Afternoon Jolt

Today's Jolt: No winners or losers today,  just angry Seattle Times employees.

More than 100 Seattle Times editorial employees, including reporters, columnists, artists, and photographers, have sent a letter to Times publisher Frank Blethen protesting the Seattle Times Co.'s decision to donate more than $75,000 in free ad space to Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna.

The Times has said it made the independent expenditure because it wants to prove that newspaper ads are "effective," but the IE (along with a separate ad for R-74, the gay-marriage initiative) aligns with the positions of the paper's editorial board, and media critics who have commented on the ad agree that it compromises the ability of the paper's news staff to appear credible, independent, and fair. 

That is why the decision to publish these ads is so disappointing. It threatens the two things we value the most, the traits that make The Seattle Times a strong brand: Our independence and credibility.

The letter reads in part: 

We write to express our frustration that The Seattle Times Co. is publishing advertisements endorsing one of the state’s two candidates for governor, as well as a statewide referendum campaign. 

We reporters, photographers, editors, columnists, producers and artists work every day to carry out this newspaper’s mission to communicate the news to the Northwest in as fair and objective a manner as possible. We are proud of our stewardship role and your continuous support over the years, despite significant financial burdens.

That is why the decision to publish these ads is so disappointing. It threatens the two things we value the most, the traits that make The Seattle Times a strong brand: Our independence and credibility.

We know you value those things, too. The Seattle Times Company has done an exemplary job providing value to advertisers while also practicing independent journalism.

The company has explained this decision as a creative attempt to grow revenue during the political ad season. In this economic environment initiatives for more revenue are welcomed.

But consider its effect on The Seattle Times’ core mission, journalism.We strive to remain independent from the institutions we cover. We shine a light on the process from the outside. We are not part of the process.

This ad campaign threatens to compromise that integrity. By sponsoring an ad for one gubernatorial candidate, The Seattle Times – the entire company – has become one of the top contributors in support of that candidate’s campaign.

We are now part of a campaign’s machinery, creating a perception that we are not an independent watchdog. [...] The ads undermine the work we do and threaten to muddy that perception with the readers who rely on us.

As we've reported, the $75,000-plus spend puts the Times among an elite list of high-dollar, partisan contributors to McKenna, including Americans for Prosperity, the controversial Koch Brothers-backed PAC ($28,000) and Stand for Children, the pro-charter-schools ed reform group ($128,000).