What I Read: Dave Dederer

Presidents of the United States of America guitarist and singer Dave Dederer isn’t just a musician.

He’s also active in the business world. Dederer develops digital music projects for HP and oversees the Presidents’ business dealings. He calls himself “both a small business owner and a corporate soldier.”

Dederer’s reading list reflects his diverse interests. He’s regularly checking out NPR, local and national newspapers, magazines, tennis web sites, bike blogs, and novels.

So far, he’s still passing on Facebook and Twitter, neither of which he considers real news sources.

Here’s what Dederer told me about what he’s reading.

1. What are your favorite local news outlets? Why?

RIP, my all-time favorite local news source was Emmett Watson’s daily column in The P-I and The Seattle Times, in which he was forever championing his vision for Lesser Seattle.  We could use more Lesser Seattle these days.

I suppose I get most of my local news without realizing it, picking it up mixed in with the NPR programming on KUOW or KPLU.  I listen to the radio in the morning while shaving and such and I guess that’s where I find out about explosions and scandals and other must-know items, whether local or otherwise.

I tend to check in at seattletimes.com once a day to look at local news and local sports.  And I pick up The Stranger and the Seattle Weekly and give them each the three minutes they deserve once a week.  Got to stay au courant, you know.

2. What do you consider “must reads” every day? Must watch? Must hear?

The older I get the less I care about news in general.  If something truly important happens, I figure I’m going to hear about it.

That said, here are some things I look at absolutely every day:

  • nytimes.com‘s’ “most emailed” list — one or more of the articles is always worth reading; this is where I take the pulse of the nation, as it were, and stay up to date on national politics and opinion
  • digitalmusicnews.com‘s daily email newsletter — the most up-to-date oracle for my particular business sector
  • finance.yahoo.com — am I broke yet?
  • tennis.com home page — I took up tennis in earnest two years ago and I’m a pathetic, helpless addict

I end up listening to KUOW or KPLU every day at some point, and usually KING-FM, too, though not much news there, just actual music played by people with actual talent.

I never really thought about it before answering these questions, but I go WAY out of my way to tune into NPR, KBCS and KEXP for certain programs.  I listen to Car Talk and A Prairie Home Companion pretty much every week.  I love the funk and old school R&B on KBCS on Friday and Saturday nights, and I also like Tuesday night’s Americana Road Songs show and the transportive Hawaii Radio Connection Saturdays at noon.  My favorite KEXP program is also their longest-running: Saturday’s Positive Vibrations reggae show.

I don’t watch anything on a normal TV because we don’t have a TV.  On a good night, I get to watch All My Children on Hulu with my wife after our kids are asleep.

3. Do you consume news through: print, television, radio, laptop, smart phone, ipad, podcasts, other?

Yes!

4. Do you use Facebook, LinkedIn, and/or Twitter for news and information?

No!  “About to board flight to Houston” and “OMG we just ordered 50 shots of Jagermeister” don’t count as news to me.

5. What online news sites or aggregators do you visit regularly?

nytimes.com, seattletimes.com, billboard.biz, tennis.com, cyclingnews.com,

6. Do you regularly visit any individual blogs for news, analysis and opinion?

I’m a bike commuter and I very much enjoy local legend Kent Peterson’s Kent’s Bike Blog: http://kentsbike.blogspot.com/

7. Have your news consumption habits changed in the last few years? If so, how?

I realize in answering these questions that my news reading has gone from nearly 100% print 5-6 years ago to 100% digital today.  I think the only things I still regularly read in print are The Economist, The New Yorker and Vanity Fair.

8. Do you read for fun? If so, what? Last novel you read? Non-fiction book?

Yes, every day. This just in, kids, reading is FUN!

I read lots and lots of magazines.  More and more I read them or their equivalents online.  Disturbingly, often on my Palm Pre or iPod Touch while sitting in bed.

I just finished reading the galleys for my sister Claire Dederer’s forthcoming book, Poser: My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses, due from Farrar, Straus and Giroux in a couple of months.  It’s a fine memoir — a memoir’s a risky proposition, especially when all the principals are still alive, as they are in this case — and I’m so proud of her.

