Can Marty Riemer conquer podcasting?

Marty Riemer and Jodi Brothers

On April 1st, Marty Riemer entered the brave new world of podcasting.

The longtime Seattle radio personality didn’t voluntarily switch from traditional radio to the podcast sphere. He found himself unceremoniously booted from KMTT-The Mountain last October. But Riemer, along with on-air partner Jodi Brothers, is now embracing the chance to experiment with an emerging medium that he believes could one day completely replace commercial radio.

“The future of radio is podcasting,” Riemer said.

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Who will hold the news media accountable?

OXFORD UNIVERSITY, ENGLAND – Is there a need for media accountability in the chaotic new world of online journalism? If so, who will hold the media accountable?

In-house ombudsmen? Outside news and press councils? Independent media critics?

The “blogosphere”? All of the above?

Those were among the existential questions at the Organization of News Ombudsmen’s annual convention at Oxford University from May 12-15. The gathering was hosted by the Reuters Center for the Study of Journalism, headquartered at Oxford.

I was invited to join a panel: “Press Councils and Ombudsmen: A New Partnership?”

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Are We ALL Journalists Now? Who decides?

A prescient book was published in 2007: We’re All Journalists Now. The author was Scott Gant, a Harvard Law School graduate, former counsel for The New Republic magazine, and now an attorney in Washington, D.C., where he practices constitutional and media law.

I bought Gant’s book when it came out and liked it so much I called him during a visit to D.C. a couple of years ago. We met for coffee and talked for more than an hour about the increasingly perplexing questions: Who is a journalist these day, and who gets to decide?

[Read more...]



Rave reviews are still coming in for the Washington News Council’s 11th Annual Gridiron West Dinner, which was held Saturday night, Sept. 12, at Fremont Studios. Many attendees said it was the best event they’ve been to in years.


Our “toast/roast” of Suzie Burke, president of the WNC’s board of directors and owner of Fremont Dock Company, was a fun-filled evening of song, comedy, costumes, and funny but affectionate tributes to our “toastee.”

NOTE: The event was filmed by TVW. See for broadcast schedule. (First showing: Wednesday, Sept. 16, at 10:30 pm on Channel 23).

Special thanks to all of this year’s table sponsors, including:
“Center of the Universe” Level — Boeing, Sharon Gantz Bloome, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Kemper Development Company, U-Park System.
“Fremont Bridge Level” — Brown Bear Car Wash, Fremont Dock Company, Horvitz Foundation, Microsoft, Pacific Futures Trading Co., PEMCO, Charles Simonyi Fund.
“Waiting for the Interurban” Level — Dollar Development, Gorton Legacy Group, Lynden, Inc., Premera, Puget Sound Energy, Rowley Properties.
“Fremont Troll” Level — ABC Enterprises, Berntson Porter, Discovery Institute, Fremont Chamber of Commerce, Fremont Tugboat Company, Fremont Rotary, Holy Names Academy, Northwest Seattle Industrial Association, Alan and Nancy Sclater, Seattle University, Wallace Properties, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Wallingford Boys and Girls Club, Wells Fargo Bank, Women of Washington.

Thanks, too, to all those who bought individual tickets for themselves, friends and colleagues, and helped fill tables.

Mike Egan, Master of Ceremonies, began the evening by welcoming guests. Father Peter Ely, Vice President of Seattle University, gave a moving invocation. Sue Nixon, a well-known Seattle jazz singer, sang the national anthem beautifully.

WNC Executive Director John Hamer and Acting Treasurer David Schaefer recognized past Gridiron West Dinner honorees who were there (Mike Lowry, Slade Gorton and Kemper Freeman Jr.), thanked table sponsors and introduced a video explaining the News Council’s mission.

After a delicious dinner catered by Kaspar’s with wine from Columbia Winery, Honorary Chair Kemper Freeman Jr. (last year’s “toastee”) welcomed the crowd and listed some colorful words that have been used to describe Suzie. He was followed by a personal video done by Ken Jones that chronicled Suzie Burke’s family history.

The Cabaret Productions Singers, arranged by Jim Anderson and David Koch, sang a medley of songs including “Suzie B” and “Shake Up, Little Suzie,” followed by the Washington News Council “Glee Club” (i.e., board of directors), who sang “If You Knew Suzie, Like We Know Suzie, Oh, Oh, Oh, What a Gal!” Other songs by the Cabaret Productions Singers included “Fremont, Fremont” (to the tune of “New York, New York”), “Me and My Landlord Suzie” (to the tune of “Me and Bobby McGee”), and “The Lady is a Champ” (to the tune of “The Lady is a Tramp”). CLICK HERE FOR LYRICS .

