"Your Camera Isn't Welcome in Our Law Firm"

by: Matt Stoller

Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 18:05


IMG_0847

One of the subtexts of the conflict in Seattle is the local kingmakers, which includes the media and the Republican establishment, fighting against labor and progressives.  Today I came face to face with the Seattle press corps, a sad group of people facing impending layoffs who nonetheless manage to evoke no sympathy (this was written in anger, now I feel sympathy).  I was in Seattle to report on Republican gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi's deposition; Rossi is involved in the most heated gubernatorial race in the country, a rematch of the 2004 razor thin match between him and current Governor Christine Gregoire, a competent and moderately progressive Governor.  Rossi is a sleazy conservative supposed slum lord who wants to lower the minimum wage and build sprawl everywhere he can.  The builders in the state (the BIAW) love Rossi, obviously, and they are pouring massive sums of money into the race, flooding the airwaves in what will be a $40M+ election.  Labor is backing Gregore with large sums of money as well, though not quite as much.

Matt Stoller :: "Your Camera Isn't Welcome in Our Law Firm"
Rossi stands accused of coordinating with the BIAW, since he solicited funds for their PAC, funds which are now used on his behalf.  This is clearly a violation of election law, though he did the solicitation before he was a declared candidate, so even though everyone knew he was going to run he thinks it's fine.  Anyway, there was a big fight over this with lots of whining from Rossi, and the court basically said that he is going to be deposed before the election because injecting millions of dollars into the race illegally is kind of a big deal.

This is a PR black eye for Rossi in a tightly contested election, and Rossi is doing what he can to contain the damage.  He asked that the deposition exclude media, a request the judge granted, so he can control the message.  After the deposition, he is holding a press conference at his law firm, Buchanan Fobes Leitch & Kalzer, and since I figured 'hey, I'm press', I thought this would be a good time to learn more about Rossi's camapign.

Unfortunately, the fine folks at Buchanan Fobes Leitch & Kalzer didn't agree.  I went to the press conference at 2112 Third Avenue, Suite 500, and followed a reporter into a conference room to wait for it to begin, a kind of holding pen for various reporters sitting in there reading the paper and taking notes.  There, I started to see how the whole propaganda charade works.  An unidentified pert blonde woman (update.. someone just told me it's Jill Straight, Rossi's press secretary) just beginning to lose the looks that allows her to be really successful in PR got chummy with the three reporters she knew.  Here she is, refusing to make eye contact with me.

IMG_0843

She clearly didn't know me, but had sized me up quickly as one of them damn liberals (or really just an outsider), and introduced herself with that sort of high school mean girl 'I thought I told you NOT to sit with us at lunch' tone, and asked who I was.  We proceeded to have an extremely condensed 'I'm a blogger, you're not real media, yes I am I have 50,000 readers a day, well it's not on newsprint' argument, at which point she said 'You can argue all you want but I'm not going to change my position.'  She then left in a huff.  Here's a picture mid-huff.

IMG_0846

After she left, I turned around to the three reporters in the conference room, figuring there would be some solidarity, and said 'Seriously?'  When I'm with other bloggers doing reporting, they tend to stand up for one another's right to report public information.  These reporters?  Not so much.  In response to my query, they meekly looked down.  'You're going to let them do ths?  I just want to report on this press conference.'  Again, they looked down so as to not make eye contact with the scary blogger.  I continued to stare, mostly because awkward silences can be fun and because I was pissed.  I had driven into Seattle for this?  Finally, one of them said 'Well, this is an invitation only event, and it happens to us all the time.'  Press conferences are generally not considered 'invitation-only events', but I suppose when they are held in Republican law firms the definition of words tends to change.  To which I said 'Well when you get laid off, I hope you get to take advantage of some of that worker training you don't report on.'  As I said, I was really angry.

Here are the reporters.  I asked for their names, and the guy on the left said I'm not going to identify myself because I don't appreciate what you said about the layoffs'.  (Update: Ok, I took this part out because it was rude, these reporters aren't to blame for their industry's situation)

I hope you get a sense of the awkward scene from the pictures below.  (Update: The guy next to Porter is Bob Young of the Seattle Times.)

The Journalists

The Journalists

Just at that moment, huffy pert blonde woman came back with another representative of the firm, who said that a managing partner wanted me to leave.  I took out my camera and began taking pictures of the reporters who wouldn't tell me their names, and one of the firm's reps said 'your camera isn't welcome in our law firm' and put her hand in front of my camera as I took the picture you see above.

