franl_blethen.jpgSEATTLE (AP) _ More than 100 reporters, photographers, designers and other staffers signed a letter protesting The Seattle Times Co.'s decision to support the campaigns of Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna and a gay marriage referendum.


The staffers sent the letter Thursday _ one day after the state's largest newspaper ran a full-page ad backing McKenna.

More ads supporting McKenna and gay marriage are expected to run in what company officials said is a push to demonstrate the effectiveness of newspaper political advertising. The amount of the ads will amount to about $75,000 in-kind contributions for each campaign.

In the letter, the staffers said the ad campaign threatens to compromise the newsroom's integrity, pointing out the newspaper company has now become a top contributor to McKenna's campaign by running the ad.

“We are now part of a campaign's machinery, creating a perception that we are not an independent watchdog,'' the letter stated.

Seattle Times. Co. spokeswoman Jill Mackie said publisher Frank Blethen appreciates the staffers sharing their views and “notes that their doing so reinforces the reality of the independence/separation between journalism and this effort we are all talking about.''

She said Blethen knew the ad campaign could bring pushback, but decided to move forward.

The newspaper's editorial board has endorsed McKenna over Democratic candidate Jay Inslee in what is one of the most watched campaigns for governor in the country.

Mackie said that about $100 million will be spent in political advertisement this cycle in Washington. The newspaper company is actively looking to get a share of that money.

“When one is financially responsible for paying for the journalism we produce every day, one has to give serious thought to all legitimate ideas,'' Mackie said Thursday.

She added the pilot program is not aimed at attracting political advertising money in this election, but rather in subsequent cycles.

The letter from staffers said the ad campaign undermines the newspaper's core mission of journalism.

“We strive to remain independent from the institutions we cover. We shine a light on the process from the outside. We are not part of the process,'' the letter said.