Frank Blethen

Publisher, Seattle Times

Seattle, WA

[WA-E 0101]

There are two moments I’m particularly proud of. One is the Pulitzer prize-winning piece that we did investigating the [Boeing] 737 and the problem with its tail, which was a safety issue. And I remember getting a – there was a lot of pressure put on us to back off that story is and not do that story. In fact there was even a tremendous amount pressure put on the Pulitzer Board not to give us a Pulitzer for that story.

About a year after the story I got a phone call out of the blue from a woman who identifies herself as one of the founders of – I forget what the group is called – but it’s airline employees and pilots that have been killed in a 737 crash. And she said I was talking to your reporter the other day, and she said, I asked him who’s responsible for you guys pursuing this and he said the Blethen family. She says, “Can I thank them?”

And she ends up calling me and telling me what a difference this made and talks about the lives we’ve saved and what a difference it made to the survivors. That was pretty powerful, you know. I haven’t forgotten that.

And I think the other one was when U.S. Senator – U.S. Representative Brock Adams was – it was well-known that he had turned into a sexual predator and was preying on his staff.

So Dave Boardman came up with this incredibly innovative solution, which was to get affidavits from [the victims] that they would testify in court if he brought an action against us. I believe – I think we had 15 names, and I think 11 or 12 of them actually signed these affidavits. So it made it a no-brainer.

It was actually the first – the only time I ever know of when a newspaper could use confidential sources and yet have a credible story and a defensible story. In fact our editor at the time, Mike Fancher, came in and said you need to know how serious this is. The Adams’s people and the Democrats say they’re going to take this newspaper away from you if you run the story. That’s their claim.

And when he laid out for me, I said, “Hell, this is an easy decision. You know there’s no way [Adam’s] ever going to take the stand when he knows these women will take the stand.” And that’s precisely what happened, and then he resigned…

And that’s symbolic of – I think both of those are symbolic of things that we’ve done as an independent newspaper in terms of being able to independently tell these important stories, especially around public safety, around women and children.