Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Reflections on the Seattle P-I

Even as you're reading this, they may have already announced the closing down of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The Hearst-owned daily had been put up for sale with a deadline of 60 days, with pretty much the full knowledge that no buyer would come forward.

I feel bad for all the fine journalists there who are about to lose their jobs, as I did for all the folks at the Rocky Mountain News, which also folded recently. The San-Francisco Chronicle and Tuscon Citizen are also in danger of going under.

The PI has special significance for me, though, in that for a number of years I'd hoped to work there. Some years ago I went to a features journalism conference, and a senior editor from the PI (I won't say who) approached to tell me that they had been one of the judges in the arts criticism contest that I had won, and how impressed they were with my stuff.

I can't begin to tell you what this meant to me, personally and professionally. I was doing fine work at a smaller paper, but I felt like I was stuck playing Triple-A ball, so to speak. To have a big-city metro editor tell me I had the goods ... well, I was over the moon.

Anyway, we kept in touch and there was some fairly serious talk for awhile about becoming film critic there, although it never materialized. Movie critic Bill Arnold has kept the torch burning there until the PI's demise.

So it's ironic for me to think about. Here I am, having moved to Indianapolis nearly four years ago without knowing a soul here, now happily married and part of the community but laid off from the Star. If the sands of fate had shifted but a little, I could be in Seattle waiting for my paper to close its doors. Either way, it's sobering and it's sad.


  1. Chris, did you see this at Romanesko ... I was nodding my head vigorously. http://blogs.seattleweekly.com/dailyweekly/2009/03/could_hearsts_behavior_get_any.php

  2. I didn't, Cori, thanks for linking it.

    I'll admit that Hearst's handling of the PI situation has been disquieting, especially for a corporation that was always regarded as one of the better newspaper companies around.

    My guess is they've got a small army of money guys crunching numbers around the clock to see if a Web-only operation makes dollars-and-sense. It's just a matter of going Web-only or just dropping the brand entirely.

    There's a list going around of the PI staffers they offered Web gigs to, and it's about 22 folks, and nearly all of them are Web producers ... hardly any reporters. You'll never find me devaluing the journalist contributions of Web guys, copy editors and page designers. But without a lot of solid reporting, you don't have anything to sell.

    Or they could just steal everyone else's content and make money selling ads off it, like HuffPo and Google News do...