Why Won’t @k8riley, @fblethen, @RyanBlethen, @jmartin206, @sharonpianchan, @ErikSmithWa, @TanInSeattle, and @RobertJVickers Take Pride in Their Work?

Had the Seattle Times editorial board written something so clearly false and defamatory about a living person, they would have surely printed a retraction by now, if only out of fear of the legal and financial consequences. But since all they did was libel an issue, I guess they feel that they are under no obligation to set the record straight.

Which is disappointing.

Contrary to the editors’ claims, the McBride family most certainly did not liquidate “the last working farm in a fast-growing suburb … as a result of the estate tax.” As I have painstakingly documented, working farms are entirely exempt from Washington’s estate tax, the McBride property is not a working farm, and regardless of his property’s classification, Ralph McBride’s estate is far too small to be subject to either the state or federal estate taxes.

On Monday, I asked you to politely write editorial page editor Kate Riley. In demanding a retraction, I had counted on publisher Frank Blethen and his editors having enough pride and self-respect to retract their false claims, even at the cost of undermining their relentless advocacy against the estate tax.

I regret my error. Clearly, this breach of journalistic ethics requires stronger actions.

If you are still a Seattle Times subscriber, I urge you to call customer service at 1-800-542-0820, and cancel your subscription. Be sure to tell them why: the dishonest “death tax” editorial. This is not an action I urge lightly. I’m not a big fan of boycotts, and I’m not sure I’ve ever urged my readers to cancel their newspaper subscriptions before. But this editorial is so profoundly disrespectful of journalism in general and its readers in particular, that drastic actions are warranted.

And if Riley won’t respond to a polite request via email, perhaps you need to reach out to her more directly. Call her at 206-464-2260, and ask her to personally defend this editorial. Again, I don’t hand out people’s phone numbers lightly. I’ve been harassed enough myself over the years. But the editorial page editor of a daily newspaper that claims to be delivering a public service to the community has a special obligation to listen to the concerns of citizens.

And finally, if the personal touch doesn’t work, try a little public humiliation. The Seattle Times editorial board can be found on Twitter: @k8riley, @fblethen, @RyanBlethen, @jmartin206, @sharonpianchan, @ErikSmithWa, @TanInSeattle, @RobertJVickers, @SeaTimesOpinion. Tweet at them. Don’t make it profane or personal, just question their journalistic ethics. Ask them how we can trust anything they write if they refuse to correct such obvious factual errors. Demand that they take pride in their work.

The most charitable view of this editorial is that it was the result of zealotry and laziness. They saw what they wanted to see in the original news article on the sale of the McBride property, and then didn’t bother to check their facts. Well, I fact-checked it for them. And they got it completely wrong.

To publicly acknowledge their error now, a week after publication, might be embarrassing. But to refuse to correct their error amounts to a blatant lie.


  1. 1

    Theophrastus spews:

    While i’m sure Goldy knows the answer to his headline question, perhaps others might be edified to know that the simple answer is: they won’t out of fear for their paychecks. “This one issue isn’t worth losing a job over”. And if you think for a moment they wouldn’t lose their job just ask how many of those who walked a picket line supporting the newspaper guild still work there. “Not everyone can afford to survive on some shoestring website”, one was overheard to say. Then there’s a understandable rationalization which goes along the lines of: “if all the well-meaning people are pushed out because of the ‘perfect being the enemy of the good’ then only venal folks remain to cover the important stuff”. Of course, the really real problem is no remaining proper competition in the media locally. That is, there’s no place for these folks to go except to other markets, (are there any other markets?) …o temporas o mores.

    Perhaps Goldy could get a more direct answer from a UW journalism prof? but then maybe their job would be thereby endangered as well.

  2. 2

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @1 That’s the complicated answer. A simpler answer is they’re like a kid hoping that by keeping mum nobody will notice the broken window.

  3. 3

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    In other Seattle Times editorial board news, after deep reflection and prolonged soul searching, ST has endorsed two Democratic legislative candidates, but with reservations.

    ST says both 11th LD incumbent House members should be reelected. They are Steve Bergquist and Zack Hudgins.

    ST endorsed Bergquist, despite a “sparse record in his first two-year term” and “unrealistic view of Washington’s ability to pay” for I-1351, the class size reduction initiative, because his GOP opponent, perennial candidate Sarah Sanoy-Wright, “lacks basic comprehension of a range of issues.” Although ST doesn’t mention it, when Sanoy-Wright ran for Renton City Council in 2011, she compared that city to Iraq as a “conflict zone.”

    ST must have struggled with that one. Endorsing Hudgins was easier; he’s running unopposed in the November election, so ST endorsed him. But not without a dig at him, too: “The voters of the 11th District deserve more robust options for these legislative races.”


    I dunno if Goldy will ever get the ST editorial board’s attention for this “death tax” thing. They’re already a laughingstock. As Theo @1 points out, they have nothing to lose but their jobs.