My undergraduate degree is in American and English Literature.  I read almost nothing but novels from about age 12 until I finished my B.A.at 22.  I don’t believe I’ve read one since.  Wait a second, I take that back — at my mother’s recommendation, I recently read Somerset Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge, which I very much enjoyed.  But it didn’t make me want to read more novels and, in fact, reminded me in its greatness of just how bad most novels are.

Most of my reading focuses on figuring out how to get really good at whatever sport I’m currently obsessed with and/or how to be less of an asshole.  My recent tennis addiction has me reading and re-reading Winning Ugly by Brad Gilbert, Think To Win by Dr. Allen Fox, Open by Andrew Agassi, Hardcourt Confidential by Patrick McEnroe, etc., etc, etc. ad nauseam, except not to me and I can’t seem to find enough tennis books to feed my appetite.  On the asshole front, I lean toward the Zen approach and I’m currently re-reading Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now and A New Earth.  Not sure if it’s working, but I keep reading regardless.

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Seattle editors weigh in on anonymous comments

(Weigh in with your own thoughts in our community forum)

It happens every time a news story on a controversial topic hits the web: Angry rants, nasty name-calling, personal attacks, and defensive replies.

All can be found regularly in the comments sections of online news articles and opinion columns, including many blogs. Some topics, such as public safety, racial conflicts, immigration policy, and urban bicycling, seem to draw the most vehement responses.

Many readers – probably now the majority – post their comments anonymously. Unlike printed letters to the editors, on which most newspapers ask writers to include a real name, street address and telephone number for verification, online news sites don’t typically require full public identification. Even if commenters are asked to register online, they may use nicknames to conceal their true identities.

The Buffalo News recently became the first major American daily newspaper to ban anonymous comments on its website, which provoked nationwide discussion on the policy.

As a journalist, regular online news consumer, and occasional commenter, I go back and forth on my own view toward anonymous comments. I’m accustomed to putting my name next to my opinions in articles and on the web, so I don’t mind identifying myself in a discussion forum. I figure that if I’m willing to write an opinion, I should be willing to back it up with my name.

However, I’m also well aware that many people – including some of my friends and family –  are far less comfortable leaving their names on open forums on the Internet. They aren’t accustomed to being a public face or name, and they worry

about privacy and personal attacks. In some cases, they may be commenting on topics that relate to their own workplace or social networks, and feel they can be more honest by remaining anonymous.

As an advocate for free and open dialogue, I’d rather see comment sections filled with posts rather than completely empty. And, for my own personal needs as a journalist, comments often help me write a better story or follow up news with subsequent articles. I do cringe, however, at times when reading particularly nasty attacks in online forums.

When Washington News Council president John Hamer asked me if I wanted to weigh in on the issue, I decided that given my own conflicted views on the subject, I’d like to hear what local editors are doing and how they feel about anonymous comments. I emailed questions to The Seattle Times, Seattle Weekly, Crosscut, West Seattle Blog, and the Federal Way Mirror, and a few other news outlets that did not respond. Here are their responses:

[Read more...]

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From newsroom to dive bar

Most laid off journalists have turned to public relations, book writing, freelancing, or other pursuits equally fitting of the English major crowd.

Not Mike Lewis. He’s spending his days pouring beer at a bar, coming home at 3 or 4 in the morning. And he’s doing it by choice.

Mike Lewis at the Streamline Tavern

Former Seattle P-I columnist Lewis’ new life might represent the largest career shift a local journalist has taken in the past couple of years. Lewis, along with three business partners, bought The Streamline Tavern on Lower Queen Anne after the P-I imploded last year.

Since August, Lewis has been working to turn around a bar that had been on its last legs. He’s traded newsroom journalism banter for conversation with the Streamline regulars, many of whom have been frequenting the place for 25 years. [Read more...]

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A Bittersweet Tribute to Don Hewitt

Don Hewitt, who died this week, changed my life. Last year, I finally got to tell him that face-to-face.

In 1996, “60 Minutes” – the program that Hewitt originated and produced – did a segment called “You Arrogant Journalists.” Mike Wallace and his crew covered a hearing before the Minnesota News Council on a major complaint by Northwest Airlines against WCCO-TV, the CBS affiliate in Minneapolis. The council upheld the complaint, agreeing that WCCO practiced shoddy journalism.

