of us agreed with the Sheriff.  On three questions, we agreed with the P-I.  (For details on questions and votes, see our website: www.wanewscouncil.org.)

The essence of the Council’s finding is this:

The P-I had a good story.  They told some of it well, and produced significant results.

But then they turned it into a series of sometimes-sensationalized stories that didn’t always provide full context.  Their clarifications and corrections were too few, incomplete, and often late, especially the on-line corrections where the stories live on.  They alienated the Sheriff and her staff – with demands such as requesting written answers to 68 questions in a 24-hour deadline– to the point where she refused interviews for the past year.

At one point the P-I questioned the ability of our able executive director, John Hamer, to appear impartial in a dispute involving coverage of his wife’s boss, ex-Sheriff (now Congressman) Dave Reichert—even though Hamer had never met Rahr nor Urquhart before this complaint.

So Hamer immediately removed himself from handling any of the substantive aspects of the case, and put that in the hands of our complaints committee, co-chaired by retired Spokesman-Review Associate Editor Chuck Rehberg and TVW President Cindy Zehnder.

After the P-I alleged that other News Council members could not be impartial, six of our members who had made contributions to Rahr or Reichert (and who could have added a lot to the discussion) or had other potential conflicts recused themselves from discussing and voting at the hearing to further avoid any appearance of impartiality. Yet the P-I’s publisher and top editors still refused to participate in the hearing.

Our big question remains:  Why did the P-I choose not to attend the hearing?

In a time when the public is increasingly skeptical of newspapers and other big institutions, it was an opportunity for the P-I to add significantly to public trust and understanding.

Instead, we believe the newspaper failed in its responsibility to public accountability by refusing to attend.

Our Chair, Judge Karen Seinfeld, did read from their extensive 17-page response to the complaint and, we felt, fairly represented their perspective.

In this imperfect world, the news council (a form used around the world) is the best and fairest place where citizens and journalists can discuss constructively how news stories affect the community.  In fact, it’s an alternative to litigation; for a complaint to be accepted by the council, you must agree not to sue.

As WNC Public Member Sandy Schoolfield said at the hearing:  “Both the P-I and the Sheriff’s Office are important institutions in our community.  To have you at loggerheads, calling each other liars for this long is a very bad place for us to be.”

The news council’s mission is to help maintain public trust and confidence in the news media by promoting fairness, accuracy and balance, and by creating a forum where the citizens and journalists can engage each other in examining standards of journalistic fairness and accountability.

The P-I missed an opportunity by not participating in the face-to-face dialogue.  And we’ll never know whether the Council’s votes would have been different had the P-I been willing to “stand by its story” in public.

Stephen Silha is president of the Washington News Council (www.wanewscouncil.org).   He is a freelance writer, communications consultant, and former reporter for The Minneapolis Star and The Christian Science Monitor.


Complaint Hearing Set for Saturday, Oct. 21 (2-6 p.m.) at Town Hall in case of King County Sheriff’s Office vs. Seattle Post-Intelligencer

The Washington News Council (www.wanewscouncil.org) will hear a complaint from King County Sheriff Sue Rahr’s Office against the Seattle Post-Intelligencer at Town Hall Seattle (Downstairs) on Saturday, Oct. 21, from 2-6 p.m.

Here is the Hearing Schedule. The hearing is open to the public and the press. Admission is free.

The complaint concerns the P-I’s ongoing series, “Conduct Unbecoming,” which alleges misbehavior and mismanagement in the Sheriff’s Office. The Sheriff’s Office contends that key aspects of some stories were “factually inaccurate,” “incomplete,” “misleading,” “biased,” “sensationalized,” “inflammatory,” or “unfair.”

The P-I responded to the complaint in a 17-page website statement, with copies to the WNC. (See below for links to original complaint and P-I response.) However, the P-I also stated that they would not participate in the public hearing.

In an Oct. 11 letter to P-I Associate Publisher Ken Bunting (cc’d to Publisher Roger Oglesby and Managing Editor David McCumber), WNC President Stephen Silha, WNC Treasurer Sandy Schoolfield, and WNC Complaints Committee Co-Chairs Chuck Rehberg and Cindy Zehnder wrote:

“We sincerely hope you will reconsider your decision not to attend the hearing. If you are there in person, you will be able to answer questions, clarify issues and respond to the Sheriff’s allegations. You will be better able to make your most persuasive case in an open public forum.

