by Kevin Taylor & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & J & lt;/span & ust when you thought it was safe to get back in the hot tub -- after six months of "Private Life/Public Figure" or "Mayor Under Fire" pounding a nightly tattoo from the TV -- comes Private Life/Panel Discussion.

The Washington News Council, a journalism watchdog group, is sponsoring a panel discussion on the Review's coverage that led to Mayor Jim West being voted out of office in December.

The panel will be held Wednesday, Feb. 8, at Whitworth College's Weyerhaeuser Hall, from 7-9 pm. The public and the news media are invited to attend. Admission is free.

West was asked to be on the panel but declined, and that's OK with Whitworth journalism professor Ginny Whitehouse, who is one of the five panelists, "because it keeps the focus on the Spokesman-Review's choices, not Jim West's choices."

Other panel members include former Spokane Mayor Jack Geraghty, who worked as a city hall, courts and cops reporter for the Spokane Chronicle before entering public life; Jane Kirtley, a professor of media ethics and law at the University of Minnesota; Ted McGregor, editor of The Inlander; and Steve Smith, editor of the Spokesman-Review.

"I have issues about the private lives of public officials," Geraghty says. "It will be interesting to sit down and discuss the timing of the stories, like why they waited until after they endorsed the guy."

John Irby, journalism professor at Washington State University, is the moderator and will be bringing at least one van full of his students to the event.

"My chief goal is to discuss the process," Irby says. "I think one of the problems with media for far too long is we do not communicate with the public about how we make decisions and why we make decisions. There is also value to us, as journalists, to learn from this."

The Spokesman's hiring of an undercover computer expert to pose as teenage Moto-Brock and "chat" with the man believed to be the mayor on a gay Web site is one of the topics to be explored, Irby and Whitehouse say.

"I have two questions," says Whitehouse. "One, what is a reasonable expectation of privacy? And two, how can we have a conversation where well-meaning people make completely different decisions about how to gather the news?"

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