April 1, 2011 – The day after being named “Organization of the Year” at the Municipal League’s annual Civic Awards banquet, the Washington News Council announced today that it would close its doors.
“Mission Accomplished,” said John Hamer, President and Executive Director of the News Council. “We’re going out on top. What better time to declare victory, shut down and go home?”
The News Council was founded in 1998 to promote fairness, accuracy, balance, accountability and ethics in the print, broadcast and online news media in Washington state.
“The media in this state are now fabulously fair, amazingly accurate, beautifully balanced, absolutely accountable and endearingly ethical,” Hamer gushed. “That’s why everyone loves them so much. They’re doing a great job and simply don’t need us anymore.”
Hamer cited the “Top Ten Changes” in the news media since the News Council began:
- 1. They always tell the truth and get the facts right.
- 2. They make sure to tell all sides of every story.
- 3. They scrupulously separate news from opinion.
- 4. They shun sensationalizing or scandal-mongering.
- 5. They work for the public interest, not to win journalism prizes.
- 6. They clarify and explain news coverage and invite dialogue with the public over journalistic conduct.
- 7. They encourage the public to voice grievances against the news media.
- 8. They admit mistakes and correct them promptly.
- 9. They expose unethical practices of journalists and the news media.
10. They abide by the same high standards to which they hold others.
Hamer noted that the last five items come directly from the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics. “That’s all the News Council has ever asked – that they follow their own darn ethics codes,” Hamer said. “They’re finally doing that, and they deserve a pat on the butt.”
With the WNC’s closure, there are now no news councils in the United States to provide independent outside accountability for the news media and journalists. “So the watchdogs can just watch themselves from now on,” Hamer said. “And we know they’ll do a bang-up job!”