As we noted in Fizz this morning, one way of looking at the Seattle Times' decision to hand out a free $80,000 ad to a partisan candidate, Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna, is as a (somewhat desperate) publicity stunt by the Times to get people to pay attention to its McKenna endorsement, proving that people don't pay attention to newspaper endorsements anymore.
We doubt the Times will publicly cop to this tactic. But McKenna himself certainly thinks that's what the ad was for.
On Austin Jenkins' show on TVW, "Inside Olympia," yesterday, McKenna repeatedly said he thought the ad was meant to "back up" the endorsement by the Times' editorial page. (Seattle Times Co. spokeswoman Jill Mackie told PubliCola the editorial and business side of the paper had "absolutely zero involvement" in collaborating on the ad.)
The Times] did endorse me, and strongly so, and they’re backing up that endorsement with a longer explanation of why they’ve endorsed me. —Rob McKenna
Here's what McKenna had to say about that:
"[The Times] did endorse me, and strongly so, and they’re backing up that endorsement with a longer explanation of why they’ve endorsed me. ... I'm glad the Times has decided to take that step [of] reinforcing their endorsement of me."
McKenna went on to point out that the Times also donated ad space to the campaign for R-74, the marriage equality resolution, and suggested that state Democratic Party chair was being "cynical" and a hypocrite by only protesting McKenna's ad.
But—again, as we noted in Fizz—there's a big difference between a newspaper company supporting an issue campaign (which the Times has done in the past, most recently with ads opposing the estate tax in 2006), and a newspaper donating $75,000 worth of space in its pages to a partisan political candidate.
McKenna is the standard-bearer in Washington state for a specific political agenda, and going all in for him is a game-changer for Seattle's media landscape—one that seriously damages the perceived credibility of all its political reporters, particularly those covering the heated, and close, Inslee-McKenna race.