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Monday, March 17, 2008

Waking-Up to Possible Public Access Issue In Federal Way

There are few readers who picked up Sunday's issue of the News Tribune who would entirely miss the lead story heralded triumphantly in small red caps as a News Tribune Sunshine Week Investigation by Sean Robinson.

Over half of page one and a full-inside page on March 16 were devoted to his story The system works, but.... an inordinately complete and detailed accounting by a reporter whose expertise is more commonly recognized for his coverage of crime, on how local governments and related entities are responding to media requests for public records, particularly those of the involving the Tribune.

The sheer sweep of Robinson's coverage, only served to highlight the inside A-2 page story of Executive Editor Dave Zeeck titled Observations, not conclusions, must bulwark stories. Zeeck wrote he'd been reminded on two occasions the previous week of "a mistake we journalists sometimes make that undermines our work. I have in mind the times we report conclusions rather than observations."

He then related his comments as they applied to a presidential campaign story by New York Times reporter Elizabeth Bumiller carried in the previous weekend's Tribune and a locally produced story March 12 looking at a dispute involving open records pitting "the presiding judge of the Federal Way Municipal Court on one side and the city attorney and The News Tribune on the other."

Interestingly enough, Zeeck's remarks also appeared to address a blog at the online Tribune on March 13, by Dave Seego which had caught my eye. In a sharply worded blog Seego titled: Inside The Editorial Page, he weighed-in as finding most regrettable Federal Way Municipal Court Judge Michael Morgan's rationale for keeping the findings of a city investigation into problems at the city court out of the public eye.

When Seego said: "Morgan's stance only weakens public confidence in the integrity of the court; voters should remember that if he stands for election." a tiny bell went off in my head.
Unfortunately, it was not enough to compel me to immediately seek and read the Tribune's full coverage filed by reporter Steve Maynard on the previous day.

The weekend's coverage however woke me up, grabbed my attention and sent me scurrying back into the archives. Once there, I discovered through plowing on my own the significant issue(s) which evolved out of what had started to be on the surface an only all too common small town-type government eye-opener.

(To be continued)

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