Seattle Times

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  • New Report Undermines Right-Wing Media Claim That Higher Minimum Wages Threaten Job Creation

    Washington Led Nation In Workforce Vitality Report Despite Country's Highest Minimum Wages

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Seattle skyline

    According to a recent report by the private payroll firm Automatic Data Processing (ADP), the state of Washington received the highest score in the nation on wage and job growth in the fourth quarter of 2015. The state's outstanding performance runs counter to the doom-and-gloom scenarios pushed by right-wing media about the supposed side effects of elevated minimum wages.

    On February 15, The Seattle Times reported that Washington was "far outpacing" other states in job and wage growth for the fourth quarter of 2015, according to the most recent ADP Workforce Vitality Report. ADP gave Washington a job and wage growth score of 117.9 on its Workforce Vitality Index, besting the average national score by over 11 points. The index looks at "key labor market indicators, such as employment growth, job turnover, wage growth and hours worked." From The Seattle Times:

    "Washington is really overperforming on employment growth," said Ahu Yildirmaz, head of research for ADP, a payroll services company.

    Nationwide, employment and wages both increased by 2.1 percent year-over-year during the fourth/ quarter of 2015.

    In Washington, however, employment climbed by 3.7 percent. Much of that came from hiring in construction, information technology, professional services, and leisure and hospitality industries.


    In sectors such as in retail and hospitality, some employers in the region are raising wages for managers in response to recent minimum-wage bumps in Seattle and SeaTac, said Sage Wilson, spokesperson for Working Washington, an advocacy organization.

    Anecdotally, Wilson has heard of employers outside of those cities finding that they must match higher wages to compete for employees. The minimum-wage increases, however, are relatively new and could take years before they significantly impact statewide data.

    The state of Washington already has the highest statewide minimum wage in the country -- $9.47 per hour -- and, as The Seattle Times alluded to, the cities of Seattle and SeaTac are in the process of phasing in the highest municipal minimum wages in the country -- $15 per hour. While The Seattle Times reported that it "could take years" before municipal minimum wage increases "significantly impact statewide data" the ADP report undermines right-wing media claims that minimum wage increases are already hurting employers, workers, and local economies.

    Conservative media smears against Seattle's minimum wage increase started soon after the city approved an ordinance raising the minimum wage to $15 over the course of a three- to seven-year period. In July 2015, Fox News' Dan Springer falsely claimed that Seattle was facing "unintended consequences" from the wage increase, with some low-income workers attempting to game the system so as to remain eligible for welfare benefits. In August, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) used cherry-picked data to claim Seattle's minimum wage increase "has started having a negative effect on restaurant jobs." Fox Business host Stuart Varney echoed AEI's sentiment a month later on his show, weeks after the specific job loss claim had been debunked. Other right-wing outlets, including The Daily Caller and Investor's Business Daily, have combed through municipal jobs data in Seattle to exaggerate alleged side effects of the minimum wage.

    Right-wing media are staunchly opposed to increasing the minimum wage and dedicated to promoting the myth that wage increases result in job losses, despite a wealth of evidence showing that minimum wage increases have a negligible effect on employment.

  • Washington State's Largest Newspaper Hasn't Covered Attorney General Report Exonerating Planned Parenthood

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL LARRIS

    On November 16, Washington state's Attorney General Bob Ferguson issued a report on an investigation his office had undertaken at the request of GOP state legislators to investigate whether Planned Parenthood was illegally profiting from the sale of fetal tissue or performing illegal abortions. Although The Seattle Times reported the launch of the inquiry, it has as of yet failed to inform its readers of the investigation's report that cleared Planned Parenthood.

    The Spokane, Washington newspaper, The Spokesman-Review, covered the attorney general's report on November 16 and ran a follow-up editorial three days later, which wrote "These findings should be repeated as often as the baseless allegations that the clinics in this state and around the country were breaking the law." The editorial further noted that "the allegations themselves... have done considerable damage," citing the apparent arson fire at Planned Parenthood clinics in Pullman, Washington and Southern California.

