Let Stanford live

We have enough martyrs. The five Wobblies murdered by police during the 1916 Shingleweaver strike in Everett. The four firefighters who died in the 1995 Pang warehouse fire. Who's next? Unless something called a "stem-cell transplant" works, John Stanford could be added to the list of local heroes who gave their lives for a cause. That, at least, is how the media seem to be characterizing the school superintendent's battle against leukemia. Maybe it's because our underachieving public school system desperately needs a messiah. Or maybe it's because reporters get so much mileage writing about Stanford's illness—and get to toss around schmaltzy phrases like "positive attitude" and "difficult odds."

With Stanford back in the hospital for what literally could be a do-or-die procedure, now's the time to let the guy devote all of his energies—physical, mental, and spiritual—to the most important thing in his life: staying alive. He's a tough customer, no question about it. Rooted on, however, by an ultimately cynical media establishment out for little more than a compelling story, Stanford shouldn't take the bait. Skip the rallies, John. Pass on the parades.

Listen to the words of journalist Geov Parrish, who four years ago underwent a kidney and pancreas transplant that, so far, has saved his life: "This stuff is doing no favors to 'the kids,' Seattle schools, or, most importantly, John Stanford himself," Parrish wrote in The Stranger in April. "Stanford is on call, 24/7, to a disease. Ain't no room there for running a school district, even on the good days. To pretend otherwise—as in the uncritical, irresponsible treacle of Seattle media—could well kill the poor guy."

Are you so desperate for a martyr to etch on some plaque in some courtyard somewhere downtown that you would pay for it with John Stanford's life? Think about it.

Greenwashing 101

The pollution industry couldn't have paid for better publicity. In its July 19 edition, The Seattle Times devoted an entire page to an op-ed piece called "Too Clean for the Fish?" The article suggests that "organic material" such as sewage runoff, household garbage, and even pulp-mill wastes may actually be good for fish, and that efforts to reduce such pollutants could explain why certain fish populations continue to shrink: "The correlation between clean water and declining fish implies that past pollution may have been a good thing."

The article wasn't written by the CEO of a chemical company, but one of its authors frequently works for such people. Lincoln Loehr is an "environmental analyst" with Heller Ehrman White and McAuliffe, a Seattle-based law firm that represents operators of smelters, landfills, chemical plants, crude-oil facilities, mines, pulp-and-paper mills, hazardous waste dumps, aluminum plants, and various Superfund sites throughout the country. Heller Ehrman's main clients include Trans-Alaska Pipeline operator Alyeska, which in 1990 hired the Wackenhut security company to investigate whistleblowers by setting up a phony environmental group, hiring women to pose as reporters, and spying on a member of Congress. Heller Ehrman also represents Asarco, which for decades ran an arsenic-spewing copper smelter in the Tacoma suburb of Ruston.

Naturally, Loehr and his co-authors (two former federal researchers) failed to mention that those pulp-mill wastes fish supposedly enjoy so much often include dioxin, one of the most dangerous non-radioactive substances on the planet. They also failed to mention that dioxin, like all organochlorines, is bioaccumulative, meaning that it actually grows in concentration when it passes up the food chain.

Read more about what Heller Ehrman's lawyers think is good for aquatic wildlife at www.hewm.com.

News hurts

Last December, I calculated that fully two-thirds of local news programming on KOMO 4, KING 5, and KIRO 7 is devoted to blood and guts. (See "The Mayhem Index," SW, 12/3/97.) Well, another study is out and the results aren't pretty. In a survey conducted March 11, the percentage of crime news appearing on KOMO, KING, and KIRO ranked among the top six of 102 stations sampled nationwide—polling ahead of such urban death mazes as Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC. The study was conducted by Rocky Mountain Media Watch, a Denver-based research group that opposes excessive violence on television. Check out Rocky Mountain's excellent Web site at www.imagepage.com/rmmw.

Unreliable sources

Seattle Times editor Mike Fancher is a big fan of "public journalism," a newspapering philosophy that seeks to give readers more access to editorial space. But when the paper starts quoting average citizens as expert sources in news articles, Fancher's gone too far. In a July 17 article, "Treeless in Seattle?", Times writer J. Martin McOmber reported that satellite photographs suggesting drastic deforestation in Western Washington may have overstated the problem. The photos, released by American Forests and published in the Times a day earlier, "floored a lot of readers," McOmber wrote. He then quoted one of the readers who had called to complain about the pictures—Bob Pinter, a West Seattle resident who works for a clothing company and has no forestry experience whatsoever. "I just looked at the photos like a regular guy," Pinter explained. No word yet on whether "regular guys" will start writing editorials and endorsing candidates.

 
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