“If you are not there, we will read excerpts from your written response into the record. But obviously we cannot represent your position nearly as well as you and your colleagues could do in person. (OPTION: If you’d like to mark sections of your response that you’d like us to read as your opening, rebuttal and closing statements, please let us know and we’ll be glad to do that, as long as they fit within our time limits.)

“As you know, TVW will broadcast the hearing statewide, and other media will cover it. We also expect many journalism students and teachers to attend. It is a great educational opportunity for all citizens.

“We’ll have a table at Town Hall with the P-I‘s name on it. You may let us know your final decision anytime up to 1:30 p.m. on October 21. Your full participation in the News Council process would greatly benefit the public, the media — and democracy.”

The WNC also sent the P-I a copy of the final Complaint Questions that will be considered and voted on at the hearing:

WNC Complaint: King County Sheriff’s Office vs. Seattle Post-Intelligencer

In the theme of the P-I’s stories, was there any journalistic “conduct unbecoming” in the P-I’s coverage of the King County Sheriff’s Office?

Scope: The King County Sheriff’s Office has formally complained to the Washington News Council that  more than 100 “negative” stories, columns and editorials – and even chat-room e-mails – have “unfairly disparaged the Sheriff’s Office.”  Much of the coverage was in a continuing series titled “Conduct Unbecoming.”  The complaint alleges that the P-I “has gone back 20 years and four sheriffs to portray events as representative of the current office and that the P-I characterized seven former deputies and one current deputy as representative of the Sheriff’s Office.  “This is not the case,” the complaint states.

The KCSO further states that the sheriff and others in the department have met with top editors and managers at the P-I to “try to correct erroneous information” and to “change the tone of the articles.  Rarely were any corrections made.  Usually we were ignored,” the sheriff’s cover letter says.

A thick “master binder” containing printouts of more than 100 P-I stories accompanied the complaint form.  KCSO was asked to select a representative sampling of stories, presented in the smaller binder and an amended complaint binder.  The P-I received copies all three binders and the WNC Complaints Committee assumes that if any pertinent articles were omitted, both the complainant and respondent have had a chance to further add to the materials.

Timeliness: While WNC complaint guidelines focus on the most recent six months, provisions clearly allow for consideration of materials presented over a longer time frame.  KCSO in its complaint included stories since Aug. 1, 2005. The Complaints Committee finds no reason to limit the scope of the complaint to six months.  Clearly the complainant was communicating with the respondent media outlet during the entire timeframe to seek resolution of issues.

Issues: The complainant states that P-I coverage “unfairly disparaged the Sheriff’s Office.” (Disparage: To belittle; to bring reproach or discredit; to lower the estimation of. — Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary).  The complainant also states that the P-I coverage was inaccurate, incomplete, misleading, biased, sensationalized, inflammatory and unfair.

Additionally, the complaint states that ethical lapses occurred because stories wrongly damaged the organization’s reputation, that the media outlet failed to include balancing facts or information, that the media outlet denied access to respond to stories and that a conflict of interest existed with a P-I editor.

Stories and commentary referenced will help guide board members, but discussion is not limited to these items.

Discussion Areas / Questions:

A) Terminations (resignations and retirements) and pensions

1) Was the P-I coverage inaccurate or misleading in describing the role of the Sheriff’s Office in deciding whether deputies facing discipline could resign or retire to avoid discipline or firing?

References: Stories,

“Conduct Unbecoming: How a disgraced deputy beat the system” Aug. 1, 2005

“Hefty pension to ex-deputy defended” Aug. 5, 2005

(Editorial) “Conduct Unbecoming: Restore trust” Aug. 4, 2005

“Deputy racked up complaints, lawsuits, then retired comfortably” Dec. 29, 2005

“Warnings preceded fatal shooting involving deputy’s live-in” Dec. 29, 2005

(Editorial) “Conduct Unbecoming: Civilian Oversight” Jan. 1, 2006

“Rahr offers reforms…” Jan. 2, 2006

(Column) “Sheriff vows meaningful reform”  Jan. 13, 2006

2) Was the P-I coverage inaccurate and misleading in describing the impacts on pensions of former deputies — particularly Dan Ring’s pension — relating to decisions made and actions taken, or not taken, by the Sheriff’s Office?

