A while back I wrote about a complaint that Secretary of State Sam Reed's office had filed against KIRO TV and its news reporter, Chris Halsne:
In the tense run-up to the November election, KIRO Eyewitness News broadcast the results of "an extensive KIRO Team 7 investigation" that accused Washington State election officials of allowing felons and dead people (or, as KIRO described them, "ghost voters") to illegally cast ballots. "Voting from beyond the grave was supposed to be a thing of the past," intoned KIRO reporter Chris Halsne on November 3, the day before the election, adding ominously that this type of voting is nevertheless "happening here."
Naturally, given the intense mistrust of the state elections system that has festered in conservative circles ever since Governor Christine Gregoire eked out a highly litigated victory over Republican Dino Rossi in 2004, the office of Secretary of State Sam Reed was immediately inundated with complaints. "I am writing to express my outrage that your office has still not managed to clean up the voter rolls in FOUR YEARS," wrote one angry citizen. "Ballots sent to 24,000 felons? Really? Do you not remember how close the last governor's election was?... DO YOUR JOB!!!"
The problem: It was KIRO that wasn't doing its job, according to a complaint that Reed's office filed with the Washington News Council, a nonprofit that seeks to foster public trust in the news media by publicly airing such charges and, essentially, delivering a verdict. John Hamer, executive director of the council, said KIRO's two investigative reports on alleged illegal voting (one about dead voters that aired on November 3, 2008, and another about felon voters that aired on October 14, 2008) exhibited a "lack of accuracy, thoroughness, and ethics." Prime example: The two voters who KIRO's Halsne used as case studies in his series turned out to be legal voters.
"In both of his stories, his poster child was dead wrong," said David Ammons, spokesman for Reed. "The felon was not a felon and the dead person was not a dead person. We just felt like we had to blow the whistle."
The News Council took the complaint to the (online) people and the results are out today:
In an unprecedented “virtual hearing,” dozens of people voted and commented as part of a Citizens Online News Council on a formal written complaint from Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed against KIRO7 Eyewitness News.
The votes were largely critical of KIRO7 and upheld Secretary Reed’s complaint. Of nearly 100 people who voted online, only a few defended KIRO. The rest supported Reed’s position.