- Press release from Tuesday, May 27, the day before the Seattle Weekly article.
The article "Can 'White Guys' Make 'Authentic' Ethnic Food?" in the current issue of Seattle Weekly is about Little Uncle and Kedai Makan (which are both great places). The author is Tiffany Ran. I thought the name rang a bell and realized that on Tuesday of this week, Ran sent us a press release about Kedai Makan: "Kedai Makan to Sell Bottled Sambals and Sauces at Storefront and Broadway Farmers Market." (That press release is above.)
Tiffany Ran's PR company BlindCock Media represents Kedai Makan. The Stranger has gotten five press releases from Ran about Kedai Makan since November of 2012.
"BlindCock Media was born to offer PR services to our friends in the industry," as its website says. Getting an article written by a restaurant's PR firm published in a newspaper is, um, a pretty remarkable PR service—and arguably a serious breach of journalistic ethics on the newspaper's part. There was no disclosure of Ran's business relationship with Kedai Makan accompanying the Seattle Weekly article about Kedai Makan.
Reached for comment, Tiffany Ran says she did ask Seattle Weekly food editor Nicole Sprinkle if her relationship with Kedai Makan "would be an issue." Asked if there was any discussion of including a disclosure of the relationship in the article, Ran said, "I sent an email asking if she wanted to do that, and I sent her a bio."
I remarked that it seemed to me that Seattle Weekly should've put a full disclosure on the article, and Ran said, "I agree. And I'm completely open about disclosing my postion and where I'm coming from as a writer." However, she felt she should "Let the editor decide."
Ran said that Kedai Makan was not yet a client of hers when she wrote a previous article about them for Seattle Weekly. Asked if she's written articles about clients for other publications, Ran said, "No, I generally try to avoid that."
Neither Seattle Weekly food editor Nicole Sprinkle nor editor in chief Mark Baumgarten have returned calls for comment.
UPDATE: Seattle Weekly food editor Nicole Sprinkle says, "We had planned to put a disclosure on the piece," but that they "got sidetracked." She says, "It was an oversight on my part." They've added a correction and a bio to the online version of the story.