UPDATE: Seattle Editor Declares, Keep Political Views to Yourself -- Then Responds to Reaction

By: E&P Staff No matter what you think of Karl Rove -- or anyone else in politics -- please keep it to yourself, or at least falrly quiet. That was the message in a note sent to staffers at the Seattle Times by Executive Editor Dave Boardman after what he called "an awkward moment at yesterday's news meeting."

What happened? According to Boardman in the latest email installment of what he calls "Dave's Raves" it was this: "When word came in of Karl Rove's resignation, several people in the meeting started cheering. That sort of expression is simply not appropriate for a newsroom....As we head into a major political year, now's a good time to remember: Please keep your personal politics to yourself."

The incident was described in a blog by chief political reporter David Postman. He comments: "I wasn't there, but I've talked to several people who were. It was only a couple of people who cheered and they, thankfully, are not among the people who get a say in news play. But obviously news staff shouldn't be cheering or jeering the day's news, particularly as Boardman points out, 'when we have an outside guest in the room.'

"Jokes get made in newsrooms, of course ? even what you would call gallows humor. And Boardman wrote that he was 'all for equal-opportunity joking at both parties' expense.' But he was clearly ticked off by yesterday's display."

After the episode gained a lot of Web play, Boardman sent the following in another "Dave's Raves" today.

My Raves admonition on politically based cheering in the newsroom has ignited the predictable flame-throwing in the blogosphere, particularly from the portside. Allow me to riff a bit further on that, and on my reasoning....

The postings nearly everywhere speak not to the fundamental issues around newsroom decorum, but instead spring from one's place on the spectrum of Bush/Rove "Bad" or Bush/Rove "Good."

I ask you all to leave your personal politics at the front door for one simple reason: A good newsroom is a sacred and magical place in which we can and should test every assumption, challenge each other's thinking, ask the fundamental questions those in power hope we will overlook.

If we wore our politics on our sleeves in here, I have no doubt that in this and in most other mainstream newsrooms in America, the majority of those sleeves would be of the same color: blue. Survey after survey over the years have demonstrated that most of the people who go into this business tend to vote Democratic, at least in national elections. That is not particularly surprising, given how people make career decisions and that social service and activism is a primary driver for many journalists.

But if we allowed our news meetings to evolve into a liberal latte klatch, I have no doubt that a pathological case of group-think would soon set in. One of the advances of which I?m most proud over the years is our willingness to question and challenge each other as we work to give our readers the most valuable, meaningful journalism we can.

The result: A newspaper that is known nationally for aggressive watchdog and investigative reporting, without fear or favor. From a Democratic United States senator (Brock Adams) to our region's biggest employer (Boeing) to a large advertiser (Nordstrom) to our school districts and courts and police, we have confronted them all with tough questions to which they had no good answers. The result has been a better community, laws changed, lives saved.

It?s not about "balance," which is a false construct. It isn't even about "objectivity," which is a laudable but probably unattainable goal. It is about independent thinking and sound, facts-based journalism -- the difference between what we do and the myopic screed that is passed off as "advocacy" journalism these days.

Readers notice. In contrast to much of our industry, we are achieving great readership results both in print and online. Our page views to Seattletimes.com are up almost 40 percent year over year, and at this point we are actually selling more newspapers on a typical day than we did last year.

Thanks for listening, and for all of your amazing effort that keeps this the magical place it is.


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