Friday, November 21, 2008

Hearst’s Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Now On The Defensive?

Posted by Peter Quennell

Seattle tip: The newsroom seems to despise the blog “reporting” described below and to think it is hurting the paper. If incorrect, newsroom, and you really do love it, please feel free to correct it.


[click for larger images]

Above at the right is Seattle PI editor David McCumber. Seems like a nice guy, with a distinguished career.

Yesterday we received a rather tart email from a staff-member. The tone made us curious. It seemed a little defensive. So we have taken a closer look.

We’ve already posted here on the paper and the case. We noted then that the paper is part of New York’s privately-owned Hearst empire. Our header box on the post noted this:

Normally, the Hearst papers are famous for CHAMPIONING victims’ rights and memories. Not for abusing them, in a defense blog they host.

We gave the paper an F grade for that performance. And an A grade for the excellent post-Guede-trial reporting indicated here.

The Seattle PI’s circulation has taken quite a dive this year. The paper has seen a drop of 7.8 percent in papers sold, to just 117,572 in October.

Its one competitor, the Seattle Times, also privately owned, saw a similar percentage drop, to 198,741 in October.

However, the Times sells a lot more newspapers, and it seems fundamentally stronger. 

Since 1983, the P-I and The Seattle Times have been run under a “Joint Operating Agreement” (JOA) whereby advertising, production, marketing, and circulation are run for both papers by the Seattle Times Co. They maintain separate news and editorial departments. The papers publish a combined Sunday edition, although the Times handles the majority of the editorial content while the P-I only provides a small editorial/opinions section.

If only one Seattle newspaper is left standing in the long run, which one might that be?

And might the Seattle PI be vulnerable, by way of that blog? It seems possible that its own legal people now think that it might be.

The so-called “reader’s blog” to which we have recently drawn attention is actually copyrighted. It has just bred a book deal, without consultation with the Kerchers. And it runs with some very high-impact paid advertising, flashing right alongside.

The paper seems to shrug the blog off as none of their business. Lawyers in New York here seem to doubt this attempted separation would carry far.

The blog was much criticized by readers in its early days, for seemingly being unable to mention the victim’s name. It’s attempting a lot of catch-up now, which seems to be fooling no-one.

It also has a bizarre history of ridiculing the prosecutor. Not something we’d have thought helpful to the ill-served Amanda Knox, now sitting in jail, awaiting his case against her.

And the blog has seen repeated waves of purges of comments in the past. HTML captures of the blog prior to these purges (there are many such captures) suggest the point of them is to eliminate any dissenting opinion or correction of wrong facts.

And perhaps to give a wrong impression of the blog’s viewpoint to any first-time readers. Or of the increasingly convincing state of the evidence.

The Seattle Post Intelligencer seems to host THE ONE NEWSPAPER SITE IN THE WORLD to carry comments deeply hostile toward the Kerchers themselves.

Not by the blogger, true. But they were long allowed to stand, and their right to stand was defended.

In the past several days, however, they have suddenly disappeared. And the google search below now no longer produces results.

Hmmm. Is yet another of the website’s many comment purges going on here? And this time, a legally-inspired purge?

Covering your tails, finally, are you Seattle PI? Legally, it makes very good sense. But another F grade for now.

One day we might upgrade you. But it’s the reporting we want to see change. And the blog toast.




Comments

Out of interest, does anyone know what Candace won her award for? I keep seeing “award winning journo” everywhere but I fail to see any mention of what she actually won…was it a Pulitzer or was it a Grade 2 Flute recital?

Posted by DS on 11/21/08 at 06:41 PM | #

This is an interesting analysis and they look in a bind at the Seattle newspaper. Do you guys know what journalism school she graduated from? Right, above, her claims of being a journalist are everywhere, and I’ve been trying to identify that school but no luck yet. Also does she have a press pass and if so on what basis? And you have any photos so we can check her out in Perugia?

Posted by Jackson on 11/21/08 at 07:07 PM | #

From the start, the decision on the part of a journalist not affiliated with the Seattle PI to “cover” this crime using a Seattle PI reader blog devoted to food and travel was an error of judgment that should have been corrected.

