Seattle's News Elixir

I've been on vacation for the past week, and I'd say of all the stories I missed, a seemingly minor one is the most notable to me.

The Seattle Times blogged about it: Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna canceled his newly-announced ritual of doing a weekly media call.

This may seem like a picayune gripe from a reporter; a brief (passive aggressive) email from the campaign on Tuesday said the calls did "not seem to be generating enough interest from our media list or news for your readers/viewers to make them worthwhile." But I think this is a defining moment as we head into election day. (In a longer discussion with the Times about the decision, McKenna's camp also accused the media of asking questions that seemed to come from the Inslee camp. Presumably, his campaign would be psyched for an opportunity to address the stuff his opponents are putting out, no?)

Meanwhile, the email noted that if reporters had questions they should still feel free to call; that's kind of a strange rationale given that McKenna's camp initially decided to do the weekly media availability due to the "high volume" of requests for interviews, according to an initial email.

My complaint isn't with the Catch-22 of the new policy, though.

What I find notable is McKenna's strained relationship with the press overall. McKenna entered the campaign last year having built a stellar relationship with the media. After years of being open and accessible and friendly—a sharp contrast with other Republicans who are wary of  "the liberal media"—McKenna had built a deserved rep with reporters for being forthcoming, straight forward, and helpful.

However, his entire run for governor has been marked by an uncharacteristically terse relationship with the media. I noticed the change right away last June at his kickoff announcement when McKenna got testy answering routine questions about his budgeting numbers.

More recently: he got into a standoff with KIRO TV reporter Essex Porter, and he told the Yakima media that the "Seattle media" was at fault—and then he told the Seattle media that the Yakima media was at fault—while explaining his position on the Affordable Health Care ruling.

McKenna  also tossed a camera man from an event in Redmond in July 2011 and lost his cool in April this year when a woman asked him on camera to explain his position on a pro-choice bill.

To be fair, those two instances involved partisan offensives (he's also barred Stranger writer Goldy from his press conferences and telephone calls), but rather than defaulting to his usual grown-up MO of candor and cordial debate, McKenna has totally lost his cool.

The childish behavior is reminiscent of the irritable and combative Dino Rossi, the GOP's most recent statewide candidate. (Rossi, for example, infamously and dismissively checked his watch during a videotaped Seattle Times editorial board interview back in 2010).

McKenna was supposed to be a new brand of Republican candidate. But his hostile blame-the-media approach shows the same disrespect for the electoral process that his embittered party brings to the race every year—one that the old Rob McKenna had spent years correcting. It's a shame he's forgotten about that.

Footnote: It's odd that McKenna's camp said the media calls weren't generating interest. After one call, we gave the McKenna camp the microphone re: the League of Education Voters' odd decision to issue no endorsement in the governor's race.
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