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The backlash is growing over a Seattle Times political ad, with some of the newspaper's own employees speaking out.

On Wednesday, The Seattle Times paid for a full-page ad to back Republican Rob McKenna for governor - paid for not by any political campaign, but by The Seattle Times company.

The newspaper has campaigned before on specific issues, from affirmative action to same-sex marriage, but this is the first time the Times has gone beyond its editorial page and actually taken out ads to support one political candidate.

Across the country, journalism experts say they haven't seen anything like this before. And the Times is feeling the heat from outside and within.

If they want to find out if their ads sell soap, run ads for soap and see if it sells soap, but don't do it for candidates, said Dwight Pelz, Washington Democratic Party Chair.

Some Democratic groups are urging their supporters to cancel their Times subscriptions. And on Thursday, more than 100 reporters, photographers, designers and other staff in the Times newsroom signed a letter to publisher Frank Blethen expressing their frustration and that the ad threatens the independence and credibility of the Seattle Times brand.

Mr. Blethen was aware of our conversation and didn't approve the decision but was certainly aware we were going to do this and was involved in those discussions, so yes, Frank was involved, said Alan Fisco, Seattle Times Vice President of Revenue.

Fisco said the newspaper is trying to make a point.

This was the way we thought we could show people firsthand the power of print, said Fisco.

These days, almost all campaign advertising dollars go to television, radio and direct mail. With newspapers struggling financially, Fisco says he's launching this $75,000 independent campaign on behalf of McKenna, hoping to grab some of the political ad money.

I'm hoping that the political consultants see it and say 'maybe we should take a second look at newspapers,' said Fisco.

But University of Washington journalism professor Randal Beam says the business decision puts the Times' journalists in an awkward spot, and Beam isn't sure what the ads are going to prove.

I suspect that if McKenna wins, that's not going to demonstrate necessarily that The Seattle Times company advertising was the reason, and if McKenna loses, I don't know that's necessarily going to demonstrate that The Seattle Times company ads had no impact, said Beam.

When you're out soliciting buying political ads, you're playing the same game as a Carl Rove or a George Soros. I think you've crossed the line, said Mike James, former journalist and Democratic candidate.

Fisco says he doesn't have second thoughts about the decision.

What I want to convey to our readers and the folks out of the building here is we went through great extremes to make sure we shielded our newsroom and our editorial staff from this, said Fisco.

The Times said there is a strong firewall that separates its business functions from its editorial side and the newsroom, with which KING 5 has a partnership. But experts in journalism ethics point out sometimes it's perception that count the most.

KING5's Robert Mak contributed to this report.

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