ANALYSIS: Media Watch - Parting isn't really such sweet sorrow forBoeing

Boeing has been headquartered in Seattle for nearly 85 years. It is

the largest private sector employer in the state of Washington and is

widely thought of as the heart and soul of the city. So you can imagine

the shock when Boeing CEO Phil Condit held a press conference in

Washington, DC to announce the company was relocating to an as yet

unnamed 'culturally diverse city that offers ready access to global

markets, provides a strong pro-business environment and allows easy

access to major Boeing operations and customers' (USA Today, March


The ensuing coverage focused most frequently on the 'surprising' and

'shocking' nature of the announcement. The Denver Post (March 25) wrote,

'Imagine Las Vegas without The Strip, DC without the Capitol, New York

without Wall Street. That's how unbelievable it was.'

Contributing to the surprise was the fact that very few people knew of

the announcement in advance, according to reports. Stories said

employees, the community, and state and local politicians were all

surprised. Washington Governor Gary Locke told US News & World Report

(April 2), 'I was deeply stunned, surprised and saddened hearing


In trying to explain Boeing's decision, the media latched on to the

notion that Seattle and the state of Washington are not

business-friendly. A number of reports said Seattle has high taxes, a

high cost of living, traffic congestion, a remote location adding that

there are lengthy bureaucratic delays in making regulatory changes.

State Minority Leader Jim West (R) told The Seattle Times (March 22),

'This is very much like a canary in a mine shaft. It's an indication

that the business habitat in this state is poisoned.' The move was also

explained by the fact that Boeing has diversified beyond aircraft

manufacturing and become the world's largest aerospace company. Analysts

viewed the announcement as a symbolic move to help change the perception

of the company's expanded business lines.

Media coverage also noted that the source of Seattle's anguish was more

from the loss of prestige than from an economic loss. Of the nearly

80,000 employees in the area, only about 1,000 jobs will be transferred

when the headquarters is relocated in the late summer. The coverage

could not overstate how hurt the community felt. The Christian Science

Monitor (March 27) wrote, 'It was as if a sky full of B-52s had carpet

bombed this city's psyche.'

Locals reacted with a sense of betrayal, criticizing the company for

being too concerned with increasing shareholder value and overlooking

the interests of its workers. A local labor leader stated, 'They've

clearly demonstrated a lack of respect for the people who built this

company with their backs and brains over decades, generations' (The

Denver Post, March 25).

And there was also criticism as to how the announcement was handled.

The Seattle Times (March 22) quoted a union leader's statement that it

was 'disrespectful' for Boeing not to talk with unions or political

leaders about the move beforehand, while headlining Mayor Paul Schell's

helpless comment, 'Why didn't you call?'

For having spent 85 years together, Boeing certainly doesn't seem too

broken up about transplanting its headquarters. A new location has not

been decided upon yet, but since so many employees will be staying in

the Seattle area, the company would do well to make attempts to smooth

the feathers it has ruffled with its announcement.

Evaluation and analysis by CARMA International. Media Watch can be found


Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in