The fact that it created confusion in the minds of some readers only underscores the severity of the problem.

Incidentally, the PI provides its own professional coverage of this case, and that coverage has been fair and accurate in my opinion.

The hasty addition of the words “true crime” to the reader blog description in response to complaints is not enough. And anyway, doesn’t it seem just a little strange to have a blog about “food, travel and true crime”? Food and travel as a logical combination makes perfect sense, but there is something wrong with this particular trio.

I know of readers of the Seattle PI and long-time Seattle residents who can no longer comment on PI blogs because the person who runs this particular one has banned them for saying things on her blog about the case that she disagrees with or for questioning her motives.

The fact that she has signed a book deal—a fact that was in a remote corner of the public domain and that had not been disclosed by the blogger when Fast Pete unearthed and published the news—at the very least gives the appearance that the deletion policy was somehow aimed at winning favor with sources close to the defendant, and this seems wrong as well.

I would never be in favor of depriving anyone of the right to air his or her views publicly or run a defense-oriented blog. Nor would I try and stop anyone from writing any old book they want to write.

But I think that the Seattle PI has a duty to provide coverage that is as objective as possible of this and other stories, and that the ongoing existence in its online pages of this lop-sided and much-contested blog weakens the paper’s claim that it is a neutral source of information.

Posted by Skeptical Bystander on 11/21/08 at 10:28 PM | #

A very fine city, Seattle. I’ve run some great meetings there - okay, at SeaTac! - and had some wonderful times.

Counting in the Microsoft and Boeing crowds, it must possess one of the highest average IQs in the world. Very smart people.

And this international case is IMPORTANT to Seattle. Here it is, in front of the eyes of the world (more-so soon, with the trials) and its media outlets are NOT serving it with class and honesty, or making it look good to outsiders.

The university seems to have disappeared down a rat-hole and mainly seems to be building plausible deniability.

The university newspaper has mixed views - no good reporting there, but many student comments on its website suggest that the PR job does not fool them and that they too care for Meredith Kercher.

An almost universal spittingly defensive posture rarely looks good. Maybe the Seattle mayor and the politicians should take leadership here and insist that there was a VICTIM in this crime too.

To our knowledge, there has still been zero reaching out from the Seattle institutions to the family of Meredith Kercher.

How nice, finally, if there were….

Posted by Fast Pete on 11/21/08 at 11:51 PM | #

Excellent points Skep.  Although I have not been formally “banned” from commenting on Seattle PI articles, I have been repeatedly deleted from Candace Dempsey’s blog…not for being abusive, but for being “out of line” in HER opinion. You know, thoughts about the guilt of the three suspects. In essence, questioning the innocence of Amanda Knox.  The is NOT allowed. 

I gave up as I do like to comment on other stories in the PI.  It’s a fine line commenting on her blog, and with her control issues, who knows when she might be in the mood for the almighty “permanent ban”.  I choose not to take that chance.  I think it’s fine if she wants to control her own blog but the entire newpaper comment section?  That’s ridiculous.

I have noticed that just recently the Seattle Times and the three major local TV news networks have added a comment section to their stories about this case. For a long time Dempsey’s blog and another PI Blogger, Monica Guzman’s blog were the major places for comments about this case.  (Although in my opinion, Monica Guzman mirrored Dempsey’s thoughts about the case, and finally shut her commenting section down).

The move of opening up comments on other media outlets here in Seattle is a good thing.  I’ve already seen that many, many folks here are very aware of who the REAL victim is… MEREDITH KERCHER.

My thought is with Candace Dempsey’s “marm like” attitude, her beloved blog will simply dry up and go dormant since very few are allowed to post there.

Posted by Tara on 11/22/08 at 12:40 AM | #

Jackson,

If you’d like to see those pictures, go to daylife.com, search “Meredith Kercher”, and you’ll find them dated September 15, 2008.  They are taken the night before the hearing at the hotel.  You’ll see someone like her in the background…

Posted by Tara on 11/22/08 at 12:44 AM | #

I believe your experiences are the common norm, Tara. If the newspaper’s ombudsman goes looking for comments, he will find dozens just like these.

