Posted by: sweeneyblog | April 13, 2011

Bham Herald Editor Callously Explains Ignoring Labor Rally

The Cascadia Weekly’s opinion column, The Gristle, takes the Bellingham Herald to task for their blatant snub to the thousands of workers that showed up to rally concerning worker’s rights. Remember, this is on the heels of their breathless coverage of every Tea Party rally that breaks 40 people.

Really, click the link and read the whole thing, but here is the juicy quotes:

It’s difficult to disagree with Atrios when one considers this breathtaking response from Bellingham Herald Executive Editor Julie Shirley, explaining to a reader why the daily did not cover an April 2 international solidarity rally at the international border that drew more than 1,500 participants from three states and British Columbia:

“We did not cover it, nor did any Seattle area media,” Shirley wrote. “The protest was about something in another state…. In these troubled budget days, we could cover protests non-stop. With limited resources, we chose to cover things more important to Whatcom County. We find our time better spent writing about the issues in Whatcom County, as no other media is.”

Only one of Shirley’s stated complaints, the dilapidated state of modern newsrooms, strikes us as legitimate. On that, all newspapers can sympathize. Her assertion that the event was about something non-local happening in another state is just astonishing (no, it was actually on our border and included our citizens), as is her dismissal that the public issues discussed were unimportant.

I blogged about the rally, and the Herald’s silence on this issue earlier here

Update: Sam Taylor, former Bellingham Herald reporter and now current City Clerk of Ferndale responded to this issue. He said this in the comments of the Herald’s politics blog:

“Part of news coverage decisions comes down to familiarity with the issue. For me personally, because a rally of that kind had never necessarily happened before, and because it was further away from the epicenter of where the county is (Bellingham), it would be hard to justify sending the single reporter the paper is able to support on weekends that far away if they couldn’t know how many people were there.

As the person who covered the Tea Party rallies for the newspaper in the past, it should be noted that it was much easier to assess the type of coverage because the rally occurred on the busiest street in the city and all I had to do was drive a few minutes up and check out how big the crowds were. It made it easy to be responsive and get the coverage. It was also on a weekday, meaning there were editors and a copy desk on hand to provide guidance and support and work with the reporter. Photographers were able to get there.”

All I can say is that I understand the constraints that the ever-shrinking newspaper business model has put on their reporting, but when a major event happens and people have to turn to the Ferndale Record to get good information, then I imagine that has an effect on subscriptions and ad revenue. Maybe not immediately, but overtime, certainly worth the cost of gas.

I’m glad that you see the value, Mr. Taylor, in only covering events that are super-convenient for reporters but I would hope that the Herald would shoot for a little higher standards then “all I had to do was drive a few minutes up and check out how big the crowds were.”

You can read more of the back and forth on the Politics blog, but it looks like there is a different set of standards for the handful of people who show up at a Tea Party rally than there is for the thousands of us concerned about Worker’s Rights



  1. Thanks for the link, Riley.

    Sam Taylor, as usual, makes solid points; and I would have no problem with Julie Shirley’s remarks if she’d just left it at that. The rally was held on a weekend, at a location distant from Herald Central, and their reporting resources are depleted for reasons not entirely of BH’s own making. Those reasons are good enough on their own, any newspaper can sympathize, without larding on all the other “reasons” for her “decision.”

    It will be interesting to see how the Herald handled the Tea Party rally on April 15.


  2. I am very curious how the Tea Party rally will be covered, we shall see.

  3. […] for two reasons: One, to honestly report on what I saw. As you will remember, the Bellingham Herald completely ignored the several thousand person rally for worker’s rights up in Blaine a couple weeks ago, and to […]

  4. Great photo of you and Luanne!

  5. […] personal account of the International Labor Rally at the Peace Arch . . . and then the Bellingham Herald‘s contemptuous decision not to cover […]

  6. […] of labor are near and dear to my heart. Why? Because I work for a living. That’s why. Here’s an earlier post about the media blackout surrounding the recent international labor rally, and here is the subsequent report from that […]

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