Karen Peterson: Campaign endorsements not always as they appear

EXECUTIVE EDITOROctober 27, 2013 

It’s that time of year again. Groups campaigning for or against a candidate or ballot measure often cite endorsements from The News Tribune and other area newspapers in their advertisements.

We suggest you read closely.

Usually, it’s the candidate or side we endorsed quoting our editorial alongside our nameplate. Sometimes, however, it’s the side we didn’t endorse flashing our colors. At a glance, it can look as though they got our endorsement.

The Seattle Times is tagged in a television commercial by proponents of Initiative 522, which would require labels on genetically engineered foods. The ad features the Times’ nameplate alongside the word “Misleading” when referring to claims made by I-522 opponents.

That’s true as far as it goes. A Times newsroom fact check did find fault with the opponents’ ads. However, the Times’ editorial board sided with opponents in its endorsement.

The folks at Fix Tacoma Streets did something similar in their mailer touting Proposition 1, which would increase utility earnings taxes to pay for street repairs. On the front of their “Yes on Prop. #1” mailer is a box with two quotes from the TNT (along with a TNT photo apparently snatched off our website). The quotes are factual statements about the proposition appropriately credited to us.

But the prominent and adjacent placement of our nameplate surely will lead some to believe the TNT endorsed Prop. 1. It did not.

A second mailer by this group goes even further and reprints our Sunday nameplate (again without our permission) along with our photo, all over a quote from our story last Sunday. The campaign has not responded to my phone message or email expressing our concerns.

You’ll find a list of the candidates and measures endorsed by the TNT here.

FIGHTING FOR DISCLOSURE

Our military writer, Adam Ashton, has been working for months to get the Army to release two investigations into Staff Sgt. Robert Bales. The Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier took responsibility for the killing of 16 Afghan civilians last year, but the court proceedings left some questions unanswered.

Ashton offered the following update:

“The News Tribune has filed Freedom of Information Act requests to obtain the documents we have not seen in the hopes of finding out more about what was happening at Bales’ combat outpost and learning more about the killings than attorneys disclosed in court.

“We filed FOIA requests for the command climate report with the Army office that oversees the war and with Lewis-McChord. We also joined with The Associated Press, The Seattle Times and KUOW in asking the Army to release the report in a FOIA reading room where the public can view it, as it has done with other high profile incidents from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“We’re submitting a third request for the criminal investigation. Our first two have been declined because the report has not found its way to the Army’s Criminal Records Center where it can be processed for release.

“The Army’s prosecution of Bales shows that it held him exclusively responsible for the killings. His command sergeant major and former battalion commander have been promoted. We have not heard if any of the Green Berets who ran Bales’ combat outpost in Kandahar were punished.

“In court, the most compelling support for Bales came in the rows of fellow soldiers who backed him up even as the evidence mounted. They understood that Bales did something terrible and he deserved to be punished, yet their presence suggested there was more to the story.”

NEW BYLINES IN THE PAPER

Kate Martin joined our newsroom a couple of months ago as a local news reporter. She has been mainly covering the city of Tacoma, and a week ago we officially named her our Tacoma City Hall reporter.

Martin came to us from the Skagit Valley Herald, where she covered government agencies and schools. She has a track record as a strong watchdog reporter and has advanced training in database reporting.

Martin and her husband live in Tacoma. She takes over this important beat from Lewis Kamb, now an investigative reporter with The Seattle Times.

Later this week, Brynn Grimley joins our reporting staff to cover West Pierce County, including the communities of Lakewood, University Place and Gig Harbor.

Grimley comes to us from the Kitsap Sun, where she has worked as county government reporter along with a variety of other roles (including wine blogger) since 2006. Before that, she worked for a weekly paper in Virginia.

She won a first-place award for investigative reporting among smaller papers in the 2012 regional Society of Professional Journalists contest.

Grimley has roots in Puget Sound, and she interned at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. She takes over for Christian Hill, now a city hall reporter at the Eugene (Ore.) Register-Guard.

Karen Peterson: 253-597-8434
Karen.Peterson@thenewstribune.com

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