The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has defended as “an extraordinary journalistic effort” its yearlong series of stories investigating the King County Sheriff’s Office. In a document posted at SeattlePI.com, the paper offered its first detailed, formal response to the sheriff’s assertions that the “Conduct Unbecoming” series has been intentionally unfair and biased. “At best the complaints are peripheral to (the series’) central points and at worst they are inaccurate, unfounded and injurious to the reputations of a group of P-I reporters and editors and to the P-I as a whole,” the document says. The newspaper notes that the series led to the creation of a blue ribbon panel to extensively change management practices in the Sheriff’s Office.
The Washington News Council, which calls itself an outside ombudsman for media disputes, is set to hold a hearing Oct. 21 examining purported bias in the series. The Sheriff’s Office initiated those proceedings July 28 by filing a formal complaint. The non-profit organization has no official power or legal authority, and its votes on investigations carry no sanction other than publicity. The Post-Intelligencer as declined to participate in the council’s hearing, citing alleged conflicts of interest among the group’s members. The Sheriff’s Office asserted that the newspaper’s Managing Editor David McCumber, himself had an undisclosed conflict of interest that may have influenced the tone of the stories.