Morning Fizz

A Neutral Observer of the News

By Morning Fizz June 3, 2011

Update: Apologies to those who commented earlier on this post; due to technical issues, the post was momentarily offline and comments unfortunately got lost.

1. Stranger writer Eli Sanders wrote a post on Slog yesterday saying the pro-tunnel campaign has “lodged a formal complaint with KUOW” demanding “equal time.” Sanders appears on Steve Scher’s Friday news roundup show, and Sanders’ bosses,  Stranger news editor Dominic Holden and editorial director Dan Savage have given money to the anti-tunnel campaign. Savage also co-hosted a fundraiser for the campaign and Stranger publisher Tim Keck has also donated to the campaign.



Sanders wrote that his appearances on KUOW aren’t an ethical issue because: 1) Other guests on the show, specifically Seattle Times editorial writer Joni Balter, express (pro-tunnel) opinions; and 2) everyone knows the Stranger does advocacy journalism, and giving money is just another form of advocacy.

Alex Fryer, the spokesman for the pro-tunnel campaign, tells Fizz: “My ‘formal complaint’ was a conversation with Steve on the sidewalk. I find it odd that Eli would write about that without calling me. If he had done just one inch of reporting, he would have known there was no ‘formal complaint.’ I don’t even know what a formal complaint would be.”

Addressing Sanders’ argument that contributing to political campaigns is the equivalent of expressing opinions, Fryer said, “Ethically, there’s a difference between having an opinion and writing a check. I have no problem when a publisher gives money to a campaign, but when the editorial director and the news editor give money, that’s an issue. You can’t segue from being an advocate [against] the tunnel to being a neutral observer of the news.”
“Ethically, there’s a difference between having an opinion and writing a check. I have no problem when a publisher gives money to a campaign, but when the editorial director and the news editor give money, that’s an issue.”

Sanders tells Fizz: “My source for the formality of the [tunnel campaign's] complaint is KUOW. If Alex Fryer has a critique of my journalism, or my co-workers’ campaign contributions, he hasn’t shared it with me. I look forward to discussing it with him on tomorrow’s show.”

Asked if a formal complaint has been lodged, Scher tells us: “No not formal as in a complaint to [city] ethics, at least not as I understood it. Formal as in formally telling me that he [Fryer] thought equal time would be fair… Alex was just grousing to me and was formally, clearly,  letting me know that he thought the Stranger’s campaign contribution made them less than impartial advocates.”

Scher says he has  extended equal time to Fryer and the anti-tunnel campaign.

Should be an interesting show this morning; 10 AM. 94.9 FM. Although it’s not clear Fryer will be calling in. Complaining about having what he considers a rival campaign spokesperson in the studio on the air regularly, Fryer says he can’t call in every week to counter Sanders.

2. The Seattle Department of Transportation confirms that the city slashed funding to replace a dangerous, slippery railroad crossing along the Burke-Gilman Trail as part of its mid-year budget cuts. Yesterday, cyclist Stefanie Frease wrote an op/ed in the Seattle Times about the dangerous crossing, where she crashed and broke her hip last month. According to SDOT spokesman Rick Sheridan, between 2007 and 2009, “the Fire Department made five responses to within one block of this location to treat fallen cyclists.”

The city is supposed to pay between $25,000 and $30,000 of the cost to fix the crossing, with the Ballard Terminal Railroad picking up the rest.

3. Meanwhile, further north on the Burke-Gilman Trail, the so-called “Missing Link” could finally be moving forward. Yesterday was the final day to appeal a finding that completing the trail will be environmentally “non-significant,” and Sheridan says a city hearing examiner should determine whether construction of the missing link can go forward within a month.


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