Emcee Mike Egan, dressed in a Russian Army officer’s uniform, did a side-splitting slide show “revealing” that Suzie Burke was actually a KGB agent who had been assigned by the Kremlin to spy on Seattle by posing undercover as a Republican in Fremont! Later in the program, Egan appeared as a Fremont “nude bicyclist” and rode around the stage to uproarious laughter from the crowd.

“Toasters” of Suzie included Rob McKenna, Washington State Attorney General, and Tom Carr, Seattle City Attorney, followed by Stan Emert, Symetra Community Affairs Director, and Liz Swift, Principal of Holy Names Academy.

Seattle comedian Pat Cashman “toasted” Suzie before conducting a mini-auction of 5 items. Cashman’s routine was hilarious, highlighted by a surprise demonstration of his electric nose-hair trimmer.

Reagan Dunn, King County Councilman, brought the house down with his line: “What do Sarah Palin and Suzie Burke have in common? They can both see Communists from their front yards.”

Table centerpieces were wooden replicas of the famous “Fremont Guidepost,” made by Westlake Woodworks.

Raffle prizes went to those who bought Suzie Burke “Bobbleheads” as raffle tickets, with the winners drawn by Kurt and Amina Kapasuzoglu, two of Suzie’s grandchildren.

Suzie’s three children — Gwen Kapasuzoglu, Mike Osterfeld and Kirby Lindsay — “toasted” their mother with affectionate stories and anecdotes. They were joined onstage by spouses and other family members.

Suzie’s final “response” to her toasters was funny and feisty — no surprise to those who know and love her. A video of Eddie Cantor singing “If You Knew Suzie” ended the evening’s program.

An After Party in The Village at Fremont Studios featured champagne and delicious chocolates donated by Theo’s Chocolates. An open mic was provided for friends to offer more “toasts” to Suzie. Festivities went on until midnight.

Special thanks to Mike Egan of Microsoft, Jim Anderson of Cabaret Productions, and Scott Jonas of Fremont Studios for making this event such a big success. And to Monica Tracey, event planner, and Kathy Schrier, WNC executive assistant, for making the event possible.


Public Votes in “Virtual Hearing” on Sam Reed vs. KIRO7 Complaint

In an unprecedented “virtual hearing,” dozens of people voted and commented as part of a Citizens Online News Council on a formal written complaint from Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed against KIRO7 Eyewitness News.

The votes were largely critical of KIRO7 and upheld Secretary Reed’s complaint. Of nearly 100 people who voted online, only a few defended KIRO. The rest supported Reed’s position.

A key part of the Washington News Council’s mission is to encourage citizen participation in public discussion of media ethics and accountability. This online vote advances that goal.

The WNC invited citizens to vote on the questions that the full News Council would have considered had this case gone to a hearing. (For a full list of the questions, total votes and collected comments, plus complete background information, see HERE)

The voting deadline was April 30, 2009, during national “Media Ethics Week” sponsored by the Society of Professional Journalists. Votes came from statewide, with a few from other states. Some votes were from journalists. Most voters added comments. Examples:

“KIRO TV’s News Director, Reporter, and General Manager should come clean and be a good example by admitting that a journalist made a mistake.”

– Ken Hatch, former president, KIRO TV

“KIRO was clearly cautioned about checking its facts, but seemed more driven by getting a sensational story than by being accurate.”

– Mike Flynn, former publisher, Puget Sound Business Journal

“This case deserves coverage in media journals to show how careless coverage easily misleads.”

– Arnold Ismach, former dean, University of Oregon Journalism School

“KIRO ignored much of the factual information presented in the meetings with the Secretary of State and reported only what they wanted to report to make the story more inflammatory.”

– Roy Kimbel, Center for Ethical Development, Tacoma Community College

“I would say that the damage was done to the state – and the democracy in which we live.”

– Mike Kittross, editor, Media Ethics magazine

When Reed filed his complaint with the Washington News Council, he contended that two KIRO stories aired last fall were “factually incorrect, incomplete, misleading, sensationalized, inflammatory and unfair.” Reed and his staff had previously asked KIRO to air corrections and remove the stories from its website. When KIRO declined, Reed turned to the WNC.

The WNC accepted Reed’s complaint and hand-delivered it to KIRO. After they received the complaint, KIRO top management met with Reed and his staff in Olympia. They still refused to air corrections, but offered to remove the stories from their website if Reed agreed not inform the News Council or the public. Reed declined that offer. Later, KIRO removed the stories without informing Reed or the WNC, and without admitting any inaccuracies. Reed decided not to seek a public WNC hearing, so an online “virtual hearing” was proposed to hear citizens’ views.