References: Stories, same as above

B) Metro Transit Unit

3) Did P-I coverage unfairly characterize the Metro Transit Police Unit as a “dumping ground” for troubled deputies because five of 47 officers assigned to the unit had histories of disciplinary issues?

Reference: Story, “Some transit unit officers too aggressive…” July 21, 2006

4)  Was reporting of Deputy Abreu’s transfer inaccurate?

Reference: Story,

“Joseph Abreu III: Transferred into, then out of, transit unit ” July 21, 2006

Correction, Aug. 17, 2006 in Amended Complaint

E-mail exchanges, Aug. 17, 2006 in Amended Complaint

5)  Was reporting of the unit biased on behalf of critics by not including more comments from a supportive security liaison?

Reference: Story, “Some transit unit officers too aggressive…” July 21, 2006

C) Retaliation

6) Was P-I coverage inaccurate, misleading, and inflammatory in stating that the Sheriff’s Office retaliated against citizens and transit staff members who complain about deputies’ performance?

References: Stories,

“Suspected thugs…” March 8, 2006

“Off-duty cop terrified teen” March 9, 2006

“Sheriff’s Office may have mishandled…” March 22, 2006

Editorial: “Conduct Unbecoming: Review the review,” March 23, 2006

Also, story: “Missed chance to end violence,” July 21, 2006

D) Public meetings

7) Was P-I coverage of the public meeting in Kenmore biased and unfair?

References: Stories,

“Sheriff Rahr grilled…” April 5, 2006

Woodinville Weekly: “Wide support for sheriff…”

8) Was P-I coverage of a blue ribbon panel biased and misleading in overstating criticism of the Sheriff’s Office?

Reference: Story, “Residents frustrated…” June 23, 2006

E) Overview

9) Considering all of the stories submitted, many in the series “Conduct Unbecoming,” did P-I coverage and commentary unfairly disparage the Sheriff’s Office?

10) Did the P-I allow adequate access for comment and rebuttal by the KCSO?

11) Were acknowledged mistakes in coverage corrected adequately and in a timely manner?

F) Conflicts and appearance of conflicts

12) As it published the “Conduct Unbecoming” series and related articles, did the P-I fail to adhere to acceptable standards of journalistic ethics by not disclosing to readers the potential conflict of interest — real or perceived — involving Managing Editor David McCumber’s discussions with then-Sheriff Dave Reichert about writing a book on the Green River murders?

Reference: Sheriff Rahr’s letter in amended complaint


New Media and Public Members Join WNC Board of Directors

Three new members were voted onto the WNC Board of Directors at our Annual Board Retreat on July 29, held at Central Washington University in Ellensburg. They are:

Margo Gordon, Public Member, who is returning to the Board after serving from 1998-2004. Margo is former Dean of the Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs at the University of Washington. She stepped down as dean but continues to teach as a professor at the school. She also has taught journalism at Northwestern University’s Medill School.

Jonathan Lawson, Media Member, who is Executive Director of Reclaim the Media and Public Affairs Specialist at the Washington Federation of State Employees/AFSCME. He is also host/producer of a weekly jazz program on KBCS-FM. He is a graduate of Guilford College and Harvard Divinity School.

Martin J. Neeb, Media Member, who is General Manager of KPLU-FM in Tacoma, a position he has held since 1981. He recently announced his retirement, effective in December 2006. He is a founding member of the City Club of Tacoma and has been an officer of West Coast Public Radio and the Arthritis Foundation.

The following two members joined the WNC Board earlier in 2006:

Mike Flynn, Media Member, who recently retired as President and Publisher of the Puget Sound Business Journal. He is also on the boards of Junior Achievement of Greater Puget Sound, Downtown Seattle Association, Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce, Bellevue Chamber of Commerce, and the Harbor Club.

Dr. Eddie Reed, Public Member, who just received his Ph.D. in Education from the University of Washington. He was a WNC board member from 1998 to 2004 and served as President of the organization for three years. Dr. Reed is now Instruction Coach and Professional Development Director for the Tukwila School District.

