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Seattle mayor gives cold shoulder to nonstriking reporters

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    NMU         WASHINGTON         Newsgathering         Dec 7, 2000    

Seattle mayor gives cold shoulder to nonstriking reporters

  • A spokesman said the mayor would answer written questions from Times and Post-Intelligencer reporters, but would only give personal interviews to the strike paper.

Seattle Mayor Paul Schell said he will not speak to reporters from The Seattle Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer as long as other reporters from the city’s two daily newspapers remain on strike.

“I’ve never crossed a picket line in my life and I don’t intend to start now,” Schell told the Associated Press.

On Nov. 21 about 1,000 members of the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild walked out over pay, retirement benefits and sick leave at the two metropolitan dailies. The mayor originally issued a statement to all city employees directing them to only cooperate with the striking workers.

According to the “Strike Policies Statement,” the mayor, department heads and public information officers were told not to give interviews to replacement workers or editors acting as reporters. The statement said the mayor and other city officials “will give interviews and answer questions from striking reporters working for the union’s strike newspaper, the Union Record.”

The following day, the mayor clarified the written statement and reiterated the city’s policies on public information.

“It was apparently not clear that all city employees should continue to grant all reporters the same unrestricted access to public information to which every citizen is entitled,” the statement read. “It should go without saying that we will at all times comply with all requirements of the law including the public disclosure act.”

Alex Macleod, managing editor of the Seattle Times, described the mayor’s policy as an “unnecessary annoyance.”

Rowland Thompson, executive director of Allied Daily Newspapers of Washington, said the mayor has overstepped his authority in refusing to grant interviews with reporters and may have violated the state’s sunshine laws in the process. The Allied Daily Newspapers is an association comprised of the state’s 25 daily newspapers.

“The only thing (that) should exist here is the mayor’s personal opinion and not the office,” Thompson said. “For him to use the power of his office to pick favorites is just plain wrong.”

Dick Lilly, a spokesperson for Schell, denied that the mayor was unfairly taking sides in the strike.

“It’s clear that the Times dislikes the mayor intensely and they did before this,” Lilly said. “I think they’re overstating.”

Lilly added that all direct questions from reporters would be answered through his office, but requests for face-to-face interviews with the mayor would be declined until the strike ends.

LR


© 2000 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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