Read a Pacific Northwest, liberal perspective on world, national, and local politics. From majestic Redmond, Washington - the Northwest Progressive Institute Official Blog.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

No insult meant to Times journalists

David Postman, responding to yesterday's meta post, writes:
Villeneuve says NPI won't take advertising. I'm not sure if that makes his promotion of the PI charity or a political campaign. Whatever the case, Villeneuve repeats an old canard that has been discredited by an anti-trust investigation.
Because the Seattle Times Company manages the P-I's business operations - advertising, classifieds, marketing, circulation, delivery, etc. - its owners are and have been in an excellent position to sabotage the P-I's circulation and position the Seattle Times as Washington State's newspaper of record.
After two years of investigating, the feds "did not find sufficient basis to conclude that the Seattle Times Company engaged in improper conduct that is likely to lead to monopolization of the Seattle newspaper market." It's not clear if Villeneuve has done subsequent work to back up his claim of sabotage.

He continues:
With respect to Times journalists, including David Postman, and columnists like Danny Westneat, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer is simply a better newspaper at present. That is in part because management at the P-I cares greatly about what is best for the community and not just what's best for its ownership.
Andrew, by perpetuating a fiction that somehow journalism at The Times is compromised by our local owner while the PI's New York owners allow them do what what's best for Seattle, you insult all Times writers, this one included. And I'm sure your dismissive comments about journalism at the Times comes as a surprise to Pulitzer Prize judges who have given the paper numerous reporting awards in recent years, as well as other groups that have awarded the paper a long string of the most prestigious journalism prizes in America. Is Frank Blethen sabotaging the PI in those instances, too?
Unfortunately, I think Postman misinterpreted what I wrote. We think quite highly of the Times' news division and its journalists - including not only David Postman, but also colleagues Jonathan Martin, Ralph Thomas, Andrew Garber, Mike Lindblom, and so on.

We don't believe that journalism at the Times has been compromised by its owner - though I could see where Postman might get that idea from my writing, as he tends to be very defensive of his paper (which is understandable). But he evidently got the wrong impression from my post.

It's not journalism at the Times that we're worried about. It's primarily the editorial content and the use of company resources to further a political agenda that is at odds with what is in the region's best interest.

If Frank Blethen had his way last year, we'd be cutting taxes so he could line his pockets at the expense of Washington's children. And if Frank Blethen has his way, the P-I will be out of business soon and his paper will be metro's only daily (with no competition at all, not after the close of the King County Journal).

In my post yesterday, I made no claims of sabotage. If you reread what I wrote, you'll see that I merely said the Times' owners are and have been in an excellent position to sabotage the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's circulation. That doesn't mean that's surely what they did.

Sabotage, of course, is naturally hard to prove. If your goal is to sabotage the efforts of your opposition, you don't want them to be able to prove that you were or are trying to undermine them. We can't substantiate such an accusation, which is why I didn't make one. However, we can be suspicious. And given Frank Blethen's recent behavior, it's no surprise that we are.

Just because the Bush administration's Department of Justice concluded there wasn't enough evidence to continue an antitrust investigation in 2005 doesn't mean that nothing underhanded has happened. Justice's action does not discredit our suspicions.

In the end, what we really want is to preserve competition in the Seattle media market, because we believe that consolidation is not a good thing. We're asking our readers to consider supporting the P-I, but that does not mean we think badly of the journalists who are doing good work at the Seattle Times.

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