The Board Retreat was a day-long meeting that included welcoming remarks by CWU President Jerilyn McIntyre, and luncheon remarks by Ken Robertson, Editor of the Tri-City Herald. The Council voted to accept the complaint from the King County Sheriff’s Office against the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. It heard reports from several task groups and committees. And it watched a videotape of the Minnesota News Council’s hearing in the case of Northwest Airlines vs. WCCO-TV, plus a Mike Wallace “60 Minutes” segment on that case, in which Wallace endorses news councils.

The following officers were re-elected for one-year terms:

President – Stephen Silha (Media Member)

Vice President- Steve Boyer (Public Member)

Vice President – Dave Schaefer (Media Member)

Treasurer – Sandy Schoolfield (Public Member)

Secretary – Suzie Burke (Public Member)


Panel on Spokesman-Review’s Jim West Coverage Draws 250

The Washington News Council’s Public Forum on Wednesday, Feb. 8, to discuss the Spokane Spokesman-Review’s controversial coverage of Mayor Jim West, was a huge success.

NOTE: TVW broadcast the event statewide. (If you would like to order a VHS or DVD, please call 206.262.9793)

Nearly 250 people attended the panel discussion in Whitworth College’s Weyerhaeuser Hall from 7-9 pm. An overflow room held another two dozen attendees who watched a closed-circuit screen. In addition to TVW, the event was filmed by Spokane’s local-access channel, Whitworth College, and a crew from “Frontline” doing a documentary for fall broadcast.

The panelists were:

  • Jack Geraghty, former Spokane Mayor, former County Commissioner and former Spokane Chronicle reporter
  • Jane Kirtley, Silha Professor of Media Ethics and Law, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
  • Ted McGregor, Editor and Publisher of The Inlander, Spokane’s alternative weekly
  • Steve Smith, Editor of the Spokesman-Review
  • Ginny Whitehouse, Associate Professor of Communication Studies, Whitworth College

Moderator John Irby, Associate Professor and Associate Director of Undergraduate Studies at the Edward R. Murrow School of Communication, Washington State University (and a Media Member of the Washington News Council), asked each panelist an opening question, invited comments from other panelists, and posed follow-up questions.

Written questions from the audience were also accepted. Dozens of students from Whitworth, Gonzaga University, Eastern Washington University, and Washington State University attended the event and many submitted questions for the panel.

Washington News Council President Stephen Silha (whose father founded the Silha Center in Minneapolis), Media Member Chuck Rehberg, Public Member Sandy Schoolfield, and Lucy Innes, the WNC’s administrative assistant, also attended. WNC Executive Director John Hamer welcomed the crowd and showed a DVD explaining the News Council’s operations.

Spokesman-Review Publisher Stacey Cowles, Editorial Page Editor Doug Floyd, Attorney Duane Swinton and other top staff from the newspaper also attended.

In an email to the WNC after the event, attendee William McCrory, from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, wrote: “We want to thank you and the Washington News Council for presenting one of the most powerful and practical discussions about ethics I’ve heard in a long time. Though the focus was the Spokesman Review’s methods and coverage, the underlying ethical questions and discussions relate to many areas of business and public administration. The five panelists had obviously been carefully selected to offer as many different perspectives as possible.  Moderator John Irby kept the panelists on topic and on time, and for the most part, the panelists were focused, concise, and complete in their answers. Questions and comments were courteous but to the point, and so were the answers.”

In the Feb. 9 edition of The Spokesman-Review, staff writer Jim Camden wrote: “The panel didn’t always agree on the lessons that journalists might take away from The Spokesman-Review’s 2005 investigation that found West had used his city computer to meet young men with whom he had sex, and offered some of them gifts or city positions.”

To read Camden’s full story, go to:


Camden noted that Jane Kirtley of the Silha Center for Media Ethics, and Ted McGregor of The Inlander both criticized the newspaper’s use of a forensic computer expert who posed as a high-school student in a gay chat room and communicated directly with West.

Police sometimes use deception with suspects but “journalists should not be cops,” Kirtley said. McGregor added: “It’s a slippery slope.”