I missed it when it aired, but a friend of mine gave me a videotape and said: “Why don’t we have a news council in Washington state?” I was a media critic at the time and thought having a news council here was a good idea. An organizing committee formed, and we launched the Washington News Council in the summer of 1998. [Read more...]

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Hearing Set on Complaint from King County Sheriff’s Office Against Seattle Post-Intelligencer; Sheriff Adds Ethics Complaint

The Washington News Council (www.wanewscouncil.org) will hear a complaint from King County Sheriff Sue Rahr’s Office against the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on Saturday, Oct. 21, from 2-5 p.m. at Town Hall Seattle (Downstairs).

NOTE: To download a full copy of the original complaint and the Sheriff’s final statement/amended complaint, please go to this page:

(These are lengthy documents and the download will take several minutes.)

The original complaint, filed by the Sheriff’s Office with the WNC on July 28, was accepted by the WNC Board on July 29 and hand delivered to the P-I on Aug. 1. The complaint concerns the P-I’s ongoing series, “Conduct Unbecoming,” which alleges misbehavior and mismanagement in the Sheriff’s Office over a period of several years. On the WNC’s complaint form, the Sheriff’s Office contended that key aspects of some stories were “factually inaccurate,” “incomplete,” “misleading,” “biased,” “sensationalized,” “inflammatory,” or “unfair.”

The Sheriff’s Office also checked “yes” to these questions: “Did story wrongly damage your or your group’s reputation?” “Did media outlet fail to include balancing facts or information?” “Did media outlet deny access to you to respond to the story?”

In a cover letter to the complaint, Sheriff Sue Rahr wrote: “Had the P-I written only one or even a handful of stories that unfairly disparage the Sheriff’s Office, I would not be filing this complaint. But since August 1, 2005, the P-I has published at least 100 negative stories and editorials. [Underlining in original.] The Sheriff’s Office has been portrayed by the P-I as a corrupt organization, with no controls, lax or non-existent discipline, and a police department that punishes those who report wrong-doing and rewards wrong-doers. This is not the case.”

The Sheriff also signed the WNC’s waiver form, in which complainants promise not to sue if both sides – including the media outlet – agree “to abide by the procedures of the Washington News Council in responding” to the grievance.

The Sheriff’s Office and the P-I were unable to resolve the complaint during the WNC’s resolution period, which was extended to 45 days (from 30 days) due to summer vacations. The two sides did meet several times to discuss matters, at WNC’s urging. The P-I made several corrections to the articles cited in the complaint, either in print or on its website, www.seattlepi.com.

However, on Sept. 15 (end of 45-day period), King County Sheriff Sue Rahr’s Office told the WNC that no resolution was reached, and they wanted to proceed with a hearing. The P-I had earlier informed the WNC that they would not participate in a hearing, but would respond to the complaint on their website.

At the end of the resolution period, both sides were asked for final statements, including any additional materials they wish to submit. Under WNC guidelines, all of these documents are now public information and available to the press and the public. (See download link above.)

As part of its final statement, on Sept. 22 the Sheriff’s Office submitted an “amended complaint” which included a new cover letter from Sheriff Rahr and an “Ethics Complaint Against David McCumber.” McCumber is Managing Editor of the P-I and oversees the team of reporters that did the series. The amended complaint alleges that in 2003, McCumber met with then-Sheriff David Reichert (now U.S. Congressman) and his assistant Scott Sotebeer to seek the job of “ghost-writing” Reichert’s book about the Green River Killer, which would have paid an advance of more than $100,000.

The amended complaint further alleges that in August 2005, McCumber again talked with Sotebeer (now Sheriff Sue Rahr’s chief of staff) and said he “would be interested in any future book projects Congressman Reichert was working on wherein he (McCumber) might have a role.” The amended complaint charges that McCumber’s actions were violations of both the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics, which is widely accepted in the media, and the Hearst Newspapers Statement of Professional Principles. That charge will be considered at the WNC hearing.