    While the Spokane newspaper covered the report, Washington state's largest circulation newspaper, The Seattle Times, did not. The omission is notable because the publication covered the GOP lawmakers' initial calls for the state attorney general to investigate Planned Parenthood on July 27, in addition to publishing articles about other sources for donated fetal tissue in Washington state, and about Sen. Patty Murray's (D-WA) support for Planned Parenthood following a congressional vote against the organization.

    The state attorney general has now concluded that there was no evidence to support any of the allegations that Planned Parenthood violated federal law or state laws involving fetal tissue donation or abortion procedures. In a letter to state lawmakers Ferguson wrote, "We found no indication that procedures performed by Planned Parenthood are anything other than performance of a legally authorized medical procedure."

    Washington state GOP lawmakers had called for an investigation of Planned Parenthood stemming from the release of deceptively-edited videos produced by the anti-choice Center for Medical Progress.

    image via creative commons

  • Report: State Newspapers Struggled To Hold Anti-Gay Groups Accountable

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA

    The most widely circulated papers in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington struggled to hold anti-gay groups accountable while reporting on their respective marriage equality battles, according to a new report from Equality Matters.

    Though all four of the states' leading papers endorsed marriage equality in the weeks before Election Day, they all committed the same mistakes that plague mainstream media coverage of marriage equality debates.

    Failing To Identify Anti-Gay Sources

    By far, the most obvious deficiency in mainstream coverage of marriage equality battles has been the failure to accurately expose voters to the animus and hostility that motivates anti-gay groups.

    The groups fighting against marriage equality in all four states each had long, extensive histories of extreme anti-gay rhetoric long before they began their 2012 campaigns:

    • Minnesota for Marriage was tied to groups that linked homosexuality to pedophilia
    • Protect Marriage Maine Chair Bob Emrich endorsed "ex-gay" therapy and praised Uganda's "Kill the Gays Bill"
    • Preserve Marriage Washington teamed up with activists who warned homosexuality "will kill you"
    • Maryland Marriage Alliance engaged in race-baiting and allied with a pastor who said gays are "worthy of death"

    All four groups toned down their anti-gay rhetoric once they began their public campaigns against marriage equality and instead and began trying to appeal to moderate voters. One Minnesota newspaper, for example, noted the "low-key" ads being run by opponents of marriage equality.

    And in all four states, they largely got away with it.

    Though spokespersons from these groups were quoted ad nauseum by local media outlets in the weeks before Election Day, a total of just three news items mentioned the groups' extreme anti-gay rhetoric across the four most widely circulated state newspapers.

    To its credit, the Baltimore Sun also published an editorial condemning the pastor who argued that gay people are "worthy of death."

    For the most part, though, readers were left unaware of the kind of fringe bigotry that motivated the groups behind the anti-equality ads that bombarded the airwaves. 

    The failure to report on the animus driving these state anti-gay groups significantly alters the public debate on same-sex marriage. Opponents of marriage equality insisted that "supporting marriage as the union of a man and a woman does not make you anti-gay but pro-marriage." The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) even released a video explaining that opposition to same-sex marriage is driven by "biology (not bigotry)."

    These groups know that whitewashing their own anti-gay views is essential to swaying on-the-fence voters. By failing to hold these groups accountable, state media outlets deny their readers the information they need to determine which sources of information are credible and trustworthy.

    Fact Checking And "He Said-She Said" Journalism

    The second major problem with the way state newspapers covered their marriage equality battles has to do with the way that these outlets resolve (or fail to resolve) factual disputes about the consequences of legalizing same-sex marriage.

    Anti-gay groups consistently rely on misleading horror stories in their ads to convince voters that same-sex marriage will be taught in schools, threaten religious liberty, etc. Each of these horror stories can be easily debunked, and even opponents of marriage equality have admitted that their ads are not "completely accurate."