Spokesman-Review Editor Steve Smith vigorously defended the newspaper’s methods, arguing that the deception was a last resort to get “absolute, positive, irrefutable proof” that West was engaged in illegal activity with young people. Smith noted that the newspaper had followed the Society of Professional Journalists’ ethics code and the PoynterInstitute’s guidelines for reporting in such situations.

Whitworth Communication Professor Ginny Whitehouse defended the Spokesman-Review’s practices, saying:  “I don’t think there were alternative means” of getting the story on West and noting that local police were not exploring the allegations.

Former Mayor Jack Geraghty said the main lesson for public officials was that they couldnot expect to have a private life.

In closing remarks, Hamer noted that part of the Washington News Council’s mission is “to provide a forum where citizens and journalists can engage each other in discussing standards of media ethics and performance.” He added: “The discussion we’ve had tonight is exactly what the Washington News Council is all about.”


WNC “toasts” Bill Gates Sr. and Mimi Gardner Gates at 7th Gridiron West Dinner!

The Washington News Council “toasted” Bill Gates Sr. and Mimi Gardner Gates at our 7th Annual Gridiron West Dinner on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2005, at the Washington State Convention & Trade Center.

More than 600 people attended this fun-filled gala evening of comedy, song, gentle “toasts” and affectionate tributes. Mike Egan of Microsoft emceed again this year, with music by Cabaret Productions.

“Toasters” included Susan Brotman, Peter Donnelly, Jim Ellis, Dan Evans, and the Gates siblings: Bill Gates, Kristi Blake and Libby Armintrout.

Bill Gates Sr. was an original member of the WNC and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation generously helped fund the council during its first six years. Mimi Gardner Gates is the Illsley Ball Nordstrom Director of the Seattle Art Museum.

The Honorary Host Committee for the event included: Libby & Doug Armintrout, Kristi & John Blake, Jeff & Susan Brotman, Jane & David Davis, Peter Donnelly, Jim Ellis, Dan & Nancy Evans, Bill & Melinda Gates, Bill & Ruth Gerberding, Gerry & Lyn Grinstein, Andy & Susan Hutchison, Janet Ketcham, Kerry & Linda Killinger, Joe & Susan Knight, Bill & Sally Neukom, Bill & Jill Ruckelshaus, Herman & Faye Sarkowsky, Stan & Ingrid Savage, Jon & Mary Shirley, Patty Stonesifer & Michael Kinsley, and Bagley & Virginia Wright.

Table hosts for the event were:

Philanthropic ($7,500) Level — Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, King County Journal, Microsoft, Bill & Sally Neukom, Symetra Financial, Washington Mutual, Virginia Wright & Ann Wyckoff.

Artistic ($5,000) Level — Boeing, Costco, Jane & David Davis, Bruce & Jolene McCaw, PEMCO, Hunter Simpson, University of Washington.

Cultural ($3,500) Level — The Gallatin Group, “Just the Neighbors,” Premera Blue Cross, Puget Sound Energy, Sandy Schoolfield & Jon Kechejian, Weyerhaeuser.

Civic ($1,500 Level) — ArtsFund, Dr. Richard & Edwina Baxter, Chris & Cynthia Bayley, The Benaroya Company, Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs, Fremont Dock Company, Gorton Legacy Group, The Keller Group, Grant Larsen, Lynden, Inc., Noble House Hotels, Port of Seattle, Preston Gates & Ellis, Rockey Hill & Knowlton, Herman & Faye Sarkowsky, Seattle Parks Foundation, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Stephen Silha, Jim & Fawn Spady, Technology Alliance, TVW, U.W. Law School, Robert & Betty Utter, Vulcan, Washington State Farm Bureau, YWCA.

The following companies and individuals provided special help or in-kind services: Alaska Airlines, Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery, Larry Cali & Ken Jones, David Horsey, Microsoft, Noble House Hotels, Preston Gates & Ellis, and Symetra Financial.

Jonathan Borofsky, the artist who created the “Hammering Man” statue in front of the Seattle Art Museum, generously approved the manufacture of 70 limited-edition miniatures of “Hammering Man” to use as centerpieces. All were sold either before or during the event, nearly half at the guaranteed bid price of $500 each.

“This was our most successful event ever,” said WNC Executive Director John Hamer. “Now the only question is: Who should we ‘toast’ next year? Suggestions welcome!”