It's funny, all I wanted was to get Rossi's side of the story.  Instead I got to see how the Seattle press corps and Republican lawyers use a mixture of sluggish meek passive aggressiveness and high school mean girl tactics to protect their turf.  The partners of the firm are Pat Buchanan, Duncan Fobes, Karen Kalzer, Charles Leitch, and Mike Patterson.  I've emailed each of them and asked if one of them will explain me Rossi's side of the story, which is ultimately what I came for.

After I left, I talked to the labor protesters outside, who were from the state labor council.  They directed me to the local Communications Workers Office a few doors down, who let me plug in and blog.  I chatted with the staff a bit about the Employee Free Choice Act and health care, and then sat down to write this.  What a difference it is between a Republican corporate law firm and a union office.

IMG_0848

Update:  Look, I'm not mocking Straight's looks, I'm mocking the fact that press flacks are judged by their looks.  While you might not like what I wrote, the use of beauty to exert power is real and it rarely receives scrutiny.  


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Awesome reporting! (4.00 / 2)
Matt, you should stay in the field all the time. Very interesting first-hand reporting, and great photos!

Check out Future Roots for organic rock'n'roll goodness from Oregon...

If you need a print affiliate ... (4.00 / 6)
tell them you're reporting for The Progressive Populist. Still printed on paper after 14 years. And we believe the First Amendment covers bloggers.

-- Jim Cullen, Editor


nice offer (0.00 / 0)
matt should take you up on it. I say that to make clear that no snark is intended toward you with what I want to say next...

this whole validating journalists through the medium the reporting is done on will be pretty hilarious when readerships using electronic devices vastly outnumbers those using paper. in about 3 years from now I imagine.

Michael Bloomberg, prince of corporate welfare


[ Parent ]
Christian Science Monitor (0.00 / 0)
Will be going to a net only product starting in 2009.  Btw, Japan, with a very aging population is seeing little drop in newspaper circulation and only a very limited internet presence for papers.  The scary stat is that US newspapers have trimmed editorial staff by 10% in the last 10 years and that trend is continuing.  One more reason they print so many slightly rewritten press releases.

[ Parent ]
Weren't you issued press credentials at the conventions? (4.00 / 2)
If you do, flash those around.  If not, but a laminator and make an Open Left badge with your picture on it.

John McCain won't insure children

Bloggers (4.00 / 4)
scare Republicans and Lawyers... because there's no chance they can call up your editor and get you censored or fired.

Anyway, awesome write up.

And the next 10 years are going to be interesting to watch as the current "power" structure adapts to having bloggers everywhere.


Why wasn't The Stranger at this? (4.00 / 1)
They're usually on top of anything having to do with scummy right-wing business and political types, and in your previous Seattle-related posts I think you've mentioned them.

Also, while I understand your anger at this woman and the firm that she works for, there's really no need to disparage her looks. That's totally irrelevant and detracts from what you're trying to get across here. Someone can be a jerk no matter what they look like.

"Those who stand for nothing fall for anything...Mankind are forever destined to be the dupes of bold & cunning imposture" -- Alexander Hamilton


Re. Why wasn't The Stranger at this? (4.00 / 1)
Also, while I understand your anger at this woman and the firm that she works for, there's really no need to disparage her looks.

Thank you for saying that.

The behavior of these people may have been deplorable, but the tone of this piece doesn't exactly give the lie to their arguments that you aren't a serious journalist, Matt.


[ Parent ]
Matt, say goodbye to your credibility (0.00 / 0)
just beginning to lose the looks that allows her to be really successful in PR

too bad you don't have an editor, because a second pair of eyes would have pointed out the unwisdom of that crack.  


[ Parent ]
How is it not true? (4.00 / 2)
We all know PR people get jobs in part because of their looks.

[ Parent ]
not that I give credence to the parent post's assertion that matt's credit is shot (0.00 / 0)
but at the same time Matt was not really raising the point to highlight the roll of sexual power in the PR industry. he's not making a sociological or anthropological observation here.

rather Matt was quite angry with the situation, and as a tactic of revenge Matt's comment was included as a double dig: one it suggests that PR people are ciphers whose success is derived from their appearance, and not from any real value or work; two it says the woman in question has lost any value she had because the only value she had was her looks. to top it off we're invited to join in mocking her as we're presented with a photo of her ass walking away. judging a woman as she walks away, by regarding her ass, of course is one of the oldest objectifying practices known to men.

