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Media Meltdowns

‘Seattle Times’ Fires Kraken Beat Reporter And Her Former Colleagues Want To Know Why

A Seattle Kraken flag flies atop the Space Needle
Abbie Parr/Getty Images

This morning, the Seattle Times posted a job listing for a beat writer to cover the NHL’s Seattle Kraken. But the curious thing was that the paper had just filled that position in July of 2021 with writer Marisa Ingemi. The tweet today from sports editor Paul Barrett listing the job was flooded with quote tweets, replies, and fury. “What happened to Marisa Ingemi?” people asked. “Is this to replace @Marisa_Ingemi? Any word on what happened? Wouldn’t want anyone to walk into that job not knowing the situation with a previous sports reporter,” Arif Hasan, a reporter for the Athletic, responded.

These are questions that members of the Times newsroom have been asking themselves as well. Ingemi was fired on Jan. 28. Multiple Times sources told Defector that an email went out newsroom supervisors that day, saying that Ingemi was leaving the paper. The details about Ingemi’s departure, however, were kept vague. Reporters were relayed this information, if they given any information at all, by their supervisors. One said they assumed Ingemi left for a better job. Another said she didn’t know Ingemi had left until she later learned about a petition being signed by newsroom staffers regarding what had happened.

Ingemi confirmed her departure on Twitter this afternoon.

Ingemi, several staffers at the Times told Defector, was well liked by colleagues in the newsroom. Based on reader response to Barrett’s tweet, it’s safe to assume that readers liked her work too. Newsroom staffers at the Times confirmed that her stories did good traffic.

The firing came as a surprise to Ingemi, the newsroom, and the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild, which represents reporters. Ingemi, who had been hired less than six months ago, told Defector she was “shocked.” Ingemi was fired after she had been approved to book travel in February for covering the team. It also leaves the paper’s sports desk with only one other woman writer on staff.

“I just want people to know that I was not warned about this and I didn’t do anything wrong,” Ingemi said. “If there was legitimately a problem, I wish they would have told me that. I would have taken it very seriously and my track record shows that. To this very moment, I do not know what I did to cause being fired.”

Ingemi later added: “I loved my job and every single day I was the happiest person in the world getting to cover the Kraken. And every day I miss it deeply.”

Her former colleagues were also stunned. A petition signed by 70 members of the newsroom was sent to Times president and chief financial officer Alan Fisco, executive editor Michele Matassa Flores, director of human resources and labor relations Martin Hammond, and Ingemi’s direct editor, sports editor Paul Barrett.

The petition, which was emailed on Jan. 31 and obtained by Defector reads:

We, the undersigned union members of The Seattle Times, are concerned about the termination of Marisa Ingemi, hockey writer for The Seattle Times, on Jan. 28.

Ingemi moved across the country to cover hockey for The Seattle Times in August, signing a yearlong lease and draining her savings. She’d already covered hockey nationally, writing for The New York Times and NBC, but wanted to cover a new team and work a beat.

On Friday, in the middle of the NHL season, Ingemi’s editor called her for what she thought was a weekly check-in. She was told, however, by her editor and managing editor Lynn Jacobson, that she was being fired, claiming issues with her writing. She was given no notice.

Ingemi has covered a tough beat well, garnering kudos from her co-workers and her editor, as well as building a community of hockey fans eager to read her dedicated coverage of the new beat. She was scheduled to cover games on Monday, and had eight flights and six hotels booked in the U.S. and Canada in the next month

Ingemi had two weeks until the end of her six-month probationary period as defined in Article 5 of the Seattle Times contract with the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild. During that probationary period, employees can be fired without notice and are not eligible to file a grievance.

It is concerning, however, that the company would fire a talented employee apparently without warning. This move will erode the community trust Ingemi has worked to develop on a new beat, and we fear it will discourage other talented writers from moving to Washington to take jobs at The Seattle Times. We also fear it will further alienate women writers, who already face pay inequities compared with their male counterparts.

We call on the Seattle Times company to restore Ingemi to her position, and to apologize to her and the newsroom for firing her. We also call on the company to review its disciplinary practices to ensure that it is appropriately applying just cause standards, and offering its employees the opportunity to have a Guild representative present during disciplinary proceedings.

According to members of the newsroom, the Times has not made any response to the petition in the nine days since it was sent.

Defector reached out to managing editor Lynn Jacobson and sports editor Paul Barrett for comment, but neither responded before publication. This post will be updated if they respond with meaningful comment.

Many members of the Times newsroom expressed fear, concern, and frustration to Defector about what kind of precedent this decision sets. Most Times reporters are represented by the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild. The union contract has clear specifications for the process of firing someone, but it also has a clause that allowed the paper to fire Ingemi without notice.

“It’s a pretty ugly situation,” Katie Gillespie of the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild told Defector. “Marisa was fired on a Friday afternoon about two weeks before her probationary period was set to end. […] In that probationary period you basically operate as an at-will employee.”

Gillespie said she can’t remember any reporter being fired during this period during her tenure. Other Times reporters with start dates reaching back a decade could only remember the clause being used to fire one other employee (who got in a verbal altercation in the newsroom) and that person was fired much earlier than the six month mark. Former employees of the Times also confirmed that they cannot remember anyone being fired for their level of writing ability in the past decade. Several reporters told me one thing they liked about the Times was how it felt like an encouraging place to learn and grow.

Under normal circumstances, Gillespie said, the union would have filed a grievance. In this case, since it was before the six month mark, the union filed a request for information to the management of the Times asking for Ingemi’s disciplinary record, any sort of severance she might have gotten, and any commentary on her work or performance. According to Gillespie, the Times denied that request.

What is also strange about Ingemi’s firing is that the paper had recently approved her traveling to report on the team. Defector confirmed that she had scheduled and booked reporting trips planned for Feb. 10 through Feb. 12 and Feb. 16 through Feb. 20.

One signature that several reporters pointed out was notably missing from the petition was that of Ingemi’s beat partner, Geoff Baker, who also covers the Kraken. Baker also did not respond to Defector’s request for comment in time for publication. Now that Ingemi has been fired, only one woman writer remains on the Times‘ sports desk. Several employees told Defector that they’re sad to lose Ingemi because of her stories, and also because she brought a fresh perspective to the section.

“They moved me across the country,” Ingemi said, “and I don’t understand what I did to make them upend my life like this.”

Correction (7:56 p.m. ET): This article has been updated to reflect that there are two women on the Times’ sports desk, one writer and one editor.