WNC Elects New President, Vice Presidents; Silha’s op-ed in Christian Science Monitor

Stephen Silha was elected president of the Washington News Council at the WNC’s board meeting on July 23, 2005. Silha, a writer and communications consultant, had been vice president of the council.

The Christian Science Monitor published his op-ed piece, “News councils: a meeting place for communities and their storytellers,” on Aug. 29, 2005. Click HERE:

“News councils provide a nonthreatening, neutral way to explore citizen complaints about media coverage, to examine ethics, and to communicate more clearly about the purpose and techniques of journalism,” Silha wrote. He described the WNC’s Knight Foundation-funded project to create two more news councils in other states (see next item below).

Silha replaces Cyrus Krohn, who stepped down as WNC president when he took a new job at Yahoo! Krohn, who is maintaining his residence in Issaquah, will remain as a media member of the Council.

Steve Boyer and Dave Schaefer were also elected vice presidents of the News Council. Boyer is Senior Vice President of Rockey Hill & Knowlton, and a Public Member of the WNC. Schaefer is Assistant Director of Public Affairs at the Port of Seattle and a Media Member of the WNC.

Sandy Schoolfield is now Treasurer of the WNC and Suzie Burke is Secretary.

The News Council has received other national publicity. Mark Jurkowitz‘s recent piece in the Boston Phoenix

http://www.bostonphoenix.com/medialog_2/ (second item) also described the Knight Foundation grant project.

Both Silha’s and Jurkowitz’s pieces were posted on Jim Romenesko’s widely read national media website.


WNC Adds 11 New Voting Board Members

The 24-member Washington News Council has added 11 new voting board members to replace members who stepped down at the end of their second 3-year terms, or for other reasons. The new Council members were welcomed and officially voted on board at the WNC’s Annual Meeting on Feb. 5. Click HERE for media images. Click HERE for all WNC board members’ biographies. The new members are:


George Cole – Development Officer, Central Washington University, Ellensburg (formerly with Montana Public Television, Spokane Public Radio, KREM-TV)

John Knowlton – Journalism Professor, Green River Community College (President-elect, Pacific Northwest Association of Journalism Educators)

Erik Lacitis – Staff Writer, The Seattle Times

Clayton Park – Business Editor, King County Journal (former editor and reporter, Puget Sound Business Journal, Seattle Sun, The Seattle Times)

David Schaefer – Assistant Director of Public Affairs, Port of Seattle (former Seattle Times reporter and editor, former press secretary for U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott)


Everett Billingslea – Vice President, Administration & Legal Affairs, Lynden Inc. (former General Counsel to Gov. Gary Locke; former Bogle & Gates attorney)

Steve Boyer – Senior Vice President, Rockey Hill & Knowlton (former director of communications, Services Group of America; former Sr. VP, The Fearey Group)
Stan Emert – Director of Community Relations, Symetra Financial (also boys basketball coach, Lakeside School; host/producer, KWPX public affairs TV show)

Paula Selis – Senior Counsel, Consumer Protection Division, High Tech Unit, Washington State Attorney General’s Office

Fawn Spady – Co-owner, Dick’s Drive-In Restaurants (co-founder, Education Excellence Coalition; founder, Creative Empowerment Inc., a consulting firm)

Cindy Zehnder – President, TVW (former chief clerk, WA State House of Representatives; former deputy commissioner, WA State Employment Security Department)

The WNC also elected a slate of officers for 2005:

President – Cyrus Krohn, Executive Producer, MSN Video

Vice President – Steve Silha, Writer and Communications Consultant

Secretary – Sandy Schoolfield, Community Volunteer

Treasurer – Suzie Burke, President, Fremont Dock Company

“We are very pleased to be adding so many excellent new members to the News Council,” said WNC President Cyrus Krohn. “And we were delighted to have so many terrific people apply.” The new members were selected from nearly two dozen applicants in an open, statewide competitive process.

The WNC’s board members oversee the organization’s operations and finances. They also consider complaints against the news media and vote on the validity of these complaints in formal WNC hearings. These are voluntary, unpaid positions with 3-year terms.

Ken Bunting, Executive Editor of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, was a guest speaker at the WNC’s annual meeting. He discussed the P-I’s efforts to maintain public trust and credibility with readers, the changing news media market, and the vital need for fair, accurate, balanced and comprehensive news coverage. To read Ken Bunting’s remarks, click HERE.


