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Newspapers To Inslee: Veto Public Records Exemption

The last time an editorial appeared on the front page of The Seattle Times, Teddy Roosevelt was president, World War I hadn’t happened yet, and Pike Place Market was a year old.

It was 1908, and The Times was trying to shame Seattle’s well-heeled into putting money into the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, planned for the next year.

It worked.

A front-page editorial is not something the newspaper does on a whim. But The Seattle Times and more than a dozen other newspapers in the state did so today, imploring Governor Jay Inslee to veto a billexempting the state legislature from much of the state’s Public Records Act.

Lawmakers passed the measure in 48 hours, retroactively shielding from public view e-mails that news organizations successfully sued to obtain. The Associated Press led the coalition, which included The Times, and public radio’s Northwest News Network, of which KNKX is a member.

Inslee has until the end of the day Thursday to veto. If he does not, the bill becomes law.

Seattle Times editorial page editor Kate Riley told KNKX about the importance of the governor’s veto, and why the Times took the extraordinary step of putting an editorial on the front page.

Interview Highlights

On Why This Matters: “This is about the fundamental right of people to keep tabs on their government – to hold their government accountable – and you can do that through public records, to find out what they’re thinking, who they’re talking to, who they’re making sweetheart deals with. This is about the people’s right to know. The action of the legislature on Friday, rushing a bill through both houses in under 48 hours and then sending it to the governor – without any meaningful debate or any public hearings – we felt that was really egregious.”

On Vetoing, Despite A Possible Override: “The veto is important because the governor should stand with the people on this. This is something he cares a lot about, and I think he’s getting a lot of calls today. Our editorial asked two things: One, it asked people to call the governor and email him and ask him to veto. It also asked people to contact their legislators and ask them to stand down if the governor vetoes, to not vote to override. They’ve been getting a lot of calls as well. We ran every picture, name and contact information of each legislator on the editorial page today.

On What's At Stake: “Many lawmakers, in the responses I see that they’re giving to their constituents, are arguing that very sensitive private information will be released – for instance, victims of sexual harassment. That’s not true. Those names can be redacted. ... Each of the journalists and the publishers who work at those papers, this is really heartfelt for them. The public has a right to know. We need to hold our government accountable. This is really kind of a do or die issue.”

Ed Ronco is a former KNKX producer and reporter and hosted All Things Considered for seven years.
Ariel first entered a public radio newsroom in 2004 while in school at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. It was love at first sight. After graduating from Bradley, she went on to earn a Master's degree in Public Affairs Reporting from the University of Illinois at Springfield. Ariel has lived in Indiana, Ohio and Alaska reporting on everything from salmon spawning to policy issues concerning education. She's been a host, a manager and now rides shotgun with Kirsten Kendrick as the Morning Edition producer at KNKX.