WNC awards two $2,000 scholarships

The Washington News Council has awarded two $2,000 scholarships to Washington state students planning careers in communications. The scholarships are named after Dick Larsen and Herb Robinson, both former editors at The Seattle Times.

The 2009 WNC Dick Larsen Scholarship winner is:

CHANTAL ANDERSON (left), 20, a senior at the University of Washington who is majoring in journalism and international studies with a minor in Spanish. Chantal was a reporter intern for The Seattle Times in Olympia during the 2009 Legislature. She also is on the staff of The U.W. Daily, and has been a reporter intern for Real Change, a nonprofit weekly newspaper. She is secretary of the U.W. chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, and also runs a wedding photography business. In an essay accompanying her scholarship application, Chantal wrote:

“The convergence of print and online journalism has redefined the way reporters and readers interpret and define ethics today. The new mantra of newsrooms to churn out stories at high speeds, mixed with emerging professional and personal blogs, has created an upsurge of content on the net. These new forms of media have blurred ethical ideas…. I believe honoring ethical standards has become more challenging for professional journalists in the digital age.”

The 2009 Herb Robinson Scholarship winner is:

SARAH REYES (right), 18, who just graduated from Rogers High School in Spokane and will enter Washington State University in the fall. She plans to study at the Edward R. Murrow College of Journalism. Sarah maintained a 4.0 GPA through high school while taking AP courses in English and history. She was a member of the National Honor Society and a valedictorian. She was also a writer and copy editor for The VOX, a student newspaper published by The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, and worked as an intern at The Spokesman. In an essay accompanying her application, Sarah wrote:

“In today’s world of media and technology, it seems that anyone can get away with saying anything….The First Amendment is something that we as Americans should truly cherish. There are journalists killed around the world for talking about topics that come as second nature to journalists in the United States. We need to use it to our advantage and make sure that it is not abused because nothing is certain and this is a right that might not be around forever.”

Scholarships are funded by donations from individuals, foundations and corporations. Since 2000, the WNC has awarded 20 scholarships with a total value of $25,000.

CONTACT: John Hamer, Executive Director, 206.262.9793 (info@wanewscouncil.org)


Does journalism matter anymore?

Does journalism matter anymore? What exactly IS journalism these days, anyway? Who is a journalist — and who’s not?

These are some of the questions in the air the “Journalism That Matters” conference at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida, where I’m spending a few days.

The conference was organized by two Seattleites and a former Spokane guy. Stephen Silha, who lives on Vashon Island, started the “JTM” series in 2001, and is former president of the Washington News Council. Peggy Holman, who lives in Bellevue, is a gifted meeting facilitator and “change agent.” And Chris Peck, former editor of The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, has been a driving force in the JTM series, and is now editor of The Memphis Commercial-Appeal.

About 100 people are here from all over the country, with a few from elsewhere in the world. All are interested in the future of journalism, but aren’t sure exactly what that future will be. [Read more...]


Spokane Spokesman-Review Wins 2008 Ancil Payne Award

The Ancil Payne Award for Ethics in Journalism is a small V-shaped glass object, resembling an open book standing upright.

But one inside surface is a mirror, and the other side has the award language printed in reverse type — so it can only be read by looking in the mirror.

“To make good ethical decisions you really do have to look in the mirror every day,” said Tim Gleason, dean of the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication, who presented the Ancil Payne Awards at a ceremony on the campus in Eugene on May 8. [Read more...]


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 Awards Two $1,000 Scholarships

The WNC in June announced the winners of our Dick Larsen and Herb Robinson Scholarships for 2005. They are:

Steffany Bell — Dick Larsen Scholarship. As a transfer student at the University of Washington, Steffany will study journalism and political science. She was editor-in-chief of the Everett Community College newspaper, and is currently interning at the WNC.

Sara Butler — Herb Robinson Scholarship. A 2005 graduate of Ferris High School in Spokane, Sara will be a freshman at Eastern Washington University in the fall. She was editor-in-chief of her high-school newspaper and president of the Spokesman-Review‘s Explorer Post.      Both students wrote essays on the question: “Should the news media be allowed to publish, broadcast or post online without government approval and if so (or if not), what is the best way to promote fair, accurate and balanced news media so essential to our democracy?”

The question was based on a recent Knight Foundation survey that found 49% of U.S. high-school students believed newspapers should not be allowed to publish without government approval.


Spokane visit helps raise WNC profile

The Washington Agriculture & Forestry Education Foundation invited WNC Executive Director John Hamer to speak to its Leadership Program in Spokane in early December. The program brings about two dozen leaders from farming, forestry and other natural-resources professions together for monthly seminars. The December program focused on the news media. The meeting was held in the conference room of the Spokane Spokesman-Review newspaper.

Hamer showed the group an edited videotape of the News Council’s June 2003 hearing in the complaint against KIRO-TV from the Washington State Beef and Dairy Products Commissions. The group watched the four-part KIRO series and the commissions’ responses, then played the role of the News Council and voted on the complaint. Their voting closely followed the actual News Council’s votes, upholding the complaint almost unanimously on nearly every question.

Hamer and new WNC Media Member Chuck Rehberg, former associate editor of the Spokesman-Review, also conducted a student mock news council hearing at Whitworth College. Students in Journalism Professor Ginny Whitehouse’s class watched the KIRO hearing videotape and voted on the complaint. The students also upheld the complaint almost unanimously on nearly every question.