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Thursday, October 17, 2019

Seattle Times Bizarro World Tactics

FADE IN:

INT: SEATTLE TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD MEETING - DAY


There are several people seated at a conference room table, laptops for each except one person with a yellow legal pad.

EDITORIAL PERSON #1 
So we are all agreed on this course of action?

EDITORIAL PERSON #2
Yeah, we've tried pushing the people we REALLY want for the Seattle School Board. 
That didn't work so why not try the plan "endorse one person 
in Editorial but then taint that person in reporting 
and make their opponent look good."

EDITORIAL PERSON #3
So much for the wall between editorial and reporting.

EDITORIAL PERSON #1
Look, for public education reporting at the Times, 
that wall came downyears ago.  It just doesn't matter; 
we need to get people in  that
will go all-out for our ed reform.

EDITORIAL PERSON#2
Agreed.

I wish I thought this was fiction but I'm pretty sure this is their plan.


How to explain the odd story on the reopening of Lincoln High school and asking candidate Liza Rankin for quotes when 1) Lisa Rivera Smith who IS going to be sitting on the Board and who IS PTSA co-president isn't asked anything and 2) candidate Eric Blumhagen knows capacity and facilities well?

The Times endorsed Blumhagen but did say good things about Rankin in that editorial.

Next, is the story in the Times today about the race between challenger Molly Mitchell and incumbent Leslie Harris.  The Times has endorsed Harris but let's examine this story to see the Times' plan at work.

Mitchell gets glowing notations seven times. Not one negative about her.  And the Times slants the story so Harris looks like just some politico and Mitchell is grassroots.   Just not true.

Let's look at Harris.  No positive remarks about her time on the Board from anyone.  They mention Amplify and Nyland as issues for her.  And who do they call in for insights?

Jill Geary who was ready to jump ship for a higher office and who seems to think that being a fighter is a bad thing for a Board member.  

And they call on - yet again - former director Stephan Blanford.  This is the guy who in eight four years pontificated and went to conferences.  He was never elected to any Board leadership role.  Speaks volumes about him and therefore, his opinion of Harris over one ill-spoken statement by her.  I'll bet I could pull out something he said, too.

Then there's this curious bit of under-reporting.
And as the district’s strategic plan focuses on black male students, many want to see more racial diversity on the board. (Mitchell is black; Harris is white.)
Uh, there is a Black person on the Board - Brandon Hersey.  And two Native American members.  And they will have the first Latinx on the Board in Lisa Rivera Smith.  Looks like the Board needs an Asian member to fully represent the make-up of the district.  

The Times is focusing on SEA changing from endorsing Harris in her first run and now is pushing Mitchell.  Except that Harris helped and supporting the raises that teachers got not once but twice in Harris' tenure.
“The kids that struggle the most in our system are kids with trauma, and kids in the school-to-prison pipeline,” said Phyllis Campano, SEA’s president. “To have that perspective when you’re doing policy is essential.”
Uh, Harris has fought for (sorry Director Geary) saving Middle College which is very much directed to helping kids in trauma and ending the school-to-prison pipeline.  Maybe Campano forgot that and forgot by saving Middle College, Harris kept some teachers employed.

Good luck with that plan, Times.  It just may backfire on you.


18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Melissa, I am not going to make fun of your theatrics because I want to have a real understanding of the bigger picture and what role you play or you think you play in the district.
I read their endorsement for Eric Blumhagen. I appreciate the Times bringing attention to his opponent and if what they saw in her is positive, I think true journalism owes it to readers to publish what they see, impartially. If you were the author of the article it would be a different take and that is why you have this blog, where you can start the conversation and delete comments as you wish. That is your right.
Regarding Harris, I believe the was made look like a politico because she IS a politico. Her moves are calculated, she uses her friendships to advance her agenda, tells the community she is listening and turns around and does otherwise. Example: She talks about how wrong it is for PTAs to buy staff but consistently votes yes to allow the continuation of this practice.
If I had the chance to have a real conversation with you, I would really like to understand what motivates you, where your heart is and what you believe in.
I don't have your email and have not met you in person yet. I am thinking our paths will cross at some point.

Queen Bee

Cult of Blanford said...

Today's Harris/Mitchell piece was insane. The Times seems really confused. If they want an AA board member quote, why don't they ever talk to Harium Martin-Morris or Brandon Hersey? It's like somebody's got a thing with Blanford.

Also, what gives with all the nepotism in having district power brokers' kids on the Superintendent's student advisory board? (former school board rep) Blanford's kid, (SCPTSA president) Manuela Slye's kid, (former SCPTSA president) Sebrena Burr's kid

Melissa Westbrook said...