One commenter there labeled it the most dishonest blog in America. And a case of a thin-skinned cook who can’t stand the heat.

Your point that she was trusted with the power to ban readers from all of the SeattlePI’s comments sections: wow! Is that abuse of trust generally known?

I hope good reporters are already on this story. In fact, I know they are.

Posted by Fast Pete on 11/22/08 at 12:58 AM | #

Hi Pete,

I know of two very knowledgeable posters, now posting elsewhere, who were banned by Candace Dempsey months ago from commenting ANYWHERE on the Seattle PI. I’m sure there are many more.

I think one is still able to do the daily crossword puzzle however!

Posted by Tara on 11/22/08 at 01:24 AM | #

“Do you guys know what journalism school she graduated from? Right above, her claims of being a journalist are everywhere, and I’ve been trying to identify that school but no luck yet. Jackson.”

University of Oregon graduate program in journalism, where she earned a master’s and was a teaching assistant (as many graduate students are). Apparently, she has misunderstood your question and thinks you are insinuating or stating that she did not get a degree in journalism. I’m happy to set the record straight.

Posted by Skeptical Bystander on 11/22/08 at 02:43 AM | #

I’m cool with that, a good school. I was curious and not making allegations. DS asked what was the journalism award was for.

Posted by Jackson on 11/22/08 at 02:57 AM | #

University of Oregon. Portland? Nice city.

The writing skills are clearly there, and very probably the investigative skills.

Of course they do also teach you in journalism to retain objectivity, and not to show attitude or disrespect toward those you are writing about.

I think it is obvious now that NOBODY disses the Kerchers. That is a point of no return, and no-one should ever pass it. Not even for a minute.

The trap there may have been the unsupervised blog format, non-sub-edited, and without any of the usual media checks and balances.

That is not the first time that a blog seems to have fundamentally lost its audience. It’s an exciting and promising medium, but a volatile one.

She might well admit in her quiet moments that she has made some mistakes over there.

Perhaps she should race toward the nearest good sub-editor, and not let them out of her sight from now on.

Posted by Fast Pete on 11/22/08 at 03:25 AM | #

“University of Oregon. Portland? Nice city.”

No, it’s in Eugene. Home of the ducks.

Posted by Skeptical Bystander on 11/22/08 at 03:32 AM | #

Okay. I resisted for 10 minutes. Then I had to google.

I see the team. The birds. And the cheerleaders. Hmmm.

Nice place, Eugene?

Posted by Fast Pete on 11/22/08 at 03:50 AM | #

A very nice place. Lots of rain (maybe that’s why the school mascot is a duck), but that’s the Pacific Northwest for you.

Posted by Skeptical Bystander on 11/22/08 at 04:01 AM | #

Of course when I think of the University of Oregon, I don’t think of Candace Dempsey.  Someone, who’s a pretty cool guy also hails from the home of the Ducks.  A college runner named Phil Knight…He co-founded NIKE.

Posted by Tara on 11/22/08 at 04:41 AM | #

Good solid article Pete. I think with the rise of the blog on the Internet, essentially giving ordinary people the power to report news, the mainstream media are coming under ever closer scrutiny in how they report. This case has been the cause of the Seattle-pi to come under that scrutiny. As you have highlighted, newspaper sales are on a downward slide and commercial outfits would find that they ignore the valid criticisms of the public at their peril.

Whilst we would never condone flouting the law or behaving unethically of course, this story serves as a very good example of how common people are now able to have an effect on matters they feel strongly about via this medium.

Just to correct one thing though. Candace Dempsey has no ‘ban button’. If she wants someone banned, she actually has to go to the editor. This is why she had to close her blog down the other day when Fast Pete broke the news of her book deal, so she could go to the editor and get Harry Rag banned.

Michael

Posted by Michael on 11/22/08 at 05:02 AM | #

It’s not as if the Seattle PI have just found out what is going on here.
They have known for a while what is going on but have chosen to go along with it.

I emailed Mr.McCumber back in July to voice my outrage of the abuse of the victim, posters and the Seattle PI website that Dempsey is enjoying and being allowed to get away with.

