*See Also: Seattle Weekly Launches Controversial Ad Campaign for Google
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Poynter called the situation "awkward." Others have used less flattering adjectives.
Whatever your take is on the Seattle Times' pro-McKenna independent-expenditure campaign, the fact the wolves wielding the paper's "Truth Needle" have dug in and found the efforts to be Romney-esque in their truthiness, only adds to the drama and ridiculousness of the situation as a whole.
In case you missed it, the Times' Truth Needle takes on the paper's two McKenna ads today and their claims about economy and state of education in Washington, finding that "two claims are true, one mostly true, one half true and two are false."
In other words, there's plenty of bullshit in the Seattle Times Co.-funded ads.
While it's fairly awesome to see the Times' reporters fact-checking the paper's own ads, the exercise seems as much about proving the independence of the Times' newsroom as it does about fleshing out the truth of the ads. The problem is, in the eyes of most, that won't be accomplished. What will be accomplished is the publication of one more reason for people to point, gawk, laugh and scoff at the Times and the unwinnable mess the paper has gotten itself into.
• "The failure rate in K-12 is 41.7 percent -- 18.3 percent of students drop out and 24.4 percent fail to graduate from high school."
This claim is way off.
First the math is wrong; the addition is off by one. But the real problem is the way the failure rate was calculated.
In reality, the failure rate -- meaning the percentage of ninth-graders who don't graduate in four years -- is about 23 percent. When you count students who finish in five years, it's 22 percent. Those are the most recent figures from the state's Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, based on a U.S. Department of Education formula that all states are required to use.
In an email, Seattle Times Co. spokeswoman Jill Mackie said the contractor who put together the ads erred by adding the state's dropout rate to the failure-to-graduate rate. That's a mistake because the failure-to-graduate rate already includes dropouts.
Due to the significant inaccuracy, we find this claim false.
The jobless ad talks about McKenna's plan to improve the economy. It starts with the claim that Washington has the seventh-highest rate of unemployment. That overstates our national ranking.
Washington ranks 16th highest in unemployment based on the most common measure: a monthly household survey by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In September, Washington's unemployment rate was 8.5 percent. The national rate was 7.8 percent for the same month.
If you look at both unemployment and underemployment -- people who have given up looking for work, and part-time employees looking for full-time work -- Washington does have the seventh-highest ranking, along with Florida and South Carolina, according to the bureau's statistics. Those statistics show that 17 percent of Washington's labor force is either unemployed or underemployed.
Mackie, the Times Co. spokeswoman, acknowledged the error. She said "the '7th in the country' reference was in an early draft that should have been fact-checked prior to finalizing the ad, but that step was very unfortunately overlooked. We are reviewing the facts and will edit the ads to change out facts determined not to be supported by reliable sources. The ad will not run again until those changes are made."
See, look at how independent the Times' editorial side is! How dare we ever doubt it!
Jokes aside, I can't help but feel terribly sorry for the Times' many fine journalists. They're pissed, and they have every right to be. While the Truth Needle crackdown probably won't do much to sway public perception, you have to admire the ink-stained wretches for staying on the attack and refusing to let the headache the corporate side created subside.
Still, what a debacle.
There's no questioning that claim.