Queen Bee, I didn't say Harris isn't a politico but that's sure not all she is or has been in her many years supporting this district.

"I think true journalism owes it to readers to publish what they see, impartially."

Yes, and they may have done that in their editorial but not in this story. C'mon.

As for PTSA funds, so do ALL of them. She's just the only one running. And yet Hampson was president of the SCPTSA and Rankin was on the Board and where was their initiative put forth to change that? A lot of talk, no action.

I don't have to explain myself to you. Kind of creepy saying "our paths will cross." And you will have the advantage of knowing who I am but I won't know who you are.

Cult of Blanford, good catch. I didn't realize how many of the students on the Advisory Board are attached to activist parents.

Outsider said...

I think you're over-analyzing. The times probably just wants to butter up all factions to avoid criticism, especially from POC activists in the city. If they endorse the old white lady, and get some blowback from the other side, they write a puff piece about the other candidate to mollify the other side. By now this is probably a choreographed dance, in which local activists know exactly how and where and to whom to huff and puff to get their piece in the paper. They quote whoever will mollify the other faction; and say things about the old white lady that critics believe should be said. It's not about being objective or newsworthy; it's about trying to offer something to everyone to safeguard their business.

In the old days, a city might have rival rightist and leftist papers, each landing their hatchet in the other side. Or one slightly biased dominant paper with a strong enough business to say tough beans if anyone complained about their bias. But nowdays, print journalism has shrunk to a weak and precarious state, and they don't have any standards except survival.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Except Outsider, they haven't done this in previous years. Therein lies my suspicion.

"But nowdays, print journalism has shrunk to a weak and precarious state, and they don't have any standards except survival."

That I can agree with.

Anonymous said...

I've heard that SEA has endorsed Rankin, Mitchell, Hampson but I can't find that published anywhere.

HP

Anonymous said...

One other obvious reason that the news and editorial departments might take different tacks is because ... wait for it ... they aren't actually communicating with one another. FYI, the funding for Ed Lab is from the Gates Foundation, not the editorial department.

FWIW, I suspect Rankin was the first to respond by phone before the reporter's deadline.

Spike

Anonymous said...

I think Spike is mostly right in that editorial and newsroom aren't communicating with each other like that. But what is likely happening is that the newsroom editors who run Ed Lab are taking their orders from the Gates Foundation, and they have standing rules about who gets quoted and who doesn't. So basically you have two parallel editorial operations, with broadly overlapping political objectives, but they don't always communicate and so sometimes you get a disconnect such as in the Position 1 race.

I also don't think Rankin was the first to respond by phone - I am guessing neither Eric Blumhagen or Lisa Rivera Smith, who is herself a former Times reporter, ever got a call. And I don't blame the reporters themselves for this - their jobs depend on them toeing the party line.

Ellsberg

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

It's called "conflict of interest" and it is not the fault of the kids who volunteer to serve. It is the fault of the adults who determine the composition of the student advisory board.

EthicsMatter

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Cult of Blandford said...

I didn't say I have low respect for the kids and it's creepy that you assume that. Clearly if anything shifty is going on, it's the district at fault, not the kids. It is sad that the district is using these kids.

The cult of Blandford is at the newspaper. Do they have him on speed dial or something? It's not normal to continue to call someone who left a job 2 years ago for quotes about stuff. They're not calling Patu or Peters. Maybe they tried to call Goodloe-Johnson first and it went to voicemail.

Anonymous said...

@cult, MGJ passed away in 2012. Please show some sensitivity.

reader

Anonymous said...

I don't think that any of the publicity from SEA can be taken for honesty. Their small but very loud radical leadership is controlling the conversation. I wish more teachers would speak up so we could hear how *they* feel.

-- frustrated parent

SEA Curious said...

For SEA to endorse a candidate, doesn't the membership have to vote on it?

Anonymous said...

I'm an SPS teacher. I don't support who SEA has endorsed. I keep trying to remember if we got a chance to vote or not. I think the vote went through the RAs, but I'm not sure. I have not always felt this way, but now I feel quite mixed about SEA. I feel like SEA has been taken over by a group of people who I don't support. For the first time, I've even thought about withdrawing from the union. I've always been a big union fan. I believe in unions, but I think SEA is going down a road that many members don't support.
SPS Teacher

Melissa Westbrook said...

SEA Curious, the SEA membership rarely votes on those types of issues; I'm pretty sure it was just the SEA Board.

SPS TEacher, I hear your thoughts from many teachers and they choose to keep their mouths shut for fear of being hammered for having a differing opinion.

Anonymous said...

The fear is real. If you disagree or even question, than you are called racist. There is no place to have any real conversations.
SPS Teacher