I detailed the link Dempsey has with Madison Paxton and also provided a link to her free Amanda page in which Dempsey’s blog is linked, explaining this is a clear indication of bias.
He never replied…

Posted by Deathfish2000 on 11/22/08 at 03:05 PM | #

Just had a quick look over at Paxton’s free Amanda site and it looks like the links to Dempsey’s corrupt blog have been removed.
I couldn’t see them anymore anyway.

Posted by Deathfish2000 on 11/22/08 at 03:35 PM | #

Apart from deleting the posts of people who disagree with her while allowing posts that insult Meredith’s family to stand, Candace Dempsey is not a very reliable source of information. She claimed the following on her blog:

“Much of the case against University of Washington honor student Amanda Knox, trapped inside an Italian murder mystery, has vaporized in the six months she’s been in the Big House.”

This claim is completely at odds with the comments of ALL the judges who have been involved in the case. Judge Claudia Matteini, the judges at the Italian Supreme Court, judge Massimo Riccarelli, and judge Paolo Micheli all thought there were serious indications of Amanda Knox’s and Raffaele Sollecito’s guilt and refused to grant them bail. Unlike Candace Dempsey, the judges had full access to the evidence.

Most people would trust the judgements of numerous judges who are extremely experienced, abundantly qualified and objective over the partisan and emotional comments of a reader of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer who has her own reader’s blog.

Candace Dempsey might want to consider why some of these judges made the following comments:

Judge Massimo Riccarelli stated:

Knox was “privy of any refraining inhibitions and could reoffend.”

“From the reconstruction there is the concrete possibility of reoffending and the [alleged] role of Amanda Knox was by no means secondary,”

He also described her as “crafty and cunning” with a “multi-faced personality, unattached to reality with an elevated, one would say fatal capacity” to repeat her offence.

Judge Claudia Matteini made the following comments about Amanda Knox:

“Meredith was a girl full of life and enthusiasm, who for the sole purpose of having some pleasure and sensation during a boring day spent smoking joints, was subject to acts of brutality and cruelty that are disgusting to any normal person. In such a situation the danger of repetition of the crime is certainly very high and can’t be considered to have diminished due to the mere passage of time, during which as a reminder you have never shown any sign of remorse or reconsideration of your life.”

“Even the behaviors you mention in your motion requesting release, which are presented as being in your favor, could be read differently in the opinion of this judge.”

“Your conduct after the murder is symptomatic of a personality which, considering your young age, provokes no small measure of dismay and apprehension, considering how extremely easy it was for you to control your states of mind.”

The Italian Supreme Court said the following to Raffaele Sollecito:

“You are a flight risk because of the gravity of the charges. Your danger to society matches your weak character and your personality, which we can’t define in terms of harmless juvenile stereotypes, since the context includes the habitual use of drugs.”

Posted by The Machine on 11/22/08 at 05:49 PM | #

It’s a baffling mystery why Candace Dempsey seems more inclined to believe Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito, who have given multiple alibis and lied deliberately and repeatedly, than she is to trust the carefully considered opinions of the judges who have been involved in the case.

Posted by The Machine on 11/22/08 at 06:08 PM | #

“Just had a quick look over at Paxton’s free Amanda site and it looks like the links to Dempsey’s corrupt blog have been removed.
I couldn’t see them anymore anyway.”

DF2K,

The links at Paxton’s facebook site to IW reader blog in the PI haven’t been removed they are still there in the
“Free Amanda Knox and Rafael Solicito”

One would think that Paxton by now after a year should know how to spell her best friend AK boyfriend’s Raffaele Sollecito. How ridiculous is to be defending/supporting a person and you don’t even bother to spell the name correctly?

Posted by Jools on 11/22/08 at 06:35 PM | #

Candace Dempsey’s relationship with Madison Paxton tells you everything you need to know about Candace’s “objectivity”.

Posted by The Machine on 11/22/08 at 06:52 PM | #

Hi Jools,
Thanks for that, I stand corrected.
So evidence still stands of Candace “This is not a pro Amanda blog” Dempsey!
Had to laugh at that one Dempsey, blatantly insult peoples intelligence why don’t you?

Posted by Deathfish2000 on 11/22/08 at 08:10 PM | #


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