Under WNC guidelines, the hearing may proceed without the P-I’s participation. Their written response will be read into the record. At the hearing, WNC members – half from the media, half from the public – will consider the issues, deliberate openly, and vote in public on questions pertaining to specific stories. The questions are now being framed by the WNC’s Complaints Committee, which includes media and public members of the board. Final questions will be submitted to both sides 10 days before the hearing, and posted on the WNC’s website.

Following WNC guidelines, all WNC members who have potential conflicts of interest will state them in public and recuse themselves from voting at the hearing. WNC Executive Director John Hamer is handling only procedural matters in this case. He has no role in the framing of the questions, does not take part in the hearing deliberations and does not vote on the complaint.

The P-I and the Sheriff’s Office are still encouraged to seek a resolution of the complaint anytime before the hearing. The P-I is also welcome to change its mind and decide to attend the hearing anytime up to 12 noon on the day of the event, although their participation is entirely voluntary.

The WNC hearing is open to the public and the press. It will be filmed and broadcast statewide by TVW, the state’s public-affairs network. Journalism students from throughout the region have been invited to attend. WNC hearings are an opportunity for citizens to learn about media standards, performance and ethics.

The WNC is an independent, nonprofit 501c3 citizens organization that functions as a kind of “outside ombudsman” for the news media in Washington state. It has no official power or legal authority. Its hearings are not judicial proceedings, but open discussions. The WNC, founded in 1998, is one of five news councils in the United States. WNC members are all volunteers. Votes on complaints carry no sanction other than publicity.

Links to earlier published stories about the complaint:

Both the P-I and Seattle Weekly published stories in their online and print editions:

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/279722_newscouncil02.html

http://www.seattleweekly.com/news/blogs/dailyweekly/2006/08/sheriff_takes_shot_at_pi.php#more

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/281252_newscouncil15.html

http://www.seattleweekly.com/news/0634/newscouncil.php

(To read WNC’s Complaint and Hearing Procedures, go to “Complaint Process” page.)

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Panel on News Councils at SPJ National Convention in Chicago

Washington News Council Executive Director John Hamer took part in a panel on news councils at the Society of Professional Journalists’ national convention in Chicago on Aug. 26.

The SPJ panel – “News Councils as a Tool for Building Public Trust” – focused on how news councils can aid the media and democracy by holding journalists accountable to their own standards of accuracy, fairness and balance.

SPJ invited Hamer to organize the panel, whose other members were:

– Gary Gilson, Executive Director, Minnesota News Council (gary@news-council.org).

– Bill Babcock, Executive Director, Southern California News Council (wbabcock@csulb.edu).

– Bill Densmore, Executive Director, New England News Council (densmore@journ.umass.edu).

The Minnesota News Council (www.news-council.org) was established in 1970. The Washington News Council was created in 1998. And the Southern California and News England councils were formed this year (see item below) after a national contest administered by the Minnesota and Washington councils, which awarded two $75,000 start-up grants to the new groups. The awards were made possible by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation (www.knightfdn.org).

About 50 people attended the panel discussion, which was one of several concurrent sessions at the SPJ convention at Chicago’s Hyatt Regency Hotel.

Each executive director described his organization briefly, then invited questions from the editors, reporters and journalism students who attended.

Hamer gave a brief history of the Washington News Council and discussed its many and varied activities — including public forums, student mock hearings, scholarships, and the annual Gridiron West Dinners. He noted that WNC has a current complaint against the Seattle Post-Intelligencer from the King County Sheriff’s Office, but we are still in the 30-day (extended to 45-days) resolution period and we cannot discuss the specifics or merits of the case at this stage, under WNC guidelines.

Hamer made available copies of the WNC brochure, our latest newsletter, a sheet of testimonials (“Why We Need News Councils”), his recent (July 16) op-ed from the King County Journal, his column from the April 2006 Quill (SPJ magazine), and copies of the P-I (Aug. 15) and Seattle Weekly (Aug. 23) stories about the complaint.

SPJ videotaped the panel and may stream it on their website or make DVDs available for purchase. Call the WNC office at 206.262.9793 for further information.