I'm not saying this is a conscious overt intention on Matts part, rather we're seeing a clear manifestation out of the subconscious lexicon most of us have been raised on. Its not the end of the internet, but its also not good. I've had my own such internet moment of this sort myself. I was alerted to what I was doing by a friend; I was wrong, but I learned something. I imagine Matt will too.

Michael Bloomberg, prince of corporate welfare


[ Parent ]
Ok that all makes sense. (0.00 / 0)
Plus I thought it was a little funny because she actually looks pretty good.

[ Parent ]
hair (4.00 / 4)
You know, I was focused on her hair spinning around, because that's the emotional part of the photo.  I was even thinking of editing the photo down to that portion, but I didn't have time before another press conference started.

If I had a legacy of mocking women for bad looks, you would have had a point.  What I'm mocking is the use of her looks to exert reactionary forms of power, and the inevitable degradation of this form of power by nature.  Politicians (usually but not always conservative ones) often use pretty young women to flack the press (as the senior partner, probably male, did here by sending the firm's rep instead).  It's a cruel system.

Either way, you are right to raise the point, but I think my defense is sufficient to establish good faith.


[ Parent ]
I like (4.00 / 1)
I like your observation about Politicians (and other power brokers really) using pretty women as agents in confrontations, and that it is indeed a cruel system. My reading, as written up however - and not to belabor the point here - is that this observation is being shadowed by a sexual hostility you have turned on the woman. Like I say, I like your observation as presented here. But I feel the stuff with the looks and pert and school girl is detracting or destracting from it. It will be interesting to hear what others think as this comments thread develops.

Just to be totally clear I'm not trying to corner you or anything. just observing and maybe bringing to light what seems like some subconscious plays here.

Speaking from my own experience, I'd offer that the thing I learned was that, when frustrated by a person who is a woman, its very easy to default to using some sexual attacks (even minimal ones) as a means to undermine the person's credibility. its like a reflex. And I really wasn't aware of just how easy it is to engage in.

Michael Bloomberg, prince of corporate welfare


[ Parent ]
What one other thinks: (4.00 / 2)
A) A politician uses pretty young women to flack the press, because, among other things, this blunts investigation into the politician.
B) The pretty young woman flacks Matt.
C) Matt reacts to pretty young flack, blunting his investigation into the politician.
D) You react to Matt's reaction, further blunting the discussion of the politician.
E) I react to your reaction to Matt's reaction, doing my bit to hammer any edge off the now-dull discussion of the investigation into the politician.
.
.
.
.
Z) Another politician uses another pretty young woman to flack the press, having seen the evidence that this works pretty well.


[ Parent ]
I'll grant you good faith motivations (0.00 / 0)
but your execution was still lacking. How female beauty is used as a weapon is a bit too complicated of a subject to be covered in a snotty aside. That line made me wince. And your explanation is almost worse.

Look, I'm not mocking Straight's looks, I'm mocking the fact that press flacks are judged by their looks.  While you might not like what I wrote, the use of beauty to exert power is real and it rarely receives scrutiny.  

Yes, you are mocking her looks. You posit a world in which her primary value is her looks and then note that they are slipping. I don't think for a second that you have any idea what a powerful and threatening thing that is to say about a woman. But I wish you did. I'll give you an "E" for effort on feminist awareness, but you've got a long way to go, baby.

None of this changes the fact that these people were assholes to you and I'm happy you shared your irritation.


[ Parent ]
its the end of the internet! (0.00 / 0)


Michael Bloomberg, prince of corporate welfare

[ Parent ]
Typo "s" ? (0.00 / 0)
At first I balked at Matt's statement too. But then I saw that he was talking about the pissed-off look beginning to form on her face.

I feel the statement would have been totally fine if instead of "looks", he would have written simply "look" - clearly indicating her demeanor and not her general appearance. It seems clear to me that's what he meant. It just wasn't very clear from how he stated it.


[ Parent ]
id like to read it that way (0.00 / 0)
but the use of 'pert' and 'high school girl' are other forms of sexual debasement in the piece.

Michael Bloomberg, prince of corporate welfare

[ Parent ]
ouch (0.00 / 0)
'Well when you get laid off, I hope you get to take advantage of some of that worker training you don't report on.'  As I said, I was really angry.

Ha ha.  That is a brilliant burn.  That the TV guy was so hurt as to not give you his name tells you it hit the mark.


