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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Stranger Slog Reports on the Press Access Issue

The Stranger Slog got wind of the SPS press conference and not allowing me to ask any questions and they wrote a post about it. The reporter was pretty even-handed pointing out that the Stranger has not always agreed with my stances and that I'm on the committee to defeat the supplemental levy. From their post:

"District spokesperson Teresa Wippel said the event was for media organizations that "provide unbiased coverage and subscribe to journalistic ethics." By that, she means "the types of practices outlined in the Code of Ethics from the Society for Professional Journalists," Wippel said. "It is our opinion that Ms. Westbrook’s blog does not fit into that category."

How do I get a subscription to journalistic ethics? I looked at the Code and I think I do most every thing there. I particularly like:
  • Give voice to the voiceless; official and unofficial sources of information can be equally valid.
  • Distinguish between advocacy and news reporting. Analysis and commentary should be labeled and not misrepresent fact or context.
On that last one, I do mix the two but my tone generally lets you know when it's commentary. I could try, in the future, to straight up report and THEN provide commentary.

Wippel said. "Westbrook has lots of different ways to ask questions to the board."

Ah but I wasn't there to question the Board but to talk to the assembled group, specifically the Superintendent.

What I liked the most were these comments (the first from the Slog and the second from Publicola):

"I get that Melissa can be a bit much. Not every interaction I have had with her I have positive memories of. However, who the hell else actually covers Seattle Schools in the way that she does? While she most definitely presents opinion, she also presents facts that she bases that opinion off of." Michael P (who I do not recognize)

Also:
I dig the paranoid retro Nixon White House vibe coming out of SPS. I'd love to see the full Enemies List who are not to be allowed to ask questions or rabble-rouse. There's a semi-regular band of crazies who speak at board meetings who aren't much of a threat to them, but they seem to be much more vigilant in countering those with substantive, informed questions. From Newguy.

I did write to the head of Communications, Bridgett Chandler, and I requested a copy of the district and/or Board policy on media access. I looked at the website and couldn't find any policies but they could exist. I cc'd the Board.

We live in interesting times.

11 comments:

wsnorth said...

"unbiased coverage" - no wonder none of the old media showed up, either!

mirmac1 said...

What I found weird was how the Times ignored the press conference but published MGJ's "guest column" the next day. Wonder who ghostwrote that for her?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Good point, Mirmac. I wondered that as well.

Tracy @ WSB said...

I just heard about this - because an old-media journalist in Spokane whom I follow on Twitter tweeted the Stranger link. This pisses me off. We publish in "blog" format and even though we have a different style - we don't do opinion - and I have a different background - old media - that doesn't matter. I consider this site, as I have said here before, to be the premier place to find out what's going on in Seattle Public Schools, from outside the district. If they ban you today, what's to keep them from banning me tomorrow? Do you need somebody to go to bat for you on a bigger scale? I'll write a letter but I'm just one voice. I can point this out to louder voices like the Poynter Institute (where I've been a "Sense-Making Fellow" for two years, and you guys would fit right in our group) if they haven't heard already. This is outrageous. It's not a common policy, either - nobody at City Hall stopped opinionated online reporter Sable Verity - or citizen activists who don't even HAVE websites, so far as I know - from asking questions during the Mayor McGinn/Chief Diaz news conference on Wednesday (I was there).

Central Mom said...

Tracy: As a loyal blog reader, could I ask that you do All of the Above, and soon?!

Also, can you cut n paste what you just said onto PubliCola's longgggg thread?

And definitely a letter to the Board.

For everyone else out there without media connections, please also take the time to drop a letter to the Board tomorrow and let them know what you think of District Communications as shaped by our Superintendent.

hschinske said...

You know, Melissa, it wouldn't be a bad idea for you to just BE a professional journalist. Get a paying gig or two and join a society.

You might want to think about going to this event:

"On September 21, the Society of Professional Journalists is hosting a conference. It will feature 18 editors from local publications, so it's a great
opportunity to meet, mingle and network with folks who may be looking for writers and/or stories.


"The event is called "All Access Pass: The Freelancer's Survival Guide," it runs from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 21 at the REI flagship store in
Seattle (222 Yale Ave N.), and it will be featuring two editor mixers. One will be during the conference itself. The other will be a Media Bistro event immediately after the event. Best of all, it's really cheap: Just $40.

"For more details, go to www.spjwash.org."

Amy said...

Melissa, I'm trying to get in touch with you today. Please email me a phone number if you're available to talk: amyrolph@seattlepi.com

wsnorth said...

Tracy, right on! We love the West Seattle Blog, too.

Josh Hayes said...

Here's a thought - If I send Melissa ten bucks for her efforts, is she, hey presto!, a professional journalist? After all, she'll be getting paid for her writing.

Hah? Hah?

Tracy @ WSB said...

Just for the record, I did send a letter early Friday to a group of addressees that made sense at the time - all SPS P/A folks (and I have to say, my dealings with them in the past have been exemplary, I have in particular worked closely with Patti and Teresa), superintendent, board member Steve S. because I'm in his part of town, cc'd a couple folks outside the situation. I heard back from all but one of the addressees. I will leave it to Melissa to decide what kind of followup she posts here ultimately, and how she interprets the statement that eventually was issued.

Also speaking of statements, I am pleased that the president of the local Society of Professional Journalists board, of which I am a member, responded to a reporter's request with a statement strongly supporting "citizen journalist" access, while not commenting on any specifics of this situation.

Bird said...

Hey Melissa,

I hear SPS backed down on this issue. Did they apologize to you or anything?