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Cyrus Krohn on “Publishing Today” panel at Town Hall

Washington News Council President Cyrus Krohn, executive producer of MSN Video and former publisher of Slate.com magazine, was one of four media leaders who discussed how Seattle can sustain its publishing creativity, plus national and international publishing trends. On the May 4 panel with Krohn were: Frank Blethen, publisher of The Seattle Times and leading critic of media consolidation; Charles Wright, founder of the new, for-profit Wave Press, publishing contemporary poetry books for a national market; and Jane Levine, former ad director for Seattle Weekly and former publishing director for Chicago Reader, a leading alternative weekly. David Brewster of Town Hall, founding editor of Seattle Weekly, was moderator.

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WNC co-presented “Breaking News: The State of Today’s Information Media”

The Washington News Council co-presented a highly successful six-week long
public forum series titled “Breaking News: The State of Today’s Information
Media” in February, March and April. Lead sponsor of the series was the
Bainbridge Island Arts & Humanities Council (BIAHC), which asked the News
Council to help select topics, moderate panels and invite panelists. Several
hundred people attended the series.

The forum began on Feb. 27, with a keynote speech by James Fallows, national
correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly. Fallows strongly endorsed the work
of the Washington News Council in his speech, while addressing how changes
in ownership and structure of news media are changing their role in public
life.

On March 1, in a panel on “The Media and the Law,” Bruce Johnson, media
attorney with Davis Wright Tremaine, and John Merton Marrs, journalism
instructor at Everett Community College, gave a fascinating history of the
First Amendment, libel laws and how the internet is affecting mass
communication.

“The Impact of New Technology on the News Media” – WNC Vice President Steve
Silha moderated a March 8 panel that included WNC President Cyrus Krohn,
publisher of Slate.com; Alex Dunne, managing editor of Blue Ear Daily; Doug
Schuler, Seattle Community Network Association; and Stanley Farrar, website
editor for The Seattle Times.

“The History of Political Cartoons” – David Horsey, the Seattle
Post-Intelligencer’s two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist, did a
multimedia presentation of his work on March 15 to a crowd of about 200
people at Bainbridge High School.

“Television News: If It Bleeds, It Leads?” – John Arthur Wilson of The
Gallatin Group moderated a March 22 panel that included Enrique Cerna,
executive producer for KCTS Television; Melanie McFarland, television critic
for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer; and Peter O’Connell, assistant news
director for KING-TV.

Mock Student News Council Hearing – The WNC sponsored a mock hearing at
Bainbridge High School on March 26, with students playing the role of the
News Council to consider an actual case: “Washington Beef Commission and
Washington Dairy Products Commission vs. KIRO-TV.” The students voted almost
exactly the same way as did the actual News Council, upholding the complaint
on nearly every count.

“Journalistic Ethics, Objectivity, Accuracy and Fairness” – March 29 panel
moderated by WNC Executive Director John Hamer included Brad Knickerbocker,
Christian Science Monitor reporter; Larry Johnson, Seattle
Post-Intelligencer foreign desk editor; Rick Jackson, journalism instructor
at Seattle Pacific University; and Philip Dawdy, media writer for Seattle
Weekly.

“The News Media and Society” – Final panel on April 2 moderated by Ross
Reynolds, KUOW radio host, included Margo Gordon, WNC Public Member and
University of Washington professor of public affairs; Steve Silha, WNC Vice
President and communications consultant; and Mark Trahant, Seattle P-I
editorial-page editor.

The forum also featured three other events:
March 13 – “Dear Editor: A Playreading of Letters to The Bainbridge Review.”
March 20 – “Media Matters: A Conversation with Youth and Adults about Living
in a Media World.” An Open Space forum sponsored by Imagine Bainbridge.
April 5-8 – “Breaking News Film Festival,” Four-evening film festival of
movies about journalism and the media business, including All the
President’s Men; Broadcast News; The China Syndrome; His Girl Friday/The
Front Page; The Insider; Medium Cool; and Network.

“We were very pleased to co-present this forum with the BIAHC,” said WNC
Executive Director John Hamer. “This was one of the most thoughtful and
comprehensive series of panels on the news media that has every been done
anywhere. And the turnout proved how concerned many citizens are about the
media.”

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