The backstory there (4.00 / 1)
Is that one of Essex Porter's colleagues, Robert Mak, left a job as a political reporter with KING/5 news to become Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels' communications director. A few other Seattle area reporters had already jumped ship like that and I'm sure Matt's comment rattled Porter, who works for KIRO/7, to the bone.

As it should have.


[ Parent ]
The revolution continues (0.00 / 0)
What is going on here is these little $60K/year salary reporters don't really appreciate having to compete with freelance journalists who started a website on their own. They don't want to lose their health care or their shitty little salaries and don't really like being undercut by many bloggers who do what they do for little pay or for free.

those sympathetic to unionization and such will see the conflict inherit in the whole leftists blog uprising with 'journalism' labor.

those who think lazy labor unions (two-bit tv journalist and automotive unions fall into this camp) which don't take responsibility for improving their industry or holding their corporate masters to account, reap what they sow and can cry all the way to china. I'm in this second group.

Fantastic story. Yeah, I bet they didn't like the layoff comment. they'll like it even less in 9 months.

Michael Bloomberg, prince of corporate welfare


Wow finally someone posted something here that offends me. (0.00 / 0)
I'm usually the only one not offended by things! But "shitty little salaries" doesn't sound to good, especially when you are talking about salaries that are high by most standards.

All in good humor though.


[ Parent ]
Lets face it .. (0.00 / 0)
some reporters enjoy their work ... but some .. like the ones Matt talked to .. are pissed because they aren't Charles Gibson or Tim Russert

[ Parent ]
you think? (4.00 / 1)
interesting. that could be too. my impression, based on encounters with similar such reporters: small tv, tabloid papers, etc, is that they've developed a sense of entitlement through the access privileges that are generally extended to media. they get in a huff when that wall is easily transgressed by those they would like to say are not "pool".

"Pool Only!"

its hilarious how quickly people will form little country clubs for themselves.

Michael Bloomberg, prince of corporate welfare


[ Parent ]
this is it?! (0.00 / 0)
wow - we'll have to go dig up some of the older stuff, this was pretty mild. what about attacking auto labor unions? that seemed to miss you completely. If anything I expected outrage for that.

the shitty little salaries comment was intended to highlight these reporters' over developed sense of self importance rather than debase them via their economic standing. in Seattle $60K is going to be a middle to middle-small salary. Remember, Seattle is home to Microsoft and numerous other software companies which live off the MS industry. As Michael Bloomberg would say, Seattle's expensive.

Michael Bloomberg, prince of corporate welfare


[ Parent ]
Well I probably only read like 1% of the comments on here (4.00 / 1)


[ Parent ]
with good reason! (0.00 / 0)
;)

Michael Bloomberg, prince of corporate welfare

[ Parent ]
The sad irony is (4.00 / 1)
Most of the reporters at the Seattle Times DO understand and are sympathetic to unionization, having gone through an extremely bitter and hard-fought strike against their employer in 2000-01.

But it's clear that they've wandered into a cul-de-sac. Their newspapers are dying and their allies in the community that could help bolster their unions are us folks in the blogs. Instead of welcoming us as allies they insist on seeing us as enemies, which is just going to hasten their demise.

That's the sad story of Seattle politics though. The establishment has spent so much time protecting its own cozy relationships that it has lost touch with the people and failed to offer a truly progressive solution. Washington has been lulled into complacency by 24 years of Democratic governors, to the point where there is no strong progressive movement that can push back against that establishment - whether it's the Times or their own failed legislative leaders.


[ Parent ]
When I say gonzo... (4.00 / 2)
This is what I'm talking about, even more than ranting. It's the combination of the unabashed Stoller Attitude(tm) and actually getting out there into the nooks and crannies of power. Excellent stuff. Ask for money every time you post one of these.

Me | My Work | Future Majority

It's easy to play "20-20 hindsight".... (4.00 / 1)
....but I would have focused a lot earlier on the "I just want Mr. Rossi's side of the story" line.  But then they got you angry, and that's not always when you'll be at your best.

Remember that your anger is an easy weapon you use against you, Matt.  Don't let them do so.

That said, these pitiful representatives of Seattle media are shameful.  No wonder The Stranger wasn't there - Dan Savage would have chewed them up and spat them out.  Josh Feit (no longer there) would have been more diplomatic and just as effective.


its also good (0.00 / 0)
to dress up in the same doofy kaki or fleece 'traditional' journalists are so fond of.

don't look like a hippie just to make a point.