The WNC invited KIRO to respond to Reed’s complaint, but the station did not return phone calls or emails, or answer a letter that accompanied the complaint. If KIRO responds at any time to the voting results and comments, we will post the full response on our website.

CONTACT: John Hamer, Executive Director (, 206.262.9793


What do you think? Weigh in on our latest complaint

PLEASE VOTE BY APRIL 30 (the end of national “Media Ethics Week” sponsored by the Society of Professional Journalists)

We had a formal complaint from Washington’s Secretary of State, Sam Reed, against KIRO7 Eyewitness News (CBS affiliate in Seattle).

We invited KIRO to comment, but they did not respond to repeated letters, phone calls or emails. (NOTE: If KIRO responds, we’ll post their response HERE.)


The complaint concerned two stories aired on KIRO (Oct. 15 and Nov. 3, 2008) about alleged voting violations.

Nov. 3 story on deceased voters:

YouTube Preview Image

Oct. 15 story on felon voters:


In his written complaint, Reed contended that the stories were “factually incorrect, incomplete, misleading, sensationalized, inflammatory and unfair.”

However, Reed and his office staff decided NOT to ask for a full News Council hearing on this complaint. In an email to the WNC, they stated:

“After several conversations as part of the News Council negotiating period, KIRO eventually agreed to pull down their stories from the Web site if we would muzzle ourselves and not inform the News Council of the nature of this accommodation. This we cannot agree to, since this leaves KIRO offering very little and conceding nothing.

“At the same time, we weary of this frustrating battle and the countless man-hours devoted to researching chapter and verse of this sorry episode, and we see little value in continuing to bang our head against the wall, knowing that KIRO will boycott the proceedings and will not acknowledge errors in fact and in tone, much less fix the problem. A News Council finding in our favor would not change the dynamic; properly, in a nation that so values the First Amendment, the council cannot order KIRO to do anything.”

True: We cannot order KIRO to do anything. However, we invite members of the public to view or read the stories and to read Sam Reed’s complaint and letter.

We also invite members of the public to vote on the Draft Questions that the News Council would have voted on IF this case had gone to a WNC hearing.

In other words, we’re inviting you to be members of a “Citizens Online News Council” and render a public verdict on the merits of this complaint. Call it a “virtual hearing.”

Your votes, comments and feedback will be helpful to the WNC, to Sam Reed’s office, and (we hope) to KIRO7. View Comments.

Thank you!


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...]


KIRO7 Eyewitness News Removes Two Stories from Website After Secretary of State Sam Reed Files Complaint with News Council

After Secretary of State Sam Reed filed a formal written complaint with the Washington News Council, KIRO7 Eyewitness News removed two disputed stories from its website.

In his complaint, Reed contended that two KIRO stories were “factually incorrect, incomplete, misleading, sensationalized, inflammatory, and unfair.” He said the stories “wrongly damaged” his office and “failed to include balancing facts or information.”

Reed contacted KIRO and objected to the stories after they aired last fall, but KIRO did not respond. Reed filed a complaint in December 2008 with the Washington News Council, an independent organization dedicated to media accuracy and fairness.

Although its findings carry no legal sanctions or other penalties, the News Council, a 501c3 nonprofit group, does hold public hearings about news coverage that is in dispute.

After the complaint was delivered to KIRO, station executives asked to meet with Reed in Olympia. Reed said that was a direct result of his filing a complaint with the WNC.

Initially, they stood by their stories and refused to run any corrections or to remove the stories from KIRO’s website. Then they offered to remove the stories if Reed would agree not to inform the News Council or the public – but Reed refused that request. KIRO finally took the stories off its website without notifying Reed or the Council.

The first story, which ran on Oct. 15, 2008, alleged that although convicted felons are not allowed to vote, about 24,000 felons had been issued ballots and at least 6,800 got ballots to vote in the 2008 fall elections. KIRO reporter Chris Halsne interviewed a woman who supposedly was a convicted felon but had voted anyway.

The second story, which ran on Nov. 3, 2008, alleged that more than 100 dead voters were still on Washington’s active voter rolls, with 15 of them actually casting “ghost” ballots. Halsne interviewed the widow of a man who supposedly had “voted” although he’d been dead since 1996.

After the stories ran, the Secretary of State’s office said it was deluged with angry phone calls and emails from citizens who had seen the stories. However, Reed contended that the stories were false and contained numerous errors, such as:

1. The “felon” was not a felon. She had been convicted only of a misdemeanor, so she never lost her right to vote.
2. The “dead” voter was not dead. The deceased man’s son, who has the same name, had voted and Halsne had confused the two men.

