Political ads have flooded the airwaves on television and on the radio. But a new political ad in the Seattle Times is generating attention and criticism because it was paid for, not by the candidate, but by the newspaper.
The full page ad on page B-6 touts Rob McKenna as “a new direction for Washington.” It’s an unprecedented decision by the Times, which launched this advertising initiative as a way to convince political campaigns how valuable it is to advertise in the paper. It will run a similar ad supporting Referendum 74, which would legalize same-sex marriage.
The Times wouldn't comment on camera, but in a written statement, Alan Fisco, Executive Vice President for Revenue and New Products, said "This is a business decision that is completely separate from journalism functions of the newspaper. The ads will clearly be identified as ads and there is no intersection between the advertising and our editorial commentary or news reporting."
Rob McKenna’s campaign wouldn’t comment on the ad, but Sterling Clifford, Communications Director for Jay Inslee’s campaign, criticized the ad, saying it calls into question the credibility of the Seattle Times.
“I don't know how a news consumer can look at a parent company running an independent expenditure campaign for a candidate and then read the news section of the paper and pretend the two aren't related to each other,” said Clifford.
The ad supporting McKenna for Washington Governor will cost the Seattle Times $80,000, which it says it will report as an independent expenditure. The Approve R-74 ad will be an in-kind donation to the campaign, according to the Times.
The newspaper says it will analyze the impact the ads have in the election and present the data to political consultants and candidates to make the case that advertising in the Times is an effective way to reach voters.