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Wednesday, February 17, 1999 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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When Did I Become What's Wrong With Seattle Media?

Special To The Times

QUICK, be the first to congratulate me!

I've just joined the largest club in town: People whom Michelle Malkin has misquoted, misjudged and misrepresented.

What's really wrong with Malkin's Feb. 9 column in which she claims to blow the lid off my scandalous TV program, "City Desk"?

Nothing, unless truth, accuracy and journalistic integrity mean anything to you.

Malkin alleges that it's my "policy" to give politicians veto power over the journalists who question them.

Dead wrong!

On ONE occasion, with ONE newsmaker guest did we EVER even discuss which journalists might appear with that guest - in advance. As a courtesy to our guests - whom we love dearly and thank profusely - we routinely tell them, or their representatives, which journalists will appear with them. That's not a conspiracy, it's a common courtesy. Would you invite someone to your home for dinner and NOT tell them who else will be there?

In trying to accommodate Gov. Gary Locke, we supplied his staff with the master list of journalists (20+) we regularly invite from The Times and P-I. We asked them to give us a short list of people with whom the governor would like to appear. At no time did any politician EVER say, "I won't appear with Michelle Malkin." And, not one time did I ever "bump" or "blackball" Malkin at anyone's request.

Absurd!

Just the opposite. I BEGGED Malkin many times to come on the show. But our tape time (Thursdays, 8-9 p.m. at KING-TV) conflicted

with her cable-access show. I went to great lengths to accommodate Malkin, far beyond what we have done for any other guest.

Most shocking is that Malkin has such a low opinion of her colleagues at The Times. How else can you interpret her assertion that the "journalistic integrity" of "City Desk" is nil, and frets that without her, no one on the panel will ask the really hardball questions of the politicos?

Gee, I wonder if (Times journalists) Mindy Cameron, Casey Corr, Joni Balter, Barb Serrano, Robert Nelson and David Postman - regulars all - see themselves so impotently? And how would (Times publisher) Frank Blethen feel about Malkin's assessment of her colleagues? I'll ask him myself. He'll be on "City Desk" March 7.

Of course, it's just a guess, but Malkin's column came exactly seven days after we had to cancel her for last week's show, featuring - aha! - Seattle Mayor Paul Schell. Trouble was, the mayor was never booked officially; that was one of three shows on which he was tentatively scheduled to appear. And besides, we canceled everyone that week. KONG-TV has just begun airing a 10 p.m. newscast. Consequently, the KING-TV studio was not available to us at our normal time. We didn't do a show!

Another sign of Malkin's delusion is her making me the focus of a column declaring, "What's really wrong with Seattle TV media."

Excuse me? Did I miss a couple of hundred promotions or something? When did I become the "Seattle TV media?" And by what possible stretch of the imagination would I be considered "what's really wrong" with it?

Appearing on my first 12 shows: U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, former U.S. Rep. Linda Smith, Mayor Schell, Gov. Locke, King County Executive Ron Sims, Attorney General Christine Gregoire, Seattle Schools Superintendent Joseph Olchefske, U.S. Reps. Jim McDermott, Adam Smith and Jay Inslee, and every current member of the King County Council and Seattle City Council.

I've included every top political reporter, columnist and editorial writer from The Times and P-I. I've done specials on Boeing, the Microsoft trial, the stock market and the Super Bowl. I've done three features on local TV, and included Seattle's top TV news directors and critics. And, we've added valuable insight from our regular panel of lawyers, political analysts, consultants and my all-time favorite guest: David Horsey, the brilliant P-I editorial cartoonist.

Does that sound like "what's really wrong with Seattle TV media"?

Malkin never called me to source her story. I would have been pleased to let her know her premise was wrong. My evidence? Last week, I called Malkin to come on this week's show with Gregoire. Malkin declined, even though she had just written a column extremely critical of the attorney general.

Malkin's history indicates she's a TV wannabe. In her mind, there's something wrong with a world that rejects her as a TV personality. That's a world the rest of us are fortunate to live in.

Michael Tuckman is managing editor and executive producer of "City Desk," which airs Sundays at 1 p.m. on KONG-TV.

Copyright (c) 1999 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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