Sunday, April 19, 2009

You be the jury - Sec. State Sam Reed vs. KIRO-7

You have the chance to hear the complaint, review the evidence, then cast your vote as a member of the jury. Washington News Council is an independent group, headed by John Hamer, that provides a forum for complaints about actions of the Washington news media - print, radio, television. WNC has no special standing; it's not a court, but a private venue for discussions. When a complaint is filed WNC works to get the parties talking to resolve it. They have a process for a formal hearing for when progress stalls, but only one case out of six gets that far. How can they judge a journalist on how he does his job? Journalism has standards, of course! The primary set WNC uses is Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics. WNC is asking for public participation in their most recent complaint. We are invited to read the evidence and judge for ourselves over eight questions and enter our votes. Go to the WNC web site to participate; it's on the home page. There are links to the complaint, Sec. State Sam Reed's defense in a letter and both video and text of the KIRO news stories of Oct. 15 and Nov. 3, 2008. The link for voting - CLICK HERE TO VOTE AND COMMENT - is about two screens down. The deadline for voting on this is April 30. Below is the wording on the WNC home page. WA News Council: We had a formal complaint from Washington's Secretary of State, Sam Reed, against KIRO7 Eyewitness News (CBS affiliate in Seattle). We invited KIRO to comment, but they did not respond to repeated letters, phone calls or emails. In his written complaint, Reed contended that the stories were "factually incorrect, incomplete, misleading, sensationalized, inflammatory and unfair." However, Reed and his office staff decided NOT to ask for a full News Council hearing on this complaint. In an email to the WNC, they stated: "After several conversations as part of the News Council negotiating period, KIRO eventually agreed to pull down their stories from the Web site if we would muzzle ourselves and not inform the News Council of the nature of this accommodation. This we cannot agree to, since this leaves KIRO offering very little and conceding nothing. "At the same time, we weary of this frustrating battle and the countless man-hours devoted to researching chapter and verse of this sorry episode, and we see little value in continuing to bang our head against the wall, knowing that KIRO will boycott the proceedings and will not acknowledge errors in fact and in tone, much less fix the problem. A News Council finding in our favor would not change the dynamic; properly, in a nation that so values the First Amendment, the council cannot order KIRO to do anything." True: We cannot order KIRO to do anything. However, we invite members of the public to view or read the stories and to read Sam Reed's complaint and letter. We also invite members of the public to vote on the Draft Questions that the News Council would have voted on IF this case had gone to a WNC hearing. In other words, we're inviting you to be members of a "Citizens Online News Council" and render a public verdict on the merits of this complaint. Call it a "virtual hearing."

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