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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Dear Seattle Times

The Times printed a story this morning that I was interviewed - extensively -for by Linda Shaw.  I was told it was about 1240 but apparently, from the headline and the contents, it is a piece about Lisa Macfarlene with a little bit of background "color".   I would link it but I am not going to give the Times any help.  You know how to find their website. 

I sent the Linda, Brian Rosenthal and the Executive Editor, David Boardman, this e-mail this morning.  It's sad because I know and respect all of them. 

Dear Linda,

That was quite the interesting article this morning which I was told, by you, would be about 1240.  Clearly, it is largely about Lisa Macfarlane (and that's the second time in a week the Times' has printed her photo). 


I spent considerable time talking with you and frankly, you wasted my time.  That won't happen again.


I have been a good source for various Times' reporters over the years.  That ends today.  Please do not call me again for a quote or a source or any type of help on this topic or any other education topic.


The Times has morphed into something that I personally do not recognize or believe is a newspaper and I will not be used to further its agenda.


This is regrettable because I both like and respect you and Brian.  But your bosses have sown the seeds of this discontent and now they will reap the outcomes. 


Sincerely,

Melissa Westbrook

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

Melissa-

Great letter and I think it's great you won't be used for the Times' propaganda. This "story" was atrocious.

MacFarlane's final quote was priceless: "What are they [charter school opponents] scared of? she asked. That they'll work?"

Yes, I am personally opposed to charter schools because I am against any and all children getting a good education. That the times ended their fluff piece with that garbage was appalling.

-former subscriber

Anonymous said...

I'm simply opposed to sell-outs like McFarlane. Sadly, they're everywhere. WSDWG

Anonymous said...

The piece is a Macfarlane love fest. It would have been more balance, more revealing if Linda Shaw went back and reviewed Ms. Macfarlane's LEV history with MGJ and SPS. But I guess that would be too damaging since our schools are still recovering from the wasted millions, time, and distraction of Dr. Goodloe-Johnson's policies, intiatives, and poor managment. These things have cost our kids and the reputation of SPS. And now the very same players who had a hand in those SPS' failures are using that to beat up our public schools with.

Yeah, what a hero!

Scared

Longhouse said...

Basically, the Times continued with it's new official policy of running free ads to support the people and policies it likes.

This time they just gave the ad a byline.

Unknown said...

I also just noticed something.

Shaw points out that there are two No campaigns and I'm the head of one. But their charter lumps them together, making it look like the No side is all union (while the Yes side is all billionaires - kind of the snobs versus the slobs).

Our No campaign is overwhelmingly parents and community with little funding from the unions but that didn't make their story.

Johnny Calcagno said...

Melissa –

I share your feelings about 1240, and have donated to the No campaign, put up some yard signs, and talked to many friends about it.

Over the last several years, I think the Times educational editorializing has been brutally ignorant, and its reportage not nearly as comprehensive and informative as this blog.

But…. I don’t agree with you that the article is “largely about Lisa McFarlane.” I think it is just using her story as a compelling human angle for its overall (predominantly pro) 1240 coverage. When I saw the headline I groaned, but I thought it was a good read. Not good as in "I learned a lot about 1240," but good as in providing additional background to both the pro and anti campaigns.

It’s probably too late to change your mind, but cutting off the Times’ access to your knowledge and perspective does not serve you or your supporters well. Their reporters and editors need all the help they can get. I know that is a lot to ask given all the work that you already do, but if nothing else, it’s just smart politics…

Unknown said...

No, Johnny, it does not serve me or my supporters. I have tried to give the Times information/leads/other sources to try to BROADEN the discussion and it always comes back to their agenda.

Nope, I'm done.

Unknown said...

I think the worst thing about this article is the headline. It sneakily, but deliberately, editorializes, and in doing so crosses the line that separates news from opinion. Newspapers that have any sense of integrity, which clearly the Seattle Times lost a long time ago, know the difference. The sub-headline does not redeem it.

As far as MW's boycotting the ST, I totally understand where she's coming from, but would recommend that she cultivates relationships with writers she trusts. And I would have nothing to do with the Balters and Varners over there.

Regarding the McFarlane puff piece itself: I've been thinking for some time now that the Democrats are like the Whigs of late 1850s--they've lost their moral compass when a corporate front like DFER can legitimately claim 'Democrats' in its name. It's legitimate because the organization is in line with the Democrats' national education policy.

Mitt Romney just loves Arne Duncan, and there's no mystery why. The corporate, neoliberal wing of the party might be politically correct on the cultural issues, but it does not represent or care about the 99% when it comes to everything else. It aligns very nicely with everything that Romney has been talking about since the convention.

The central issue of the 1850s was slavery; the central issue of the 2010s is privatization and the economic stratification that flows inevitably from it. This charter fight is a battle in the larger war. It's not about being Republican or Democrat; it's about where do you stand on the issue of privatization.

The Republican Party was formed out of an alliance of abolitionist Whigs and anti-slavery Democrats. Another realignment like the one in the 1850s is inevitable. The only question is how bad to things have to get before it takes place. Sooner or later, a new party that defines a common-sense center has to be formed comprising kitchen table Democrats and Republicans who haven't lost their minds and who care about maintaining a stable, flourishing, expanding economic middle.

