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Reporter defends his Dow Constantine storyMay 15, 2012 @ 5:12 pm (Updated: 5:18 pm - 5/15/12 )
Don't look for the full email that exposes King County Executive Dow Constantine's romantic involvement with communications consultant. The reporter who broke the story won't publish it, but he will defend his decision to write about the relationship.
"I don't plan to reveal more of the email. It was very emotional, heart-wrenching writing from a woman who was clearly a lover in distress about the relationship and the way it was ending," Josh Feit tells me. "There's no need to literally put the email in front of the whole world."
Some are questioning whether a romantic relationship between the unmarried county executive and a woman who is separated from her husband is newsworthy.
In 2009 Feit started the local political news site Publicola. Although the website had readers, it lacked a business model to support it. Feit is now writing for another Seattle online news site, Crosscut. That's where his scoop about Constantine appeared Monday, after local communication consultant Kim Fuqua mistakenly sent an email meant for the county executive to a larger group of her email contacts.
Constantine is not married but has been in a long-term relationship with Shirley Carlson. Fuqua is separated from her husband, Alex Alben, and is getting a divorce.
The county executive's response to Feit was, "I had a brief relationship with the sender, but decided not to continue it. I am sorry that this has caused pain and embarrassment to people I care about. But this is an entirely private matter, and should remain so."
Feit, and local news agencies, have filed public records requests to determine if any taxpayer money was spent on the relationship. A spokesman for Constantine says he believes the relationship did not involve official misconduct.
Is a relationship between the unmarried executive of the state's most populous county and a woman who was separated from her husband newsworthy?
"I felt like it's a story that is worth reporting on," says Feit. "A popular King County democrat involved in a questionable relationship, or romantic liaison, or affair is something people should know about. They can make up their own decisions on whether it's important."
Was the decision to post the story - Feit points out it was only 400 words and not intended to be a big investigative piece - politically motivated?
He says it wasn't, although the Democratic party is "benefiting right now from Republican missteps and a perceived war on women." He says the media wouldn't hesitate to discuss a transgression of a Republican, so they should also point out when "there are questions about a Democrat in a position of power."
Was the article a personal attack?
"Not at all," Feit says. "I have no ax to grind with Dow. He's a rising star and has been, from all analysis so far, a dynamite success as King County Executive."
Many Crosscut readers were critical of the report. A few applauded it. Here is a sample of the comments:
"PLEASE - have some respect. Take this down. It's not relevant - there is no impropriety having to do with public policy or his position. Posting this kind of stuff - what are you thinking? I'm embarrassed for you."
"I do agree with Constantine that this is a private affair. Unfortunately, when we hear the privacy word, it too often becomes a weak shield for actual corruption, i.e., Spitzer, John Edwards, Reece Lindquist, on and on ad nauseum. Of course the aristocracy doesn't want this kind of story released to the general public. It can reduce their ability to control the organized passing of the baton from one useless stooge to the next."
"Great way to start your time on Crosscut - by dragging a painful personal issue into the public realm. Super classy! What we know now is that two adults had an affair and it ended. It is very unfortunate, but there does not seem to be anything illegal happening."
The reaction doesn't change Feit's instinct to "run with" the story.
"It's a legitimate story when the King County Executive is having an affair when he has a long-time partner," he says. "I stand by the story."
By LINDA THOMAS
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