Michael Bloomberg, prince of corporate welfare


[ Parent ]
Heh (0.00 / 0)
That dude on the right in the fleece and Seahawks hat looks like a typical Seattleite. No wonder I'm having such a hard time figuring out his name.

[ Parent ]
Apparently (0.00 / 0)
Josh Feit and David Goldstein DID try to attend a Rossi press conference and got the same heave-ho. Not sure if it was the same one, though it sure sounds like it.

The Stranger is too busy slogging and talking down Darcy Burner's prospects to do the kind of hard hitting journalism they once did. I think Josh got out at the right time.


[ Parent ]
I love how the reporters wouldn't tell you .. (0.00 / 0)
who they were ... especially after you started taking pictures .. I mean .. did they not think they'd get identified somehow .. by someone .. heck .. I bet some of the union people you met probably knew who they were .. or had an idea .. it's too bad your anger got the better of you Matt .. but it was sweet nonetheless .. telling those asshats off

Quick tip (0.00 / 0)
You can read a transcript of the deposition here:

http://seattletimes.nwsource.c...

I'm a few pages in...what a joke.  Rossi "complied" with the subpoena by typing "BIAW" into his Outlook once and now he claims he doesn't possess any relevant documents.

Republicans!  Such respect for our judicial system.


Good Gonzo... (4.00 / 1)
Well, perhaps not the Hunter Thompson experience - but you do a great job of bringing the reader into "the moment."  This story works at two levels.  On the pure journalistic level, i think there's some merit to the criticism that many of the comments were personalized, petty, not objective, and unnecessary.  But this ignores the literary aspect of it all - part of what comes through in the piece is the anger and frustration that Matt encounters as he tries to "do good" for the world.  It's the expression of this very anger and bitterness that let's the reader (or me at least) understand what really was going on there.  So while it may not be in strictly good taste, and it does belie some underlying sexism, etc., i think the sarcasm and pettiness actually lend to the authenticity of the article and the feeling of powerlessness that we all feel when confronted by these rigged setups.

Matt, i know that is a backhanded compliment, but i think this is one of your best pieces in a long time because it's real, honest, and revealing.  The pictures are the perfect addition.

And i agree with others - these are the kind of articles that should accompany a plea for $s ;-)

Dan


Wow (4.00 / 1)
The unnecessary attack on this woman's physical appearance completely lost me. That's just a terrible thing to say, an awful comment.

Ugh.

I don't even know where to go from that.

Time for a little self-reflection, dude.


I loved the comments about the Blonde Mean Girl PR person (4.00 / 1)
losing her looks and I'm a 52-year-old feminist chick who has lost any youthful good looks I once possessed, not to mention most of my blonde-ness although I now swear by my quarterly peroxide highlights. I especially liked the picture of her whirling out of the room in a huff,hair swinging. And I loved the portrayal of the cowed, stenographic newspaper reporters---and I'm a former mainstream, corporate newspaper reporter to boot. So I think the whole piece was great.

Who are these readers who are fretting over Matt's "angry" tone and "negative" comments? I mean, Geez, people, this is why progressives were on the ropes for so many years. We were afraid to get angry. Afraid to sound "negative."  So instead we liberals wrote these whiny, pleading pieces. God, it was tiresome, not to mention ineffective.

So, go Matt go! I'll take Stoller's anger over the lame blandness of those sad mainstream journalists, hanging out in the Republican law firm, waiting for their daily feeding.


The tone isn't so much angry... (0.00 / 1)
...as immature. I'm sorry, but this whole post has a childish ring to it.

Try to imagine someone like Digby posting something like this. Wouldn't happen.

Yet she manages to be negative and tough. Not "bland." Not "lame."

If you want to be treated like a professional, act like a professional.

I'm sure no one in that room feels badly about how Matt was treated after reading what he's written here. And that wasn't inevitable. A good, thoughtful post could have accomplished something.

Instead, in my opinion, at least, he reaffirmed these people's negative feelings about bloggers. I don't see that as a victory in any sense of the word.



[ Parent ]
FW(L)IW... (0.00 / 0)
Rossi's press flack is Jill Strait, no "gh".  

No wonder the reporters don't consider Matt a journalist ... he can't get his facts strait, uh straight.

:-)

PS.  I refer only to Dino's shill's name; I have no information on her sexual orientation.


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