Anonymous said...

Jack: You did it again. You went & got all historical, rational and logical, and it gave me goosebumps again.

People need to separate the issue between charters on the one hand, and really bad legislation on the other hand. This is really, really bad legislation they are parading around with like lollipops or cotton-candy. I think Campion & Co. actually believe what they are saying, and cannot believe, or see through the prisms of their idealism, that this bill is incredibly ill-conceived. That makes it, and them, downright dangerous. WSDWG

Anonymous said...

MW: I understand your frustration and I love ya, but no speech at all is worse than twisted, mangled speech taken out of context. We're a one newspaper town, so, rather than self-muzzling in protest, you need to start speaking right back at them in soundbites. Forget journalism for the moment; this is politics, and any message at all is better than nothing. You can't open up and be honest to people with an agenda. And is there any question that the times has a pro 1% agenda, which includes tax breaks and privatization? Hell no! Know thy enemy. And study the Art of War. WSDWG

Anonymous said...

Well, she can keep sending them op-eds.

As far as substantive reporting on issues are concerned, I'm pretty much convinced that we're a zero newspaper town. I get almost all of my local news from this blog, from KUOW, with a smattering of info from the West Seattle Blog. Oh, and maybe the Stranger on occasion.

zb

Anonymous said...

I canceled my Times subscription (after subscribing for 18 years) last week after they purchased advertising for the Republican gubernatorial candidate. They've also been very one-sided in their coverage of 1240. I'm done with the Times.

Sorry they wasted your time on that article, Melissa. I couldn't believe when I saw that on the front page this morning. How much more coverage are they going to give in favor of 1240??

-annoyed

Melissa Westbrook said...

WSDWG, I did read the Art of War years ago.

But, as my Tennessee granny used to say, there's more than one way to skin a cat.

Linda Shaw could have written a really good article - about two women who care deeply about public education - and contrast their experiences and how they got to where they are today but...she didn't.

She wrote it to slant to Macfarlane who, by the way, really upset the elderly residents of Horizon House from the get go by saying "everything Melissa tells you about I-1240 is wrong".

It set the tone for the evening but I had come to expect this as both she and Shannon Campion made personal attacks against me at nearly every single debate I was at with them. Curiously, Tim Ceis was always a gentleman. Not something you would expect from someone with the nickname, The Shark.

NESeattleMom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
NESeattleMom said...

http://seattletimes.com/html/nationworld/2019510754_apuscharterschoolaudit.html

An article from Associated Press in Los Angeles printed in today's Seattle Times says that the Feds did not keep track of charter school money well.

Chris S. said...

I support Melissa's choice. We're a one-paper town so print journalism will die a faster death. I know this is the best place to get ed news and I tell people that. Between this and some online national newspaper, I'm good.

It would be nice to have a Seattle Citizens Forum and a State Government blog, but I guess there's always the PI.

Anonymous said...

Melissa, Bravo. A bright eyed little guy came to my door and offered me a free trial subscription of the Times and I said no thanks. He really tried to convince me and I didn't want to be a butt head to him... so finally he says, "but it's free." And I said, "yeah. It is free, what you're offering. But your newspaper is HORRIBLE to my profession and isn't really news at all. It's slanted. It owes the public objectivity. It paints what I do in a light I can't fight hard enough to undo in the eyes of the public. So nah, I'm good. I don't want your paper, even if it's free."

I'm sorry to be the scary teacher lady in the yellow house that doesn't even want the free paper. But there you go.

Awesome Teacher, aka scary lady in the yellow house

(sorry youngster... you'll understand one day...)

Michael H said...

"When you have scarce resources you don't vote on a wish or a hope." Nice quote, MW. Too bad you don't practice that (since you voted for hope and change Obama).

Anonymous said...

It's really late, and that is probably making me too cranky. But, Michael H, really? One of the things I hate most about most comment sections is that no matter what the topic is, some [colorful noun deleted] comes along and tries to make the subject -- ANY subject -- about either Romney/Obama or Dems/Repubs. Sometimes, when the specific issue is driven by the agenda of one party or the other (labor rights, immigration reform, etc.), the Dem/Repub comments SORT of have some merit (until the name calling starts). The rest of the time, as here, it borders on the kind of "baiting" that trolls do.

Can we go back to talking about the horrendously bad behavior of a a once-good newspaper that seems to have lost any sense of reporting neutrality and is actively shilling, in the news section, not on the op/ed page, for one side?

None of which of course has anything whatsoever to do with who Melissa votes for for President?

Braessae

Eric M said...

I support MW. The Times has been so ass-backwards on education for so long, it deserves to go bankrupt. Rosenthal's written some decent stories lately, but it's doesn't fix the balance sheet, as far as I'm concerned. He'll be able to get a job at the Weekly.

Goodbye, Times.

Really. I mean it.
I cancelled my subscription years ago.

I'll miss the local news. But they get most of that from the neighborhood blogs anyway.

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, Michael H. I'm sure Sarah Palin and John McCain would have this country in ship-shape right now, wouldn't they? Give me a break. WSDWG