    When it comes to reporting on those ads, unfortunately, papers frequently shirk away from serious fact-checking, preferring instead to quote both sides of the argument and allow readers to decide for themselves. The Baltimore Sun's news coverage of an incident at Gallaudet University - in which the school suspended its Chief Diversity Officer after discovering she had signed a petition to put Maryland's marriage equality law up for a vote - clearly demonstrated this tendency, even as the editorial board confirmed that the incident had nothing to do marriage equality.

    This form of "he said-she said" journalism does a disservice to voters and ends up lending credibility to completely baseless anti-gay talking points. Failing to resolve factual disputes leaves readers feeling confused and unable to separate truth from fiction.

    The aversion to aggressively fact-checking anti-gay ads is understandable for print outlets that want to avoid looking like they're taking sides. But it isn't "bias" to debunk misinformation, even if that misinformation is only coming from one side of the debate. Public opinion on the issue of same-sex marriage may be evenly divided, but the truth about same-sex marriage is not.

    When it comes to important civil rights issues, "he said-she said" journalism does real damage to those who are targeted by right-wing misinformation. As Kate Riley, editor of the Seattle Times editorial page, said while discussing her paper's support for marriage equality:

    "Going back to this idea of exceptional circumstance," Riley said, "I would hope we would have supported the emancipation proclamation. Women's suffrage. These are different. These deserve muscle power."

    Pro-equality activists thankfully prevailed in all four states on Tuesday. Had they failed, they would have been justified in turning their ire towards the news outlets that allowed their opponents to get away with being depicted as credible and fair-minded. As LGBT equality continues to come before voters in more and more states, state media outlets should recognize that telling the truth about a major civil rights issue is more important than trying to seem "fair and balanced." 

    To see the full Equality Matters report, click here.

  • How The Mainstream Media Helped Romney Hide His Extreme Positions

    ››› ››› MIKE BURNS

    In the weeks leading up to Election Day, major media outlets whitewashed many of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's extreme positions, including on abortion, health care, and the situation in the Middle East. In doing so, these outlets aided Romney's efforts to remake himself as a moderate politician.

  • More 'Liberal Media Bias': Seattle Times Buys Full-Page Ad For Republican

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Washington state Democrats aren't the only ones fuming about the Seattle Times' unprecedented decision this week to run a full-page endorsement ad this week in support of Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna. More than 100 staffers at the Times' signed a letter to the publisher, denouncing the paper's news advocacy role.

    The controversy provides another example that makes a mockery out of the long-standing conservative cry that America's media suffer from a blanket liberal bias.

    Times management insists its full-page Republican support wasn't about politics, but about business. Through a new pilot program it's trying to highlight the "power of newspaper political advertising and to attract new revenue for the newspaper."

    In other words, the Times is jealous that campaigns are spending an estimated $100 million on media buys in Washington this year, and spending most of it on television. So the best way to get in on some of that campaign money is for the Times to spend nearly $80,000 of its own money promoting not the newspaper's vast reach, but promoting talking points for a Republican politician? ("An easy way to end the gridlock that threatens to cripple state government.") That seems like a strange approach.

    Also, if the Times wanted to highlight what a great media vehicle the newspaper is, shouldn't its marketing effort have taken place in August or September, not the middle of October when most of the campaigns' money has been spent or previously allocated. (The Times claims full-page ads in 2012 will spur political spending in future campaigns.)

    The Times noted that it plans to run similar ads in support of  Referendum 74, a vote to legalize same-sex marriages. However, polls indicate Referendum 74 will likely pass easily in Washington, whereas the state's race for governor remains in a dead heat. In that regard, the Times' Republican ads are worth much more politically.

    As Derek Thompson wrote at The Atlantic, from a business perspective almost nothing about the Times' Republican ad push makes sense. And that's why local Democrats don't buy the Times' explanation. They see it as a clear example of a major media player using its substantial resources to try to tilt a local campaign.

    "Not even Fox News has ever done anything like this before," wrote Joby Shimomura, campaign manager for Democrat Jay Inslee.