Top Seattle Times Editor Admits Majority of Newsroom Votes 'Blue,' Driven by 'Activism'

Seattle Times Executive Editor Dave Boardman, who in a Tuesday e-mail to his staff had scolded them for cheering Karl Rove's resignation (Ken Shepherd's NewsBusters item), wrote a follow-up e-mail on Wednesday in which he conceded the political display matched the “blue” perspective of the majority in his newsroom where, like most of journalism, reporters are driven by “activism.” Boardman acknowledged:
“If we wore our politics on our sleeves in here, I have no doubt that in this and in most other mainstream newsrooms in America, the majority of those sleeves would be of the same color: blue. Survey after survey over the years have demonstrated that most of the people who go into this business tend to vote Democratic, at least in national elections. That is not particularly surprising, given how people make career decisions and that social service and activism is a primary driver for many journalists.”
It's reassuring to learn that Boardman chided his staff for the outburst, but as he admitted it accurately reflected the political perspective of most journalists.

Romenesko on Wednesday night posted in full the second e-mail Boardman sent to his newsroom staff. An excerpt from the August 15 memo following up on reaction to his Tuesday e-mail in which he had said of the cheering: “That sort of expression is simply not appropriate for a newsroom.”
My Raves admonition on politically based cheering in the newsroom has ignited the predictable flame-throwing in the blogosphere, particularly from the portside. Allow me to riff a bit further on that, and on my reasoning....

The postings nearly everywhere speak not to the fundamental issues around newsroom decorum, but instead spring from one's place on the spectrum of Bush/Rove "Bad" or Bush/Rove "Good."

I ask you all to leave your personal politics at the front door for one simple reason: A good newsroom is a sacred and magical place in which we can and should test every assumption, challenge each other's thinking, ask the fundamental questions those in power hope we will overlook.

If we wore our politics on our sleeves in here, I have no doubt that in this and in most other mainstream newsrooms in America, the majority of those sleeves would be of the same color: blue. Survey after survey over the years have demonstrated that most of the people who go into this business tend to vote Democratic, at least in national elections. That is not particularly surprising, given how people make career decisions and that social service and activism is a primary driver for many journalists.

But if we allowed our news meetings to evolve into a liberal latte klatch, I have no doubt that a pathological case of group-think would soon set in....

It's not about "balance," which is a false construct. It isn't even about "objectivity," which is a laudable but probably unattainable goal. It is about independent thinking and sound, facts-based journalism -- the difference between what we do and the myopic screed that is passed off as "advocacy" journalism these days....
Seattle Times Company's bio of Boardman, sans a picture of him.

My Thursday MRC CyberAlert article about the cheering and Boardman's reactions.
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center