As we previously reported (here and here), Seattle public radio station KUOW-FM came under scrutiny last year for an on-air piece filed by reporter Meghan Walker on April 13, 2011 after billboards for a website offering alternatives for women dealing with unplanned pregnancy—YourOptions.com—began to appear around Seattle.
Walker’s report on the billboard controversy was recklessly one-sided, according to YourOptions.com parent organization the Vitae Foundation, owing to the fact that the on-air critique of the website was given entirely by Planned Parenthood of Seattle public affairs director Kristen Glundberg-Prossor, an analysis the Vitae Foundation felt was extremely misleading, perhaps due in part to Walker’s decision not to contact Vitae for an opinion about its own site.
The ethical concerns the Vitae Foundation had about KUOW’s reporting prompted the group to file two formal complaints against the station, one with the national office of National Public Radio, the other with the Washington News Council, an independent media ethics ombudsman.
From the time the complaints were filed, KUOW has done surprisingly little to make public correction to the misleading information contained in Walker’s report.
On March 31, the Washington News Council will take up the issue in a formal hearing to be held on the campus of the University of Washington, only a few thousand yards from KUOW’s broadcast facilities.
Though the WNC has no legal jurisdiction and cannot render any enforceable decision in the matter, the proceedings will be presided over by former Washington State Supreme Court Chief Justice Gerry Alexander.
Perhaps because of the judicial atmosphere, the WNC hearing has grabbed the full attention of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the entity holding the purse strings on a large portion of KUOW’s operating finances.
CPB Ombudsman Joel Kaplan reported that he will fly out to be at the hearing and is “prepared to weigh in on this complaint.”
Perhaps the gravitas a former chief justice of the state’s highest court and a powerful ombudsman representing KUOW’s sugar daddy are exactly what is needed to convince the publicly-financed media organization to make amends.