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Monday, July 7, 2008

Local conservative think tank spokesman using "Seattle Politics Examiner" to promote the Washington Policy Center

While doing a Google search earlier tonight, I ran across the recently created Seattle extension of The Examiner, a network of newspapers and websites owned by Clarity Media Group, which is itself owned by conservative billionaire Philip Frederick Anschutz, the thirty first most wealthy American (according to Forbes) and a George W. Bush donor.

Anschutz' "Examiner" network of newspapers includes three papers which are published in San Fransisco, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. The web "Examiner" network now includes five dozen major cities across the country - including Seattle.

The Seattle version, like those in other cities, includes specific "Examiners" by section, like music, sports, food, or...politics. The political section, or, "Seattle Politics Examiner", as it is called, is edited by one John Barnes, who works at the conservative Washington Policy Center.

In his page bio, Barnes fails to mention who his employer actually is:
Born and raised in the Seattle area, John is the Communications Director for a non-profit public policy think tank in Seattle. He is a published historian and holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in history. In his spare time you can find John traipsing Washington’s rivers with a fly rod in hand or just exploring the countryside.
But he doesn't have a problem promoting his employer's work on "Seattle Politics Examiner" without clearly disclosing that he works there. His most recent post on the Examiner website is actually a duplicate of a short entry at the Washington Policy Center blog hyping a report by the group that attacks Sound Transit for being engaged with local activists and stakeholders.

Now, anyone who goes to the WPC website, which Barnes linked to, can see Barnes' name on the original entry, so it's not a secret, but it's also not clearly explained at the Examiner, which apparently pays Barnes:
Excited to be an Examiner? You'll join hundreds — and soon, thousands — of others who have accepted our call for local knowledge. And it's really pretty simple, too.

If you can write three concise, timely and relevant posts each week in your topic of choice, then we want to hear from you. Just picture it now: your name in lights all over your city. Your mom will be so proud.

Oh, and we'll pay you for it. A little at first, but as your page views grow over time, so will your ability to make more.
If Barnes is in fact paid by Anschutz' company, then he is making money recycling content he wrote for his other employer without openly admitting that to readers of the "Seattle Politics Examiner".

Considering that conservatives have accused progressive bloggers of not providing adequate disclosure, Barnes' lack of transparency sounds like fair game to us.

It's not just Barnes, though. The Examiner network generally seems to have a conservative slant, which could explain how Barnes got his job as the editor of "Seattle Politics Examiner" ...and why unSoundPolitics' Eric Earling is also an "Examiner". He runs the "Seattle Right Side Politics Examiner", which contains multiple crossposted entries from unSoundPolitics. (Earling, however, notes that he writes for unSoundPolitics - it's in his bio).

You won't be surprised to learn there is no "Left Side Politics Examiner" for Seattle. (There is a national "Progressive Politics Examiner", however).

Anschutz' Examiner network doesn't explicitly claim to be objective, but appears engineered to imply that it is. I looked, but couldn't find any page openly acknowledging a conservative bias.

On the About page ("What is an Examiner"?) the site is presented as being fair and balanced, a la Fox Noise, although those words are never used.
An Examiner is someone in a local market who enjoys informing others about subjects they love. They are the backbone of, they are magazine writers, bloggers, housewives, Ph.Ds, college students and others. The common link between them is that they talk about their knowledge in useful ways. You know these kind of people: they get others excited about their topics and share their knowledge in a fun, useful non-pompous way.
Fun, useful, non-pompous...and opinionated.
They are not bloggers, but Examiners, which means they look closely at topics and examine every aspect of them. Together they form a pool of credible knowledge that has become a local guide to a city through their expertise. In essence, our Examiners create the local knowledge, because by living and doing their thing in their city, they can offer the best insider information.
Credible, expertise, examine, every aspect, local guide, knowledge, insider information....these words, in the complete absence of any language admitting a partisan or ideological leaning, basically invoke the idea of objectivity, inviting the reader to interpret commentary as impartially crafted wisdom. Why not just call it what it is - a site hosting opinionated blogs? Like the "Global Warming Examiner" - check this out for a good laugh.

One of the entries claims that not drilling in the Arctic Refuge will make the climate crisis worse. (Yes, you read that correctly).

Most of Barnes' entries on "Seattle Politics Examiner" so far have been critical of Democrats and progressives, including the state Democratic Party, Mayor Greg Nickels, unions like the Washington Education Association (which conservatives despise) and Representative Norm Dicks.

And the "Seattle Politics Examiner" blogroll?

It only links to traditional media or conservative sites. Listed at the top of the "News" list is local Drudge clone Orbusmax. The Washington Policy Center gets a link, as does the Drudge Report itself, and "Climate Debate Daily", which claims to be neutral but equates skeptics of the scientific consensus on global warming with scientists and thinkers that agree with the consensus.

There are no progressive blogs or websites on the blogroll.

If Barnes edited a page that was appropriately named, as Eric Earling's is, that would be fine, but that is not the case.

The "Seattle Politics Examiner" is conservative opinion branded with an innocent, neutral name and its author is using the gig to promote his work for his other employer without providing a clear disclaimer to readers.

In its current form, the page is really just a second "Seattle Right Side of Politics Examiner" because it has no progressive perspective. Either it needs such a voice for balance, or it should have an actual journalist for an editor.


Blogger Laura Vecsey said...


My name is Laura Vecsey, content director for We just launched in Seattle April 14. My job has been to recruit local experts to contribute to the site. Oddly, not one of the dozen or more left-leaning or progressive bloggers in Seattle and the Pacific NW has wanted to join us -- yet. Thankfully, Chad Shue will be on the site ASAP as the Seattle Progressive Politics Examiner. It has been oddly slow trying to enlist experts on progressive politics in Seattle to come on board.
I would love to talk to you about this. In fact, I would love for you to serve as the Seattle NW Progressive Politics Examiner!
Laura Vecsey

July 8, 2008 8:51 AM  
Blogger Laura Vecsey said...


You can reach me at:

We are exceedingly eager to have the site reflect everything important and interesting about Seattle. There is no agenda! Really.


July 8, 2008 8:54 AM  
Blogger Daniel Kirkdorffer said...

Laura Vecsey - You're going to have to better than post a comment at the NPI blog asking for bloggers to come your way. Until this week most progressive bloggers had never heard of you. We're not that hard to find.

July 15, 2008 8:20 PM  

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