WNC “toasts” Locke and Dunn at 2004 Gridiron West Dinner

The Washington News Council “toasted” Governor Gary Locke, Democrat, and U.S. Representative
Jennifer Dunn, Republican, on Friday, Nov. 5, 2004, at our 6th annual Gridiron West Dinner, at the Washington
State Convention & Trade Center in Seattle.

This gala bipartisan event came just three days after Election Day. Nearly 550 people attended, from politics, government, media, business, academia, law, and other sectors. They were treated to a fun-filled evening of comedy, song, video tributes and affectionate “toasts” of our honorees.

To read comments on the event, please click HERE.

Both Locke and Dunn had “family tables” with their spouses, children and other relatives and close friends.

(NEWS FLASH: Just a few hours after the dinner ended, Mona Lee Locke gave birth to their new baby daughter at Swedish Medical Center. Some speculated that the evening’s laughter might have induced labor.)

Both Locke and Dunn had announced that they would not seek reelection this year and will be retiring from office in January 2005. The Gridiron West Dinner is modeled after the Gridiron Club Dinner in Washington, D.C., where political and media leaders poke fun at each other in good-natured comedy, skits and songs.

Highlights of this year’s Gridiron West Dinner included: Emcee Mike Egan’s photographic history of Gary and Jennifer’s changing hairstyles over the past 40-plus years; Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist David Horsey’s retrospective of his best cartoons of Gary and Jennifer over the past 20 years; and a video tribute to Gary and Jennifer produced by Larry Cali and Ken Jones of KING-TV.

“Toasters,” who took the stage in pairs, included Martha Choe & Slade Gorton; John Carlson & Mary Charles; and Dick Thompson & Patti Payne. Payne did a musical tribute, accompanied on the piano by John Ellis and joined onstage by Jennifer Dunn’s husband, Keith Thompson, and her two sons, Reagan and Bryant.

After the “toasts,” Gary and Jennifer each took the stage to respond to their “toasters.” Jennifer recited a list of the “Top 10 Reasons I Will Miss Being in Congress.” Gary replied specifically to each of his “toasters,” and gave as good as he got.

The audience was entertained by song parodies sung by “The Beetles” of Cabaret Productions. Another highlight was the entire Washington News Council singing a song to the tune of “Sgt. Pepper”s Lonely Hearts Club Band” (“Washington News Council”s Watch Dog Board”). To read parody lyrics, click HERE.

Past Gridiron West Dinners have “toasted” Jim Ellis and John Ellis (2003); the five living former Governors of Washington (2002); television anchors Jean Enersen, Kathi Goertzen and Susan Hutchison (2001); former Seattle P-I columnist Emmett Watson (2000); and former political reporters Adele Ferguson, Dick Larsen,
Mike Layton and Shelby Scates (1999).

Nearly 50 tables of 10 were sponsored by corporations, foundations, or individuals. “Baby Kissers” ($5,000) table sponsors included Boeing, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Kemper Development Company, King County Journal, Microsoft, Pemco Financial Services, and Starbucks. “Back Slappers” ($2,500) table sponsors were The Gallatin Group, Premera Blue Cross, Puget Sound Energy, Safeco, Sandy Schoolfield & Jon Kechejian, and Weyerhaeuser. “Glad Handers” ($1,000) table sponsors included Apex Foundation, The Benaroya Company, Evans School of Public Affairs, Gorton Legacy Group, Merriman Capital Management, Port of Seattle, Regal Financial Bank, Rockey Hill & Knowlton, Seattle Post Intelligencer, Wes Uhlman & Associates, Washington Dairy Products Commission, Weyerhaeuser, and the Wingood Foundation. Many individuals also sponsored tables, including WNC members Richard Baxter, Suzie Burke, Carolyn Duncan, Cyrus Krohn, Barry Mitzman, Chuck Nordhoff, Stephen Silha, and Robert Utter.

The event was filmed by TVW and broadcast statewide. It will be repeated (see www.tvw.org for schedule.)

Videotapes and/or DVDs of the event will be available soon. Please call 206-262-9793 to reserve a copy.


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.