About that Spokesman Editorial

The owners of our daily paper care more about their own tax rates than they care about our lives -- and they're using their reporters as human shields. Let's fight back.

UPDATE | The Spokesman announced late Oct. 27 that it will no longer endorse political candidates and no longer run unsigned editorials. From now on, whenever the publisher wants to enter the discourse, he’ll need to put his name on it and own his position like the rest of us. I consider that a win. Original story follows:


Hey, it’s Luke.

Writing this hopelessly late on a Sunday night (okay, Monday morning) after 16-hours spent with my gut in knots over today’s Spokesman editorial. Yeah, that one:

In the interest of harm reduction, if you’ve somehow missed the controversy so far, spare yourself the agony by referring to my 42-word summation:

(Links in case you want to share on Twitter & Facebook)

Now, if you’re as pissed as I am, don’t need any additional prodding, and just want to skip to some concrete action steps, here they are:

Use your aggressive feelings

Write a damn letter

  • Kind of playing on their home turf but send a letter to the editor.

  • While you’re at it, copy staceyc@spokesmanreview.com and anyone else on the masthead.

Boycott the other Cowles entities:

  • KHQ, SWX and the FOX 28 news casts. Just stop watching

  • Don’t shop at River Park Square, or at the adjacent Nike store

  • Avoid anything owned by Centennial Real Estate Investments

  • Dig around their divisions and investments and see if you can add additional pressure.

Elevate the alternatives

  • Subscribe to The Black Lens to support the region’s only black-led news organization. If you already subscribe, give a gift subscription.

  • Donate to the Inlander for consistent, deep local reporting.

  • Become a member of RANGE on Patreon to support thoughtful interviews, incisive analysis, and to keep our ire pure and burning with the fire of 1000 suns.

  • And, of course, if you haven’t already, sign up for our newsletter:

    Subscribe now

Still mad, but also looking for background?

Okay, plug your nose: the editorial is the opinion of one man, Stacey Cowles, fourth-generation-scion of a family empire that encompasses several regional TV stations including Spokane’s KHQ, River Park Square mall and two news papers, the Spokesman-Review and the Journal of Business.

We’ve discussed Stacey’s detached, inhumane op-eds on the podcast before. But the Cowles clan doesn’t just own newspapers. They own the printing press. They own the paper mill. They own the forest the trees are harvested from.

They epitomize deep, entrenched wealth.

The family is used to turning other people’s economic crises into their profit. They literally built their empire on it.

William H. Cowles came to Spokane in 1890 and took ownership of the Spokesman and the Review during the panic of 1893, merging them. The family bought its paper company out of bankruptcy in the 1930s as well.

And now, during another generational crisis, they’re asking their fellow Spokanites — obviously including working people, people of color, LGBTQ folks and people with disabilities — to vote for a fear-mongering racist who has stalled a new stimulus package in a fit of ego just so the family can keep its tax burden low.

It seems unfathomable to make that ask of people, but then I have no idea how abstract the concerns of mere mortals look when viewed from an ivory (okay, red brick) tower.

I won’t waste time critiquing the column point by point.

If you want to read a brief, mournful, deeply humane reaction, check out former Spokesman writer and author Jess Walter’s pointed, emotional rebuttal. (Jess also happens to be a guest on this week’s podcast. Stay tuned for that.)

The Cowles’ have been obscenely wealthy almost as long as Spokane has been a city, and it shows. It shows in their disregard for the health of working people. It shows here in their disregard for the very real danger non-white people face under this president.

It shows in the way Stacey Cowles can sit in his gilded tower and rain down bile knowing that he is insulated from the material repercussions of advocating for Trump.

If people get mad enough to cancel their subscriptions to the Spokesman, Stacey and his family have TV, other media and vast real estate holdings to fall back on. Plus, he can always cut expenses by laying off staff. He has plenty of experience gutting a newsroom.

Spokanites who give a shit about solid, daily, shoe-leather reporting know that this is the catch-22 we all live under.

We have a pretty savvy community in Spokane, and in the age of social media I’ve witnessed probably a half-dozen organic revolts at bad editorials stop short of a full-blown economic boycott. The narrative is familiar: people want Stacey Cowles to feel their displeasure, but they know a boycott will hurt Chad Sokol and Emma Epperly and maybe even Shawn Vestal before the Cowles family would ever suffer themselves. And so they write a letter to the editor, but keep subscribing.

The backlash we witnessed on Sunday was both qualitatively and quantitatively different: the sheer number of people sharing and retweeting posts was staggering. So was the number of people claiming to have cancelled their subscription on the spot.

If you did, I don’t blame you. I almost cancelled my subscription myself.

The more I’ve thought, though, and talked with reporters (Spokesman and Inlander alike), the less good I feel about a direct economic boycott. It’s not fair to the reporters and it’s not good for our city.

It was gut-wrenching talking to folks today. Regardless of where they work, these reporters understand the harm Stacey did to public trust in the paper, and they feel helpless.

They also feel like targets.

Like hostages in a heist movie, they know they’re basically human shields. And so, again, I’m gonna leave this list here.

It’s not perfect. I’m not sure it’s adequate. I don’t know if it will work, but if you want Stacey and family to feel your anger without firing through reporters to do it, consider a few of these:

What is to be done?

Write a damn letter

  • Kind of playing on their home turf but send a letter to the editor

  • While you’re at it, copy staceyc@spokesmanreview.com and anyone else on the masthead.

Boycott the other Cowles entities:

  • KHQ, SWX and the FOX 28 news casts. Just stop watching

  • Don’t shop at River Park Square, or at the adjacent Nike Store

  • Avoid anything owned by Centennial Real Estate Investments

  • Their other holdings are niche, but dig around their divisions and investments.

Elevate the alternatives

  • Subscribe to The Black Lens to support the regions only black-led news organization. If you already subscribe, give a gift subscription.

  • Donate to the Inlander for consistent, deep local reporting.

  • Become a member of RANGE for thoughtful interviews, occasional reporting and to keep our ire pure and burning with the fire of 1000 suns.

  • And, of course, if you haven’t already, sign up for our newsletter:

    Subscribe now