Morning Fizz

Email: Seattle Times Reporter Calls Out Paper's Own Anti–Sound Transit Bias

Reporting on Sound Transit and arm twisting for donations.

By Josh Feit October 4, 2016

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1. You're not the only one who thinks the Seattle Times has a conservative bent.

One of their reporters thinks so as well. The reporter was assigned a paint-by-numbers story this summer on neighborhood complaints about Sound Transit—in this particular case, how light rail will supposedly disrupt the natural preserve at Mercer Slough in Bellevue.

Doing the work on the assignment, the reporter got a list of federal, state, and local agencies that vetted the transit project, as well as a list of the specific prerequisite regulations that the project design (already debated and approved by the Bellevue City Council in 2015) has met.

Those details didn't make it into the story.

"My editor cut the list of regulatory acts and agencies despite my protests. :(  Said it was too pro-government...," the Times reporter said in an email to ST spokesman Bruce Gray as they were working on the story.

Gray offered the reporter a more generic suggestion: "What about saying, 'Sound Transit points out that the project required review and approval from seven different federal agencies, six state agencies and four different local city governments.'"

No luck.

Gray rolled his eyes at the Times predictable anti-government slant. Gray wrote to the reporter: "Let me guess, this package will have a picture of a concerned neighbor standing in the park under a headline something like: 'Neighbors concerned about light rail impacts to park.' Subheadline: 'Officials say they have it covered'?"

Sighing in agreement with Gray about the Times’ obvious editors, the reporter joked back: "There might be a doomed tree tied with a ribbon. But yes, you've got the general idea."

(The finalized story, headlined "Neighbors worry about Mercer Slough amid East Link light-rail construction," eventually boiled Gray's agency and regulation cites down to this: "Officials note, the plans meet dozens of local, state and federal environmental regulations.")

Taken from the project's environmental impact statement, here's the actual list of required permits.

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2. Here’s a follow up on yesterday’s item about an email mayor Ed Murray’s pot policy point person David Mendoza sent to local pot industry folks inviting them to Murray’s reelection kickoff fundraiser. The email, understandably intimidating to members of the nascent industry who have to work with Mendoza and the city to make their businesses successful, raised ethical questions about how city officials can campaign.

Murray spokesman Benton Strong told Fizz: “I don’t think we think that he’s gone too far or overstepped here.” Strong said they make it "as clear as possible" to staffers that campaigning must be done "in a personal capacity."

Mendoza's email came from his personal account, but blurred the distinction about what role he was in. The email stated: "the Mayor would like to spend the next four years in finding creative ways in which to shrink the illicit market, improving the statewide system and working with all of you in the cannabis industry to support your nascent industry and insure [sic] it continues to grow and thrive. However, we can only do that if the Mayor is re-elected."

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