In a 10-page letter to the WNC detailing his complaint, and cc’d to KIRO, Reed wrote:

“[W]e were distressed when Chris Halsne, KIRO 7 Eyewitness News Investigative Reporter, aired two election-related news stories that fell far short of the most basic standards of journalism for accuracy, balance and fairness. This occurred despite our repeated efforts to correct some of his assumptions and methodology and errors before he aired his reports. To have someone purposely proceed with incorrect and misleading information after all of this was just unconscionable and had the negative effect of undermining trust and confidence in our elections process.”

Along with his written complaint, Reed signed the WNC’s waiver form, pledging that he would not sue KIRO7. The News Council’s process is an alternative to litigation.

The News Council hand-delivered Reed’s written complaint, letter and waiver form to KIRO on Dec. 31, 2008, and asked for a written response from KIRO within 10 days. KIRO did not respond to that request, and did not return repeated WNC calls or emails.

However, KIRO General Manager Eric Lerner called Sam Reed’s office to schedule a meeting. Lerner, along with News Director Todd Mokhtari, Investigative Reporter Chris Halsne, and Producer Bill Benson, drove to Olympia on Jan. 21, 2009. At that meeting, Reed and his staff detailed what they called serious inaccuracies in Halsne’s two stories.

According to Dave Ammons, Reed’s communications director and former Associated Press political writer and columnist in Olympia, the KIRO delegation listened, let Halsne defend his stories, and then declared that they would not run corrections or clarifications, nor would they remove the stories from the KIRO website.

Reed and state Elections Director Nick Handy were disappointed, according to Ammons. In an email to KIRO, Reed said: “We continue to believe that, at the least, KIRO should remove these stories from the KIRO website. Whether KIRO chooses to take other action is a matter to be determined by KIRO’s own journalistic standards.”

The News Council then prepared to hold a public hearing, broadcast by TVW, at which the WNC board would publicly discuss and vote openly on the merits of the complaint.

However, on Feb. 17, Sam Reed asked that the hearing not go forward. He wrote:

“After much careful consideration, we at the Secretary of State’s Office have reluctantly decided not to pursue our complaint against KIRO-TV to the full hearing stage.

“We remain convinced that we presented a compelling argument, both in our written Washington News Council submission and in direct conversations with KIRO-TV management and staff, that significant errors in fact and in tone were made in two special reports by reporter Chris Halsne….

“We asked for clarification, for corrections, and for the incorrect and overblown stories to be taken down from the KIRO website, and got zero acknowledgement that anything was amiss or that the journalistic standards required more than a dismissive brush-off of the state’s chief elections officer….

“After several conversations as part of the News Council negotiating period, KIRO eventually agreed to pull down their stories from the Web site if we would muzzle ourselves and not inform the News Council of the nature of this accommodation. This we cannot agree to, since this leaves KIRO offering very little and conceding nothing.

“At the same time, we weary of this frustrating battle and the countless man-hours devoted to researching chapter and verse of this sorry episode, and we see little value in continuing to bang our head against the wall, knowing that KIRO will boycott the proceedings and will not acknowledge errors in fact and in tone, much less fix the problem. A News Council finding in our favor would not change the dynamic; properly, in a nation that so values the First Amendment, the council cannot order KIRO to do anything….

“We close by expressing our sincere thanks to the Council…for accepting our complaint and for professionalism in walking with us through the process, including the most recent negotiating period with KIRO. It is through no fault of the Council…that we have decided to suspend our complaint.”

The News Council reluctantly accepted Reed’s decision not to proceed with a hearing. WNC hearings are an educational forum for open public discussion of media ethics.

John Hamer, executive director of the Washington News Council, said the case will now be used in “mock hearings” in high-school and college journalism classes statewide, as part of the WNC’s decade-long effort to instill high standards of ethics and accuracy in future generations of journalists. (Call our office for days/times.)

Finally, in lieu of a public hearing, the WNC invites the public to participate in a “Citizens Online News Council.” The KIRO stories, Reed’s complaint and letter, and key questions for discussion will be posted on our website, Members of the public are invited to view the stories, read the complaint, and “vote” on several issues regarding the KIRO stories. The WNC welcomes public participation.

CONTACT: John Hamer, WNC Executive Director, 206.262.9793 or 206.910.5270. Email: Address: P.O. Box 3672, Seattle WA 98124.


On John Seigenthaler’s April 18 presentation

John Seigenthaler knows the First Amendment perhaps as well as anyone. But it wasn’t always that way.

“It was almost 60 years ago that I first walked into a newsroom,” he said in his presentation to about 100 people at Seattle Public Library. “For most of those years as a working journalist, I took the First Amendment for granted.”

Not anymore. He founded the First Amendment Center in 1991 with the mission of creating national discussion, dialogue and debate about our First Amendment rights and values. [Read more...]