Nobody—at least nobody outside the paper—knows for sure how editors and reporters at The Seattle Times decide what stories to publish.

Nobody knows, for instance,

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News, Inc.

Nobody—at least nobody outside the paper—knows for sure how editors and reporters at The Seattle Times decide what stories to publish.

Nobody knows, for instance, why the Times didn't publish a single word about the 5,800 General Motors workers who went on strike June 11 to protest GM's plans to export jobs to Mexico—a story making the cover of the Post-Intelligencer's business section and topping some television news broadcasts. And nobody knows why the Times didn't write about the May 27 state Supreme Court hearing where attorneys argued last year's Seahawks stadium referendum was illegal because Paul Allen paid for it—a story covered by top reporters of TheOlympian and Tacoma's News Tribune.

Even more puzzling is why the Times consistently downplays stories about Boeing's environmental problems—including this month's $150,000 fine for 21 hazardous-waste spills at its Auburn plant—while the paper aggressively pursues Boeing's air-safety problems (a pursuit that landed Byron Acohido a Pulitzer Prize). And who can explain why the paper published Eric Nalder's expos頡bout unsafe oil tankers, Duff Wilson's outstanding series about toxic fertilizers, and Deb Nelson's and Barbara Serrano's probing articles about the Pacific Place parking garage scandal, while the paper—on a day-to-day basis—ignores or buries lesser stories that could reflect poorly on corporations?

Clues to the Times' editorial decisions may lie in the composition of its board of directors—names closely guarded by its corporate office. "We just don't voluntarily give that information out," spokesperson Shirley Stone said when asked for a list. The Times does, however, have to provide that list to the secretary of state's office.

Four Times directors are members of its founding Blethen family: John, (publisher) Frank, (marketing director) Robert, and (treasurer) Will. Four others are high-ranking executives with the corporation that owns 49.5 percent of the Times—Miami-based Knight-Ridder, the country's second-largest newspaper chain with $2.9 billion in annual sales. No surprises there, really. What's interesting, though, are the names and backgrounds of the four remaining board members:

Charles Pigott, recently retired chair/CEO of Bellevue-based PACCAR, the world's second-largest heavy-truck manufacturer with $4.5 billion in annual sales. A strong backer of NAFTA and other free-trade agreements, PACCAR has opened plants in China, Mexico, and former Soviet Union republics while laying off hundreds of workers in Renton and Tukwila—stories the Times has downplayed or ignored. During the 1995 state legislative session, Pigott gave $5,000 (the largest single contribution) to Senate Republicans, despite Attorney General Christine Gregoire's ruling that in-session donations were illegal. Pigott, who also serves on Boeing's and Chevron's boards, earned $1.83 million in salary and bonuses last year.

Tod Hamachek, president/CEO of Bellevue drug manufacturer Penwest Pharmaceuticals. Hamachek also sits on the board of DeKalb Genetics, an Illinois-based multinational that has close ties with DuPont and Monsanto, and has operations in Mexico, South America, Asia, Africa, and Europe. The Times invited Hamachek to join its board in January 1995, shortly after it published his harsh critique of the Endangered Species Act—written on behalf of the Washington Roundtable, a collection of 35 CEOs from major corporations including Boeing and Weyerhaeuser. A graduate of Williams College, a $30,000-a-year school in the Berkshires, Hamachek earned $3.31 million last year in salary, bonuses, and stock options.

William "Gary" Reed, recently retired chair of Simpson Investment Co., a $1.5 billion-a-year forest-products holding company that owns pulp-and-paper mills and vast forestlands throughout the Northwest. Reed, a familiar face in corporate circles, also serves on the boards of Microsoft, PACCAR, Safeco, and Washington Mutual. Top executives of Simpson, which Forbes magazine recently called "fanatical" about its privacy, are members of the Public Affairs Council (a corporate-dominated propaganda organization) and the Washington Institute Foundation (a right-wing think-tank co-founded by conservative guru John Carlson).

C. Carey Donworth, union-busting labor consultant, former Metro chair, and former Medina City Council member. Donworth is a descendant of federal Judge George Donworth, whose law firm of Donworth & Todd evolved into Perkins Coie—today Washington's largest and among its most politically connected firms. (George Donworth's partner, Elmer Todd, served as the Times' publisher from 1941 to 1949). Donworth recently teamed with Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce chair Bob Wallace and a group of developers in a failed effort to expand the SR 520 floating bridge.

Editors and reporters aren't directly accountable to these folks, but their boss is. Executive editor Mike Fancher was recently promoted to senior vice president, a move that may expose the Times' editorial decisions to even more corporate influence.

Finke flips

Months of scrutiny may be testing the nerves of John Finke, one of the much-investigated masterminds of the NordstromPine Street retail development. Finke verbally accosted Pike Place Market "Mayor" Mike Yaeger over a June 1 Seattle Times op-ed Yaeger wrote. It said that Finke, who chairs the Market's governing board, is planning yet another parking garage—this one next to Steinbrueck Park. Finke went to Yaeger's Market shop, Studio Solstone, and gave him a 10-minute tongue-lashing witnessed by dozens of shoppers and merchants. "It was a terrible run-in. He went crazy," said Yaeger, who once served with Finke on the Market's governing board. "I was shocked, stunned. I thought I knew him."

 
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