SEATTLE MEDIA JOIN PITCH FOR NEW MARINER BALLPARK

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Seattle media have been taking some heat for donating more than $104,000 in ad space and time to support a new $240 million baseball park for the Mariners.

The city's daily newspapers-The Seattle Times, along with the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which the Times manages in a joint operating agreement-were the biggest media contributor, with a total of $40,000 in space donated to the pro-park Home Town Fans.

Several radio stations and a weekly business journal also donated ad time and space.

The moment of truth came last week when King County residents voted on raising the sales tax to fund the new facility. At press time, pro-park forces held a razor-thin lead in the voting.

Baseball fever is at an all-time high in Seattle, with the Mariners in contention to win a pennant. The team in the past has threatened to leave Seattle unless it got a new park.

Chris Van Dyk, campaign coordinator at the anti-park Citizens for More Important Things, said after the voting that the ads played into his hands by painting the pro-ballpark forces as unscrupulous.

Though contributions by media companies to political issues aren't unprecedented, the actions by the Times and local radio stations have gained particular attention since the media outlets appear to be acting in their own financial best interests.

KJR-AM, which contributed $20,000 in ad time, is an all-sports station, and KIRO-AM, which kicked in a like amount, broadcasts Mariners games. Baseball is a key area of coverage for both papers, and the Mariners are a potential advertiser for all these outlets.

Media consultant Joe Slade White created the pro-ballpark advertising.

Times Publisher Frank Blethen equated the donated space to the many other contributions his paper provides to various community groups. "Do our donations to the United Way compromise our coverage of social services?" he asked.

"Last time I looked, United Way wasn't on the ballot," Mr. Van Dyk said before the voting. Although he believed the dailies' reporting on the ballot issue had been "OK," Mr. Van Dyk said their corporate support compromised the papers' editorial integrity.

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