The Newspaper War

Also: an anti-fluoridationist, a sex-discimination suit, and an immigrant-president.


After the 2000–01 strike, news staffers of The Seattle Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, normally fierce competitors, were holding hands and singing "Kumbaya," having spent weeks together on the picket line and in a joint newsroom where they published a strike newspaper and Web site. Five years, one lawsuit, and billions of Google Adwords later, the world is different. The two staffs can't agree on how the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild should respond to litigation initiated by P-I owner Hearst against the Seattle Times Co. over the papers' joint operating agreement—or if the union should interfere. On Saturday, May 6, members voted along employer lines to withdraw financial support from the Committee for a Two Newspaper Town, an intervener in Hearst's lawsuit that has been actively opposing a Times bid to close the P-I on grounds of financial hardship. Times employees, who outnumber P-I guild members and forced the issue, figure closure of one newspaper is inevitable, and they want the likely survivor, the locally controlled Times, to stay out of deep-pocketed Hearst's hands. Meanwhile, new circulation figures show neither printed paper to be a robust survivor in the Web age. In the six months ending March 31, Times weekday circulation dropped 5.4 percent from the same period a year ago to 220,734. P-I circulation took an even bigger hit—down 9 percent to 131,769. The so-called joint Sunday edition was down 4.7 percent to 435,581. Caveats: a newsstand price increase and a cut in some far-flung circulation. CHUCK TAYLOR


Tall, rosy-cheeked, and freshly retired from a professorial post at St. Lawrence University, solid-waste-management expert and rabid antifluoridationist Paul Connett stood before a small crowd in Laurelhurst Monday, May 8, and launched into a screed that made the fringe debate surrounding fluoridation of water seem as grave as that over abortion or gun control. "Swallowing fluoride makes as much sense as swallowing sun block to prevent the skin from the sun's rays," fumed Connett. His central argument: While fluoride might be an effective topical tooth-decay combatant, if ingested by way of greater-than-average tap water consumption, it can take on the qualities of a potentially hazardous toxin that can lead to osteoporosis or brain damage. Nonsense, says the mainstream medical community. Dr. Larry Mast, a pediatric dentist from Bellevue, points to the American Medical Association's endorsement of fluoridated water to rebuff Connett's argument that the debate is too tooth-centric. "I have patients who live in fluoridated areas and some in nonfluoridated areas, and I see a drastic difference. It's one of the most efficient ways we can prevent dental disease." MIKE SEELY


Bonnie Sandahl, ex–executive director of Seattle Children's Home–the financially troubled agency for socially troubled kids–is suing her former employer for sex discrimination. Sandahl, 64, claims she got a raw deal compared to her predecessor, David Cousineau, the ex-priest who left the Queen Anne Hill agency with a $2 million deficit in 2003. Sandahl says she turned losses into a $100,000 surplus in 22 months but received no severance, while Cousineau received a "substantial" golden handshake. The home denies her claim, filed in King County Superior Court, and says that Cousineau was contractually director and president of the home while Sandahl held only the title of director and had no employment contract. Cousineau is facing lawsuits in Los Angeles, meanwhile, for renewed allegations of molestation of Catholic Church youths in the 1970s, when he served as a priest in Southern California. (See "His Past Life," March 31, 2004.) SCH said it was unaware of similar allegations when Cousineau was hired in the 1990s. RICK ANDERSON


Mexico's president, Vincente Fox, will visit Washington March 24–25, only weeks after the president of the People's Republic of China screwed up traffic downtown. Fox's itinerary isn't mapped out yet, although it's likely to include the obligatory pilgrimage to Microsoft and Boeing and is focused on improving business relationships between our state and his. Maybe it should also include a sampling of the local marijuana product, too, after his recent retreat on loosening drug laws in Mexico. PHILIP DAWDY

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