When I think of great daily columnists and television commentators in the Western U.S., I don't usually think of anyone in Seattle, much less anyone on TV. Among the greats on the Left Coast are Rob Morse at The San Francisco Chronicle and Steve Duin at The Oregonian, both of whom strip the flesh from wicked folks and pompous politicians the way kids go after hamburgers at a barbecue—straight-up old-school journalism. And local television commentary has largely gone the way of Commodore computers.
But Seattle? This is the land of mellow, nicey-nice columnists like The Seattle Times' Nicole Brodeur. You can hold out hope for the P-I's Robert Jamieson, but he doesn't use the Louisville Slugger on Seattle's wrongdoers often enough.
And then there's KEN SCHRAM, who in his one-minute, 15-second commentaries on KOMO-TV obliterates all the opiners at the dailies—and comes on like an angry middle-aged man with a cutlass. What's more, as opposed to the overly tanned, suburban-smelling reporters on local television, Schram is a throwback to the 1960s and 1970s (he started at KOMO in 1977), when TV people were real journalists and no one gave a damn what they looked like. Schram, who paradoxically lives on the Eastside, has a pocked face and a beard. "I have the face made for radio," he says.
Schram's delivery is intense and in your face, a result of his Bronx upbringing. He has a cup of coffee in hand—never a latte, always drip taken black—and he looks so pissed off that you have to pay attention to him. In fact, he's so intense and his prose is so direct and passionate that he's right even when he's wrong. Schram's favorite bugbears are the state's Department of Social and Health Services and Tim Eyman, but, hell, that's just the beginning. He loathes Gov. Gary Locke and people who whine about police officers. Most prominently, over the last few months, he's cuffed the city of Bothell and the Bothellites who tried to prevent Tent City 4 from setting up at a local church and who, after the fact, tried to screw with the homeless in the camp in every way possible. (One example: background checks run on camp residents. Schram's commentary: Does the city do background checks on new homeowners in Bothell?)
"Why try to dance around the truth?" says Schram, who grew up admiring columnists Mike Royko and Jimmy Breslin. It's a pity that there are not more columnists in town who swing away the way Schram does. It would be a more entertaining—and honest—city if there were.
Ken Schram's Picks
Best Unsung Heroes: "Street cops and social workers."
Best Thing about Tim Eyman: "There isn't any."
Best Thing About Gov. Gary Locke: "That he's not running for office."
Best Thing About Having the Bully Pulpit: "Lifting up the rock and seeing what's underneath. . . . "
SEATTLE WEEKLY'S BEST OF SEATTLE 2004 INDEX