A week ago, Seattle Times Executive Editor David Boardman wrote on Twitter:
Somehow I missed this when it happened. But when I learned about it yesterday, I called the mayor's office to see what was up.
Aaron Pickus, spokesman for Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, stressed that the mayor's office still has multiple subscriptions to the Seattle Times and that McGinn himself definitely reads the paper—including Seattle Times clippings and links that Pickus spends a lot of his day sending around to the mayor and his staff. But Pickus confirmed that the McGinn household indeed canceled its subscription to the paper more than a year ago, after the publication of this story. Then he put me on the phone with McGinn's wife, Peg Lynch, so I could hear exactly why.
“I don’t want to make a big deal about this," Lynch told me. "We didn’t do it. I just did it myself. I kind of run the household stuff. But for me, my bike getting stolen, and the coverage of that, was just kind of the last straw."
The February 24, 2011 Seattle Times story that became the last straw—about McGinn borrowing his wife's bike, him leaving it unlocked, and that bike then disappearing at City Hall—was, according to Lynch, full of "bullying, cruel remarks," culled from e-mails from anonymous Seattle Times readers, including one reader who likened the mayor to Homer Simpson.
“It was kind of like a mean-spirited attack on Michael," Lynch said. "They just went from talking about a thief, which was kind of the point of the article, to kind of trashing Michael again in a personal way. There was no policy there that was being discussed, that I could see.”
Lynch said she'd grown tired of Seattle Times news articles that read like editorials against her husband, and saw the bike story as yet another example. "My kids read the paper," she said, adding that she'd begun hiding it from them when things appeared that were, to her, an example of the Seattle Times deciding to "jump on him one more time."
"Generally, I think the Times just kind of doesn’t like Mike," Lynch said. "I don’t think that’s a secret.”
For a long time, she'd been talking about canceling the subscription. So, one day in early 2011, after the publication of the bike-theft article, she picked up the phone. “I just said I didn’t really enjoy reading it anymore, and I think I left it very general like that," Lynch told me. "I’m not trying to pick a fight with anybody. I just did not appreciate the product anymore.”
To clarify something she'd said earlier, I asked Lynch whether she believes the Seattle Times is bullying her husband.
“Don’t you?” she responded. “I just couldn’t read that stuff anymore.”
I asked: What would you recommend they do differently?
“I would actually suggest that they read the Seattle Public Schools' anti-bullying policy,” Lynch replied. "If Mr. Boardman wants to talk to me about it, I’d be happy to talk to him about it. I really would.”
Boardman declined to respond to Lynch's statements, but noted: "I learned of the cancellation not from any customer data The Times has, but when I heard the mayor chuckling about it on talk radio."