Hearing Audience Finds Seattle Times’ Sex Predator Stories Unfair

Public at hearing favors Wollert in Dr. Richard Wollert v. The Seattle Times case

In a Washington News Council hearing at Town Hall on Saturday, June 1, the public in attendance found flaws in The Seattle Times’ January 2012 series entitled “Price of Protection,” about the costs of a controversial state program for civil commitment of Washington’s worst sex offenders.

Audience members were invited to vote on whether the newspaper’s overall portrayal of Dr. Richard Wollert, a Vancouver psychologist who deals with sexually violent predators, was inaccurate, unfair, incomplete or imbalanced. Eleven of Wollert’s objections were upheld, and the public sided with The Seattle Times on one question.

Those viewing online, live during the hearing or at any time later up to June 15, are invited to vote with this online ballot. Online votes are not included in the tallies below, which were recorded on paper ballots, at the end of the hearing.

Vote results for the audience were as follows:
No.
Question
Public in Attendance
Yes
No
1
Was The Times accurate in its Jan. 21, 2012, article stating that Dr. Richard Wollert has been “pushing his own science and theories” and “often finds himself under attack for his changing theories of recidivism and his self-made assessment tools”?
14
30
2
Did The Times contact, or attempt to contact, and utilizesufficiently diverse sources who may have had a point of view about Dr. Wollert different from that generally expressed by prosecutors and assistant attorneys general?
11
28
3
Did The Times fully and fairlyportray Dr. Wollert in two videos when it quoted one critic [Brooke Burbank] saying that he is an “outlier” who comes up with “his own methodologies that are simply not sound science,” and another [David Hackett] saying that he “makes his living offering one opinion” and is “essentially a symphony with one note”?
8
31
4
Did The Times fully and fairlyportray Dr. Wollert in its Jan. 21, 2012, article when it quoted a critic [Amy Phenix] saying “Wollert almost always finds a reason why an offender doesn’t meet criteria for commitment” and “His reports are a gross misrepresentation of risk – it’s mumbo-jumbo.”
9
29
5
Was the Jan. 21, 2012, “Price of Protection” series headline, “State Wastes Millions Helping Sex Predators Avoid Lock-up”accurate and fair?
7
32
6
Was The Times’ account of Dr. Wollert’s testimony in the trial of Jack Leck accurate in stating that “Wollert was relying on Leck’s words, even though he knew Leck was a habitual liar and had even been deceptive during the psychological evaluation”?
12
22
7
Was The Times accurate in stating that Dr. Wollert “removed key questions” from the “Static 99” test to assess the likelihood that SVPs will reoffend?
6
32
8
Did The Times’ reporter’s approach to Dr. Wollert, which he perceived as so agenda-driven that he refused to grant an interview, contribute to any lack of balance in the series?
9
11
9
Did The Times’ Investigations Editor, James Neff, provide anadequate explanation in his May 25, 2012, letter to Dr. Wollert regarding the newspaper’s decision not to make any corrections in 2012?
16
24
10
Was The Times accurate in its Jan 21, 2012, story stating that: “In 2001 the county [Multnomah] criticized Wollert for incomplete assessments, inadequate treatment guidelines, and poor record keeping, and later cancelled his contract”?
9
30
11
Was The Times’ correction and clarification on March 22, 2013, stating that “[Multnomah] county and Wollert agreed to end the contract” and “In fact, the contract was cancelled by mutual agreement of the parties” adequate?
15
21
12
Overall, did The Times’ “Price of Protection” series portray Dr. Wollert, including his academic background, research history, scientific methodologies and past testimony, in anaccurate, fair, complete and balanced way?
5
33
Twitter: @WAnewscouncil

CONTACT:
John Hamer, WNC President, jhamer@wanewscouncil.org
Phone: 206-262-9793 Address: 1201 1st Ave. S. #331, Seattle WA 98134
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