Missing the Point

After years of reading The Inlander, I'm tempted to refer to it as the Latte Weekly -- mostly froth, little real substance.

The Inlander has neither the staff talent nor the editorial will to engage in serious investigative journalism as we did at the Spokesman-Review with the Jim West stories. Your weekly has not served the Spokane public in the way Willamette Week served its readers when it broke the important sex and abuse-of-power scandal involving former Oregon governor Neil Goldschmidt -- scooping the state's major newspaper, The Oregonian.

Instead, you have basically sat carping on the sidelines during Spokane's most significant abuse-of-power scandal in decades.

As one of the two primary reporters who worked the Jim West investigation, it is my opinion that Frontline may have told a good yarn for a national audience, but its documentary does not come close to the real drama that played itself out so painfully in Spokane in 2005.

Frontline omitted Shannon Sullivan, the single mother of a Cub Scout who was so enraged by West's online and real-life conduct that she single-handedly launched a recall drive and battled West's lawyers all the way to the Washington Supreme Court. Her moral outrage apparently didn't fit their story line of the bullying newspaper and the beleaguered mayor.

Frontline also omitted the Washington Supreme Court's opinion, an 8-1 ruling that allowed the recall to proceed so Spokane voters would have the chance to decide whether West's behavior was an "improper exercise of an official duty."

Furthermore, Frontline failed to mention the results of the Spokane City Council's independent investigation, which concluded West had violated state law and the city's workplace policies by using city computers to download pornography and solicit sex partners on the Internet while traveling on official business -- a firing offense in most work places.

The PBS show's portrayal of West as a closeted, hypocritical politician -- a legislative history that I developed for our May 2005 stories after weeks of interviews and research in the state archives in Olympia -- was also woefully sketchy.

While the program mentioned his bill that would have banned gays from teaching in public schools and day care centers, it did not mention his sponsorship of other draconian legislation, including a bill that would have made teen sex a criminal misdemeanor, and his continuing opposition to the domestic partnership benefits ordinance the Spokane City Council passed.

Our West project was as transparent as we could make it. We posted our interviews, documents and the Internet chats we gathered in a successful effort to verify West's online conduct. We spent hours with Frontline and other journalists. That openness has also given our critics -- including you -- a chance to criticize our methods, including the ludicrous charge that we bullied a career politician during a long interview that he could have ended at any time.

Fortunately, your verdict on our journalism is outweighed by the opinions of our peers. This year, we won the University of Oregon's Payne Award for Ethics in Journalism for the West project (the other winner: Curt Eichenwald of the New York Times, who also faced difficult ethical decisions while navigating online to report on Internet child predators). And last month, we received an investigative reporting award for the West stories in the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association's C.B. Blethen Awards, where we compete against the larger newspapers in Portland and Seattle.

Bill Morlin and I have already won many other national awards in our reporting careers. Bill was a Pulitzer finalist for his reporting on white supremacists, and I am a George Polk and Gerald Loeb award winner for my investigative reporting on Hanford. More important than any journalism awards, the verdict on Jim West that matters most is that of Spokane's voters, who recalled the mayor in a landslide because of his political hypocrisy and his abuse of power. Despite The Inlander's barrage of criticism, they saw the real significance of our reporting.

Karen Dorn Steele

Staff Reporter

The Spokesman-Review

Mail-In Mandate

After recently checking the mailbox, I received a large envelope containing my election ballot. Following the extensive directions, I filled in the bubbles, folded just right, sealed one envelope, signed another, and then sealed again. After completing the process, it made me think of why it was mandatory to vote by mail. The voters of Spokane voted to have all votes be obtained thru the mail instead of going to the polls -- but why not provide a choice?

Many people I have asked say they would rather take five minutes on their way home to stop and vote for free instead of having to follow extensive instructions and then buy a stamp to mail it or go out their way to drop the envelope off.

Some people, however, did agree that the mail-in process was better because they could do it in their free time. Most admitted, however, that they voted by mail even before this process by registering for absentee ballots.

One major way the city could save money would be by cutting the amount of wasted paper used in the envelopes to mail each ballot to each voter.

In order to save money and time, voting at the polls or by mail should be an option to be decided by the voter on an individual basis. This decision should not be decided by an overall majority.

Danielle Stockton

Spokane, Wash.

Stage Right

We write to object to any implied criticism of Jim and Mary Ann McCurdy's ethics or motivations, or of their indefatigable efforts in a very difficult situation ("Stage Mismanagers?" (11/16/06).

As season ticket holders at Interplayers Theatre, and observers of downtown Spokane, our perception is that Jim and Mary Ann McCurdy have given selflessly of their own energy and resources to sustain a significant part of this community's theater scene. In spite of long hours and measurable success, Mary Ann has received no compensation since April 2005. And, as one of the last to leave the theater after a Saturday evening performance, we have seen Jim get out the vacuum and begin cleaning the floor. With little more than their energy and credibility, this couple has also held together a well-meaning but challenged board as it deals with contentious issues and personnel changes.

We encourage readers to look again at Interplayers, and to support those who work so hard to keep this part of the arts community in Spokane.

John and Dee Rodgers

Spokane, Wash.

Bum Tossing

Now that the 2006 biennial exercise in demagoguery is over, a statement entered into the U.S. Congressional Record in 1917 by Oscar Calloway is relevant. It states why J.P. Morgan interests hired 12 high-ranking news managers to determine the most influential newspapers in America. They found that they could generally control the policy of the daily press of the United States by purchasing controlling interests in 25 papers and by placing an editor at each to ensure that all published information was in keeping with the policy. Soon, that policy was defined by the Council on Foreign Relations, which Morgan and his colleagues formed.

"The two parties should be almost identical, so that the American people can 'throw the rascals out' at any election without leading to any profound or extensive shift in policy." (Carroll Quigley)

During Bill Clinton's first inaugural address, he mentioned Georgetown professor Carroll Quigley as his mentor. In the '60s, Quigley was allowed to examine secret records to write a book favorable to the objectives of the network of men who founded the CFR.

"In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way." (FDR)

Bonnie Shannon

Spokane, Wash.

Allan Hagelthorn is a retired USAF Pilot who

received the Distinguished Flying Cross for

Heroism during Operation Desert Storm.

American Inheritance: Unpacking World War II @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through May 23
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