Seattle Times Executive Editor David Boardman vows to readers in a Sunday column that the newsroom remains impartial, despite business-side ads supporting a Republican candidate and a gay marriage referendum:
Dr. Hanna Egstrom’s email was reflective of dozens we’ve received: “As a longtime Seattle Times reader, I find myself sadly dismayed … This is not an issue of whom is being supported, it is that they are being supported. I would be equally upset if you were running ads for the opposing candidate. As a citizen, I rely on newspapers for information regarding the world we live in. How am I supposed to believe that the Times is unbiased… ?” …
Balance is not a value we stress, as it is a largely artificial construct that can amplify foolishness. But impartiality is a fundamental goal, and we make every effort to check and challenge our own beliefs and biases as we seek out facts and truth.
I’m confident we do a pretty darn good job of achieving that impartiality, though certainly not a perfect one. My best measure of success is the uncannily even breakdown in the complaints I receive about our reporting being politically biased.
For every caller labeling us “a liberal rag,” there is one for whom we are “right-wing fascists.”
The concerns expressed by some of you over the past few days are of a far different character, and I take them far more seriously. Consider this note from Craig Mayhle, another longtime subscriber: “I have nothing against either the candidate or cause the Times has decided to commercially promote. It is the act of the commercial promotion itself, by one of my primary local news sources, that I take issue with. It undermines my ability to fully trust the paper as an objective and evenhanded dispenser of the broader news.”
To Mr. Mayhle, Dr. Egstrom and others with similar concerns, I offer this solemn promise: In these two races, as in everything else we do, we will strive to be fair, accurate and thorough. We will continue to ask probing questions of both sides. We will continue to fulfill our mission to serve this community through strong, independent journalism that makes a difference.
Disclosure: Boardman is a member of Poynter’s National Advisory Board.