KTTH OPINION

Rantz: Seattle Times staff concerned over political bias, low pay

Jul 12, 2023, 5:55 PM | Updated: 6:15 pm

Seattle Times bias...

(MyNorthwest File Photo)

(MyNorthwest File Photo)

The Seattle Times is facing internal criticism from two factions of employees alleging bias and low pay.

Some staff are concerned with the paper’s overtly political partisanship. Not only does the paper print transparently one-sided stories that make it near impossible for editors to claim they cover issues objectively, but it encouraged staff to march in a politically-driven LGBT parade. Others don’t think the newspaper pays the way a progressive company should. Journalists deserve a living wage, they argue, but claim they’re not getting it.

How the newspaper responds to the internal conflicts as they become more public comes with significant implications for the newspaper’s future.

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Marching against ‘anti-trans’ legislation

The Times made a controversial decision to allow staff to march in the LGBT Pride Parade in Seattle, despite the clear political nature of these events. Previously, staff were discouraged from attending Black Lives Matter and anti-Donald Trump women’s marches, street protests, and rallies. But for LGBT Pride, staff were encouraged to participate.

The paper’s executive editor Michele Flores defended its participation in the parade via a memo obtained by the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. It was sent before the parade. Flores said she “believe[s] strongly that news employees should refrain from public political activities, campaigns, and contributions.” But the political nature of the event appears to be precisely why the decision was made to participate.

“I do recognize this weekend’s parade could grow more political than parades in recent years, especially given the wave of anti-transgender legislation sweeping parts of the country. If it ends up feeling uncomfortable for that reason this year, I will urge our company to take that into account in 2024,” Flores wrote.

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Taking a political stance shows Seattle Times’ bias

Flores labeling legislation as “anti-transgender” is an example of her bias.

She could have just as easily labeled legislation banning minors from surgical intervention to conform to one’s gender identity as pro-children. Legislation prohibiting biological boys from competing against biological women could be labeled as pro-women. But Flores, and the paper institutionally, takes a specific side on the political issues around transgender legislation. And she acknowledges in her memo that the parade could be “more political” this year because of the legislation she disagrees with.

Internally, some staff are concerned, including those who would consider themselves more liberal. Can the paper legitimately cover stories around LGBT political issues when staff members were so publicly declaring where they stand on legislation?

Flores said she would proudly participate in the parade. Many of her colleagues seemed to agree.

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Times runs a press release for Pramila Jayapal

Democrats are helping to bolster the Biden administration’s new political strategy of highlighting what they’re labeling “Bidenomics.” It’s meant to help the president’s re-election campaign as the country struggles to deal with high gas prices and inflation.

The Times ran a transparent Bidenomics press release by Seattle Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal where they bragged disingenuously about Bidenomics. There was nothing newsworthy about the piece and the congresswoman offered no news or meaningful analysis. It was just a laundry list of partisan analysis of policies she supported.

“We’ve created a record 12 million new jobs in two years. That’s more job creation in two years than any other president has ever overseen in four years,” Jayapal claimed in a thoroughly debunked talking point. Even left-wing CNN and Politifact called out the dubious claim.

The Times’ editorial section is already dominated by left-wing voices. Conservative thought gets very little ink. But the Jayapal press release was pure politics and should be seen as a campaign donation to the Biden reelection campaign. That the news side is so petty and biased that it won’t name or link to local conservative news content it lifts for its own coverage, this editorial should come as no surprise.

Progressive company doesn’t pay like one

Flyers were posted in South Lake Union imploring passers-by to sign a digital petition in support of the Seattle Times Union and Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild. The site hosting the petition is the Action Network, which specifically offers groups space to “organize for progressive causes.”

The union is in contract negotiations with the Times. They say the staff “for far too long” has been “neglected,” and that they are being driven out by the “low pay and poor benefits.” The petition claims, “At least half of the 170 members of the Seattle Times Union are rent burdened, meaning they spend more than 30% of their income on housing expenses.” They complain of the “minimal parental benefits” they’re afforded. And they say current contract language makes it more difficult to afford new reporters full union rights.

The union also makes an equity argument, hoping to appeal to Seattle’s left-wing population. They say the pay and conditions “leave us with a less diverse workforce.” It does not include any specific details on the demographic data that back up the claim.

As of Wednesday morning, the petition received 1,398 of the 1,600 requested signatures.

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Bias has consequences

While the petition complains that pay is an issue, the Times could lose serious journalists who care about the left-wing perception of the paper.

There’s little doubt that the staff at the Times is overwhelmingly liberal. A quick perusal of staff writers’ social media accounts makes that clear and reporters don’t always hide their bias in actual reporting.

Decisions on what to cover also expose bias. For example, according to a search of the website, the Times nearly ignored the controversial Senate Bill 5599, which allows minors to run away from home to receive “gender-affirming care” (including surgeries) or abortions without parental consent. The law forces shelters to keep the child’s whereabouts from the parents.

The bill only received one news report after the vote and was framed as pro-transgender rights, rather than presented objectively. It included comments from five proponents of the bill, and only two opponents. Before the vote, the Times published a misleading editorial by the bill’s sponsors, which later had to be corrected.

Implications

For journalists and other staff who take objectivity seriously, the overt partisanship of the paper may push them out. It doesn’t, however, look like the paper’s leadership cares. Their left-wing partisanship seems intentional and Flores’ email acknowledges at least a small part of that.

The pressures coming from the left-wing customers may actually lead to more partisanship.

If readers who want the paper to be progressive see the company as not living its values with a union-backed contract, it could lead to potential boycotts. The union is clearly asking for the public to help put pressure on the paper for a better contract. But the union may not get what they’re after.

The financials, of course, still matter and it would be self-defeating for the paper to pretend the economics of the paper are still strong. They won’t be able to offer huge increases in salaries as costs rise and readership dwindles nationwide as consumers turn to digital products. Instead, the paper’s news coverage could get more left-wing to help placate or even trick readers into thinking the company is more progressive than the contract suggests.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show on weekday afternoons from 3:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). He is the author of the book What’s Killing America: Inside the Radical Left’s Tragic Destruction of Our CitiesSubscribe to the podcast. Follow @JasonRantz on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook. Check back frequently for more news and analysis.

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