Shirking their civic duty

The Sammamish Review and Issaquah/Sammamish Reporter shirk their civic and Fourth Estate duties.

Neither makes endorsements in elections.

The Review used to, but stopped last year in advance of the Sammamish City Council races. The Reporter never has.

There was no explanation from The Review for its reversal. The Reporter said people can make their own decisions.

Voters need assistance

The latter ignores the reality that more often than not, there are too many races on the ballot for busy voters to follow. Initiatives are often complex and voters may not understand the minute detail or, again, simply don’t have the time to dig into them.

It’s the civic and Fourth Estate duties of newspapers to serve their readers.

All too often, local papers–which often skirt on the edge of survival–back off because they don’t want to alienate readers. Look at the Arizona Republic, San Diego Union-Tribune and other papers that broke a 100 years of tradition to endorse Hillary Clinton for president because Donald Trump is unfit, unqualified and downright goofy to be president.

These papers faced serious backlash, subscription cancellations and in the case of The Republic, death threats.

Nevertheless, it’s the duty of local papers to weigh in on local elections.

Sammamish is covered by three legislative districts, Issaquah by two. Sound Transit 3 is on the ballot in both cities. There are state Initiatives on the ballot that local voters will be asked to approve or disapprove.

The Review and Reporter should help out citizens on these issues.

Sammamish Comment endorses in City Council elections. This year, endorsements in the Legislative races will be offered, as will one in the presidential election.

Other issues

The local papers also generally are derelict in their duties to dig deeply into local issues.

Neither has looked into the abuse, except superficially, by King County of property owners in the development of the East Lake Sammamish Trail, and of Sammamish’s benign neglect for years in overseeing the process.

Sammamish Comment revealed the City’s neglect in a special investigative report in January 2015. Neither local paper followed up with its own investigation.

Make no mistake: ELST is a fabulous amenity and should be completed. But King County’s abuse was a major story that had to be revealed. The Comment’s revelations started the City down the path to take control over final development of the trail.

Nor did the local papers investigate the shenanigans of the City when it came to trying to kill the Citizens for Sammamish campaign for the right to Initiative and Referendum. Once again, it was left to The Comment to probe these goings on.

It was also left to The Comment to reveal last year the scandal of Sammamish’s total neglect of emergency preparedness. Neither local paper tumbled to this story, nor did they follow up The Comment’s reporting.

To its credit, The Issaquah Press aggressively pursued Issaquah’s cover up of bad water coming from two wells. The Press also aggressively covered the controversies surrounding the senior center. But The Press doesn’t make endorsements and its sister paper, The Review, hasn’t shown similar aggressive reporting for Sammamish issues.

Looking ahead to 2017

There are serious issues facing Sammamish next year. The Comment will detail these in December in a Looking ahead to 2017 post. What will the local papers do?

The Comment announced in August that 2017 will be the final year of publicizing and commenting on issues in Sammamish.

After that, will The Review and The Reporter step up and fulfill their duties?

If past is prologue, the answer is no.

5 thoughts on “Shirking their civic duty

  1. I find your posts far more informative than our local papers. I read the papers for the Police Blotter. If I want to be informed about the city, I go to social media or to city hall.

    Another rant of mine is the lack of sports coverage for sports that are not the mainstream. Our local hockey association, the Sno-King Jr Thunderbirds, took the NATIONAL championship this past spring. Several of the local high schools had players on that national championship winning team. Yet the paper gave them zero press time. This past Sunday the hockey association raised the championship banner in Kirkland & replayed the winning game. Of coarse the paper did not print a single word.

    Thank you for keeping Sammamish informed

  2. I appreciate The Sammamish Comment’s point of view relating to “duties” of local newspapers; however, I do not agree that they have a responsibility to serve their readers. The local newspapers do have a responsibility for responsible journalism to the extent that they choise to provide a printed or electronic product for their readers. Assuming these newspapers are not dependent on contributions similar to non-profit organizations, their responsibility is to manage their publication business in a manner that delivers an appropriate return to their owner stakeholders. How they accomplish is dependent on how they manage their revenues (advertising, subscriptions, etc.) and costs. Their jounakism content will be decided by how their management and staff balances a product deemed successdul for an appropriate stakeholder return. Should one seek true journalism, a product not influenced by economic motive is necessary.

    I will miss the views from The Sammamish Comment. Regardless of what publication I chhose to read, forming my own opinion on topics remains my responsibility, which I can make without needing to follow what is written by any journalist.

    • Hi Bill,

      I entered the work force at age 19 working for a suburban newspaper that was part of the Copley Newspaper chain. All had editorials (like them or not, and Copley was a chain of extreme right wing views). Growing up in this newspaper environment, if you will, is what instilled in me my view of a newspaper’s civic duty. Certainly anyone is free to accept, reject, follow or not follow editorial views.

      The Sammamish Review in 2015 published a 500+ word column from one of its reporters opining on Bruce Jenner’s transition to a woman instead of letters to the editor it had concerning the Sammamish City Council election. Now tell me: how is this serving the more relevant, timely topic to Sammamish and fulfilling a local newspaper’s civic duty?

      Note, too, I gave prime examples of what the local papers have not pursued in Sammamish that affect citizens. (I also praised The Review’s sibling for its pursuit of the water quality issues in Issaquah.) This is an important part of the duties of the Fourth Estate–at least as I see them.


      Scott Hamilton

  3. Perhaps silence from the modern day media is more helpful in bringing people together to solve challenges and issues facing our nation and communities.

    Scott on the other hand delivers thoughful messages that help people better understand the issues and reach informed conclusions.

  4. We are going to miss you Scott. You are a voice of reason that can’t be replaced. Thanks for all you do.

    David Doyle

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