The most recent battles between the locally controlled Seattle Times and Hearst Corp., owner of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, over their joint operating agreement (JOA) have been waged in court. Last week, however, the Times went to PR battle stations, running an ad in its own pages, signed by publisher Frank Blethen and others of the Blethen clan, claiming that Hearst is trying to tie up the Times in court and bleed it financially so Hearst can acquire the financially smaller Times and control Seattle's newspaper market. A portion of a Hearst lawsuit against the Seattle Times Co., which last year sought to close the P-I, is possibly headed to the state Supreme Court. The ad and a letter to readers claim this is a fight to keep independent journalism in Seattle. Hearst has a different view, of course. Paul Luthringer, a spokesperson for the New York–based behemoth, notes that a 1985 Times memo, obtained through the lawsuit, shows that the Times hoped one day to close the P-I as long as 19 years ago. Times spokesperson Kerry Coughlin says the Times remains willing to renegotiate the JOA but that "Hearst is refusing to come to the table." The Times says it has lost millions from 2000 to 2003, and the company estimates it will lose money again this year. Meantime, to raise cash—so as not to have to cut news staff, the paper claims—the Times just sold 5 adjacent acres of mostly parking lots in the South Lake Union neighborhood to Paul Allen's Vulcan holding company, for $31 million. The inescapable, and perhaps uncomfortable, irony is that the Vulcan money presumably will help fund Times news coverage of neighborhood bigfoot Allen, Vulcan, and the city's big development plans for South Lake Union. PHILIP DAWDY

Bill Bailey and Steve Fury's ad amounted to $4,500 worth of "free" speech. On Monday, June 14, the two personal-injury lawyers bought space in The Seattle Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer defending Attorney General and leading gubernatorial candidate Christine Gregoire. Bailey and Fury accused the Times of coverage that "is distorted, overblown, and unfair" in stories about the AG office's failure to appeal in time a record $17.9 million verdict against the state. In an interview, the two attorneys did not back up their claim with any substantial criticism of the paper's journalism. To my eye, the stories were terrific reporting and the lawyers are just a couple of hacked-off readers with resources to self-publish a letter to the editor. Kudos to the Times for having an advertising policy that allows them to voice their mistaken opinions. GEORGE HOWLAND JR.


The famous always die in threes, as they did last week: Ronald Reagan, Ray Charles, and, of course, Thomas Kelley, 76. Reagan was merely president and Charles just a genius. Red Kelley? A little of both. As politician and music man—his last outpost was Kelley's jazz club in Tacoma—he played with legendary performers and ran laughingly for public office. His bassist gigs included sessions with Frank Sinatra, Sonny and Cher, and Elvis. ("The most boring two weeks of my life," he once recalled, preferring to dwell on the memory of smoking grass with Louis Armstrong.) Kelley ran for mayor of Tacoma a few years ago, tweaking serious political noses by listing Capt. Joseph Hazelwood of the Exxon Valdez oil spill as head of his steering committee. In a 1976 run for governor as head of the fun-loving Owl Party, he proposed renaming Olympia as the town of Ept, so he could say the Legislature was "in Ept." Kelly got only 8 percent of the vote but all the laughs. And if you're a politician without a portfolio but with a sense of humor, remember his secretary of state candidate, Fast Lucy Griswold, got 40,000 votes by opposing postnasal drip and the heartbreak of psoriasis. RICK ANDERSON

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