Seattle Weekly's Liysa Northon, Ann Rule Story Lacks Huge Disclosure
The Regret the Error blog flagged a disclosure on Monday that surely must put the author of a Seattle newspaper piece into the Conflict Of Interest Hall Of Fame.
The alternative Seattle Weekly ran a lengthy cover story last week about local bestselling true crime author Ann Rule. Specifically, the article focused on a book Rule wrote about Liysa Northon, a woman accused of killing her husband. The author of the Weekly piece, Rick Swart, charged that Rule had been irresponsible in her book, and had improperly tarred Northon as a killer despite a preponderance of evidence to the contrary. The story seemed like a damning, if fairly standard, investigative piece.
Fast-forward to Friday, though, and a rather unbelievable editor's note was attached to the piece.
"What Swart failed to reveal to us is that he's now engaged to Liysa," editor Caleb Hannan wrote, thus disclosing a fact that puts Swart in a, shall we say, slightly compromised position.
Hannan then explained how the paper had come to find this troubling fact out. Apparently, his suspicions were raised when Rule responded to the piece on her website.
"There is a back story concerning the article's author that I cannot reveal at the moment-it will knock your socks off when my lawyer allows me to tell you about it," Rule wrote. Hannan then contacted Swart, who said that Rule was probably referring to the fact that he is "in love" with Northon. Then, Northon posted a picture of herself and Swart on her website, calling him her fiance.
When asked to explain himself, Swart wrote:
"It's a freelance piece first of all. I'm selling you a product. So it's not like you're my boss and you need to know my personal life. My background is in community newspapers where we write about people we know, people we have relationships with, all the time."
Hannan, in an understatement, wrote that this was "not a satisfactory response."
For her part, Rule declared victory on her website, and then accused Northon of planning a marriage with another man, even while she is engaged to Swart.