Whatcom Watch Editor Resigns


Richard Jehn, the managing editor of the Whatcom Watch, has submitted his letter of resignation, effective today.  It remains to be seen how the board of the Watch will respond - whether they will accept this and/or whether Jehn is open to reconsideration.  

This resignation appears to be a victory for Craig Cole in his effort to intimidate the Watch by threatening a libel lawsuit for an article printed in their January issue.  His threat was vague, without specifics, and appeared to be empty of value. Yet Cole has not retracted the threat but left it out there, hanging.  We assume Cole was at least acting with the approval of his clients, the corporations attempting to push a coal port on Whatcom County.  

Is this the beginning of the implosion of the Watch?  It could be. I have learned from reliable sources that two editors have left the Watch over the past week. Jehn is leaving because he feels he does not have the confidence of the Watch board and staff. But there also seems a general sense that the January article could be defended and the Watch could stand up to Cole.

My perspective: The Watch has published for over 20 years through the volunteer or very low-paid efforts of a small group of activists. The liberal and progressive Whatcom community treasures the Watch. This attack from powerfully connected coal interests has shattered the cohesiveness of this small group because they are focused on independent news, not legal battles. Jehn gave his best as editor for almost two years. Dealing with a legal threat is not supposed to be part of his job description.  

For the Watch to survive, those with the ability to donate money and skilled services - legal especially - must now quickly step forward.   The March issue of the Watch is out and being distributed. The April issue is in planning.  But quick action by new participants is needed. The core group at the Watch, who have carried this publication for years, now need our help. Or we will all lose.  And the forces of power and money will have succeeded. Again.

About John Servais

Citizen Journalist and Editor • Fairhaven, Washington USA • Member since Feb 26, 2008

John started Northwest Citizen in 1995 to inform fellow citizens of serious local political issues that the Bellingham Herald was ignoring. With the help of donors from the beginning, he has [...]

Comments by Readers

Tip Johnson

Mar 02, 2014

The Whatcom Watch is imploding under pressure from Craig Cole’s baseless libel threat at precisely the time they and sensible environmental citizens should be standing together, arm and middle finger extended to Cole and GPT.  How dare Cole and Coal threaten our fourth estate, the foundation of any hope for an informed civic dialog?

Cole overwhelmingly succeeded in dividing and scattering his opposition against incredible odds through nearly transparent deception.  GPT is getting their money’s worth.  Cole could not have done it without the tacit silence of local corporate and developer-based media feeding on GPT advertising revenues, and a veritable host of lickspittle lapdog liberals who would rather lash out at allies than think critically for themselves. Congratulations, Bellingham.  Once again the circular firing squad has sacrificed the courageous, preserving the cowards and fools.

My hat is off to Cole for a Sun Tzu move of the highest order.


John Lesow

Mar 02, 2014

I don’t know who to feel sorrier for;  Richard Jehn or Craig Cole.  Both will regret their over-reactions. 

It is easy to say that the offending article did not rise to libel—as myself and others have—but from the evidence presented so far, it looks like this whole affair has been mishandled by both sides.  Cole should never have threatened a libel suit in the first place. And if you are serious about a lawsuit, the first demand letter should come in the form of a letter from your attorney, not one from your own consulting company.

Over the years, there have been occasions where community leaders and government employees alike have fired off letters and e mails in a fit of pique, only to regret their actions later.  Former Bellingham Public Works Director Dick McKinley is one example in which a written screed cost him his job.

  It will be interesting to see how Craig Cole is affected, and remembered, for his regrettable threat against a community newspaper. But you can bet it will overshadow any past good works for native Indians.


Helen Brandt

Mar 02, 2014

The March Roundtable meeting of Whatcom Watch will be held from 4:30 to 6 pm on Monday, March 3, 2014, in the RE Sources library on the 2nd floor above the RE Store at Meridian and Broadway.  As always, if you have an item to add to the agenda, you are welcome to do so at the beginning of the meeting. Public invited, everyone welcome to attend and participate in the discussions.


Barbara Perry

Mar 02, 2014

John,  Thank you so much for this information.  I would appreciate it greatly if you made this your lead article.  Craig Cole"s letters reveal his lack of respect for freedom of the press and democracy.  I hope GPT realizes Cole’s actions are not having any positive effects towards their goal of what they consider “progress’ versus what most people in Bellingham and the majority of the world consider ecological destruction. His name is now toxic mud to me and probably many others.
Barbara Perry


Abe Jacobson

Mar 05, 2014

Coinciding with the Whatcom Watch story, on March 3rd, researchers at the University of Washington Atmospheric Sciences Dept revealed that the passage of coal trains does indeed degrade air quality. See Cliff Mass’ blog at

and page back to March 3 entry. You can also pull down the PDF of the article from


Best wishes,
Abe Jacobson

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