The Seattle Times' profile of Yasmin Christopher raises awareness about the evils of Human Trafficking in King County
As I have noted in all of my previous posts, The Seattle Times does not allocate resources for national stories. This, as I have said before, is a good thing since the newspaper does not have the resources to compete with AP or The New York Times on stories of national importance. Of course there are situations in which national stories, like the problems with the Boeing 787's battery, are focused in the Seattle area. In these rare situations The Times does take the lead on national stories.
Photo by Ken Lambert/The Seattle Times
Thankfully, this week my assignment is to critique a profile on The Times' website, and I am finally able to focus on regional news, which the paper covers very well.

The profile that was receiving the most hits on The Times' site was on Yasmin Christopher, a woman who was brought to this country, along with six other relatives, to work on her father's farm near the town of Oakville.

Christopher's father was abusive. He openly beat the adults and molested the children. He used the family as slave labor. He was also not the "typical" profile of a human trafficker, as he was a concert violinist and held a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Washington.

The Times was quick to point out that human trafficking is a crime that often goes unreported, but is increasingly prevalent and has strong ties to the King County area. Human traffickers favor the area due to its busy ports and proximity to Canada.

This profile is especially effective because it puts a face to a major issue that we have all heard about, but perhaps not paid attention to. For many of us, our knowledge of the international crime comes from the mini-series starring Mina Sorvino and Donald Sutherland. But this continues to be an ongoing problem around the world.

Even though the story does not seem incredibly timely, the author attaches it to the campaign to raise awareness on the issue around the king county area launched earlier this year, it remains enthralling to the last word. What makes the article most effective is it is able to paint victims of the crime as people rather than statistics, while still reporting on the issue.

This is what I hope to accomplish with my profile for the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service later this semester. I will be profiling a woman who has done great work helping to economically rehabilitate a historically poor neighborhood in Milwaukee. Hopefully I will be able to focus light on the issues facing the ongoing work in the area through telling the story of a person, like The Times has done so effectively here.

The Seattle Times' lead story on the big game came from an AP reporter
One thing that I have repeatedly been able to say about The Seattle Times in this blog is that they are really good at picking up stories off the AP wire. That isn't a bad thing either. As a regional newspaper they shouldn't be wasting money, and more importantly valuable reporters on a story that is of no intrinsic value to Seattle.

I keep saying this because it is true. We live in an era of shrinking budgets and smaller staffs. It is the responsibility of a newspaper to use its budget and manpower in the most effective way possible. Covering a game far away that involves no teams from the Pacific North West in not an effective way to do that.

In fact, the focus The Times has on regional stories is evocative of a paradigm shift going on throughout the industry right now. Former major players in national news like the Dallas Morning News and the Boston Globe are now focusing their content regionally in an effort to control a piece of the market where there is little competition. Even the mighty Washington Post is moving in this direction under the guidance of new editor Martin Baron, who previously ran the Boston Globe.

Now obviously everyone would like to see original content from the Times on the game, but it makes no business sense to provide it when you can get excellent coverage from the AP wire. The newspaper's resources are put to much better use covering the grounding of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Unlike the Superbowl, this story has major implications for the Seattle area as the commercial division of the aerospace giant is based in Renton, Wa. That coverage, by the way, has been excellent so far.

Ultimately, its going to be tough to analyze The Times' coverage of national news events because they won't – and shouldn't – cover them with their own reporters. They do a fine job of picking the right stories to fill space and leading with news relevant to the Seattle area. Props should be given to Barry Wilner and Howard Fendrich though. They wrote the AP pieces that The Times was picking up and the stories were good. Once again, this just isn't The Times' thing.

Now without further ado, here is "Leon Sandcastle."