NW Daily Marker has learned that the first mediation conference in a complaint filed with the Washington News Council against Seattle public radio station KUOW-FM will take place Thursday.

As reported earlier, KUOW has been the subject of two complaints (the second was filed with the national office of National Public Radio) pursuant to the station’s reporting related to a proposed state law that would require organizations providing pregnancy options counseling to clearly disclose if they offer of pro-life choices to would-be mothers.

The Vitae Foundation filed both complaints suggesting that KUOW’s decision to solicit comment their main competitor—Planned Parenthood—for a news segment that focused on billboards paid for by Vitae, without reaching out to them, constituted a major breach of journalistic ethics.

No matter what the outcome of the ethics happens to be questions about the relationship between Planned Parenthood and the publicly-owned and operated newsradio outlet will persist. But getting answers may be made more complicated by KUOW’s dual role as a government entity and news organization, one that creates a grey area in terms of its how it must disclose communications with politically active groups such as Planned Parenthood.

As part of the University of Washington, with its staff paid as state employees, KUOW’s work would fall under the state’s public records law. But as a journalistic enterprise, KUOW could hold up the shield law protecting journalists from having to reveal information about their sources.

The overlap exposes the classic problem with media that is paid for by government. Should publicly-funded media fall onto the inevitable path of bias toward coverage that supports those who hold the purse strings—government officials and powerful interests lobbying government—it is nearly impossible to hold them to a standard of transparency and openness such as is espoused by the ethical code of the Washington News Council.

These inquiries into an alleged unethical connection between KUOW and Planned Parenthood are coming just as the latter is coming under intense scrutiny for an operating agenda that some say pushes women into abortion while ignoring other options that would allow the fetus to be carried to term.

Writing at National Review’s “The Corner” last week, Kathryn Lopez discussed a report released by Americans United for Life entitled “The Case for Investigating Planned Parenthood.” Lopez describes the report thus:

The report serves as a tool for both the concerned citizen and the legislative steward, in knowing what questions deserve to be asked and why. As Phill Kline knew in Kansas when he raised questions as prosecutor and attorney general (albeit to his detriment), the willing cover-up of sexual abuse and trafficking at this federally funded billion-dollar abortion business is not a mere Gotcha! scenario for young pro-life guerrilla reporters with hidden cameras. There’s evidence of “systemic, organization-wide fraud and abuse” and a civic imperative for further investigation, as the AUL report demonstrates.

Rumors have buzzed through the Capitol Hill grapevine that the AUL report has tipped the scales of several House members to make a call for an official investigation into Planned Parenthood’s practices, one that would almost certainly dig into the manner in which the group seeks to secure its dominant position as a provider of pregnancy-related services to women across the United States.


[photo image: flickr]