The news media are the lifeblood of democracy. The Washington News Council gives citizens a voice in keeping the body politic healthy by helping influence media performance and ethics.
2010 is an especially important year for the News Council, as we are the proud recipients of a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Challenge Grant. If we raise a total of $100,000, the Gates Foundation will match that amount — as they did last year.
Our mission is to encourage and support accurate, fair, balanced, ethical and excellent journalism in all its forms — print, broadcast and/or online. The WNC acts as a kind of “outside ombudsman” or “Better Business Bureau” for the news media. We do this in several ways:
- Complaint Resolution — We help resolve complaints from individuals or organizations who believe they have been damaged by specific news stories about them. Through our complaint hearings, we provide an opportunity for open discussion of media ethics and journalistic performance. We also have successfully mediated several complaints to a mutually satisfactory resolution.
- Public Forums — We sponsor or co-sponsor events, such as panel discussions, where members of the public and the press meet to talk about news coverage and vital media issues. We also speak to Rotary clubs, trade associations, and other civic groups.
- Student Education — We visit college and high-school journalism classes statewide, and conduct mock hearings where students play the roles of complainants, media leaders and news council members who “vote” on complaints. We also hire student interns every year.
- WNC Scholarships — In honor of the late Seattle Times journalists Dick Larsen and Herb Robinson, we award two $2,000 scholarships annually to Washington students planning careers in communications. One goes to a current college undergraduate, the other to a graduating high-school senior.
- Gridiron West Dinner — We host an annual event to “toast” prominent journalists, politicians, civic and business leaders in tributes, comedy and songs. This event has been held every fall since 1999.
- Active Website — We maintain a website that highlights Council activities, as well as current topics in journalism. We blog regularly on media issues, and invite public comments and interactive discussion online.
- “TAO of Journalism” — We are promoting a new “TAO of Journalism” pledge and seal, with the letters standing for Transparency, Accountability and Openness. We believe journalists should be as transparent, accountable and open as they ask of those they cover.