Mike McGinn Peddles New Rules for Reporters, Weaves Around New Hire Amid Budget Crunch

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With one exception, KOMO-TV, the Seattle news media didn't seem too upset last week when the mayor's office lectured TV crews on the proper ways to cover Mayor Mike, although the public, at least, saw it as another good reason to throw hizzoner out of office in midterm. That was after mayoral spokesperson Aaron Pickus sent an e-mail to TV stations telling them their news crews were standing too close to the mayor when they asked questions. He also griped about a crew showing up much too late in the day at the McGinn family home in Greenwood to ask why, in the midst of a budget crisis, Mike McBike hired a controversial $95,000-a-year bicycle expert to help manage Seattle's crowded roadways.

The appearance of a KOMO-TV crew at McGinn's house at 9 p.m. Thursday--da mare wasn't there--prompted Pickus to warn stations that "10 p.m." was too late, and, while he was at it, reminded reporters not to scrum with the mayor.

Sending a camera and reporter to knock on the door of the mayor's home at 10 p.m. to talk about a personnel decision that is filling a vacant position within our existing budget is not necessary. Nor is crowding around him at an event as he arrives. We want to talk to you, that's part of the job. That's why I'm available at all hours (excluding when I'm going on a jog).

Pickus tells SW that only one station complained about his directive, which included some stock how-to photos for reporters that he downloaded off the Internet. In one, reporters are crowding around ("We don't need to do this," he captioned it). In another, the reporter appears to be alone on the moon with her videographer ("When we could do this," he captained). See pics below."There's no need to bump against the mayor as he's arriving," Pickus tell us. "We can take our time with each outlet so that everyone's questions get answered."

Like Q-13, KIRO-TV reported straight away on the hiring of former Cascade Bicycle club leader David Hiller, with the mayor claiming Hiller's pay didn't affect the budget because he's filling an open position (with a different job title). But the question was about timing and appearances, the hiring coming after the city closed a $67 million shortfall in this year's budget and must now chop off $17 million more. For next year, the mayor said two weeks ago, City Hall will have to cut department costs by yet another four percent.

KING-TV touched on the media dispute in its report on Hiller's hiring while KOMO did two media stories, one on the visit to his home and one on the mayor's stay-off-my-lawn edict; KOMO asked if maybe he was backing off on his open-government pledge. In the latter story, the mayor at first didn't speak to KOMO, then relented, the station says, "but only if we first spoke to kids that he was meeting with." McGinn said that while he didn't necessarily approve the e-mail to reporters, it was supposed to be written with humor.

The Times had a little fun with the dust-up, but Publicola felt "nothing but sympathy for McGinn," calling the TV drop-in an "ambush," while the P-I went that one better, terming KOMO's story a "silly, manufactured controversy." The media needs to get over itself, the P-I said: "The mayor has had more open press events in 17 months than any other major political figure in Washington state."

As one P-I web commentor put it, "He may be accessible, but the timing of the e-mail right after he's been questioned about hiring 'his buddy' for close to a hundred grand a year smacks of something other than integrity." And over at KOMO, readers/viewers left almost 300 comments to the two stories--overwhelmingly in opposition to the often-rumpled McGinn. They ranged from "impeach him" to complaints about bikes taking over city streets, and several questions about whether he owns "at least one iron?" Well, as you may have heard, he bikes to work.

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