In the Hall

Good-bye, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

In a December 25, 2008, article ("Your 15 Minutes Are Up"), we predicted that one of the two Seattle daily papers, saddled "with a difficult debt load and a terrible economic environment for newspapers," would not "end the year in a very recognizable form."

Less than one month later, that prediction is coming true—just not at the paper we expected.

Last week, Hearst Corporation announced that it was placing the Seattle Post-Intelligencer—Seattle's oldest daily paper—up for sale; if it fails to find a buyer within 60 days, the paper will probably go out of business.

The question is: Does it matter? Hardly any cities have two newspapers anymore. I grew up in a town with two papers—the Houston Chronicle and its scrappy liberal competitor, the Houston Post—but when the Post went under, in 1995, it felt like the end to a protracted illness, not a sudden blow.

Still, I'll miss the P-I—and not just because its closure is a sign that the industry I'm a part of is changing forever.

Both the Times and P-I cover local news, but only the P-I seems to care. Rare was the city hall briefing, low-profile campaign event, or political party without at least one P-I representative; in contrast, I couldn't pick half the people on the Times' "local reporting" roster from a lineup. On-the-ground reporting isn't the kind of thing that gets you an "investigative" next to your title or that wins Pulitzers. But it does matter to people who care, and are curious, about the city they live in. As much as we at The Stranger bitch about P-I reporters and columnists stealing our stories and rehashing dusty old tropes like the "nanny state" (Joel Connelly, I'm looking at you), the P-I was the only daily whose reporters paid attention in more than a superficial way to neighborhoods and city hall.

That's despite, or perhaps because of, the fact that the P-I's newsroom has always been leaner and scrappier than the Times'; even after a round of recent layoffs, the Times' local-news bench remains deeper than the P-I's, with 11 editors, two columnists, and 30 reporters, many of them names you rarely see in print.

The P-I's closure will also mean the loss of Seattle's only truly local daily paper. The Times may have "Seattle" in its name, but it is relentlessly suburban, in ways both frivolous (a recent holiday supplement featured a photo of Seattle that was clearly taken from Bellevue) and portentous (the majority of its editorial board lives outside the city). That perspective matters—it means that instead of front-page stories about local campaigns, for example, we get headlines like "Obama gives area trio 'gift of friendship'" and "Gregoire's inaugural bash: ice sculptures and sashimi," and editorials supporting roads, opposing density, and backing Dino Rossi (really).

Could Seattle have survived as a two-newspaper town? Probably not. But with last week's announcement, I can't help but feel that the wrong guys won. recommended


Comments (8) RSS

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Erica, I agree with your sentiment that the wrong guys won, but you forgot to mention that Frank Blethen is a fucking asshole. Which is, in my opinion, the foundation on which all the other problems you have with the Times rest.
Posted by Miss Vicious on January 15, 2009 at 1:58 PM · Report this
Very good article. The Seattle Times Dino Rossi endorsement is pretty much all you need to know about that newspaper. Despite the Seattle Times endorsement and a huge ad blitz by Rossi, he got only 18% of the vote in Seattle. That's about half the vote that freaking Al Runte with his no experience and $12,000 got in the 2005 Seattle mayoral election. It's mind-boggling how out of touch that newspaper is with this city.
Posted by jrrrl on January 16, 2009 at 8:36 AM · Report this

Thank you for telling us who cares and who doesn't.

Shame about Eli's resume getting shuffled to the bottom of the pile, huh?
Posted by OMG! on January 16, 2009 at 9:06 AM · Report this
I used to think the PI was by far the more conservative rag - their front pages compared side by side usually swing right of the Times. But after the Rossi debacle, their gleeful anti-monorail stance (yes, the monorail would have been great!), and carrying Crankshaft instead of Drabble, I'm wishing the PI would stay. Plus their globe is unbelievably cool.
Posted by erik on January 16, 2009 at 10:20 AM · Report this
I stopped reading the Seattle Times the day after the very first Monorail initiative passed. Their headline for the article about the initiative's success was, "What Were We Thinking? Seattle Passes Monorail Initiative". I refused to read a newspaper that had open contempt for its citizens.

I'm so, so sad to see the PI go. I loathe the Times.
Posted by John Scott Tynes on January 16, 2009 at 10:40 AM · Report this
Miss Vicious: Yeah, that Frank Blethen, what a rascal. Remember when he became one of the first employers in Seattle to offer domestic-partner benefits to same-sex couples, provided subsidized childcare, gave his staff the MLK holiday before it was Guild-negotiated, plus offered internships and annual week-long workshops to journalists of color and really worked at creating a diverse newsroom? Remember when the Blethens were the state's biggest donors to the anti I-200 campaign? That Frank; what an asshole.
Posted by M. Rothschild on January 16, 2009 at 3:52 PM · Report this
"backing Dino Rossi (really)."

Because Skelator is doing such an amazing job? Please...
Posted by JF on January 19, 2009 at 1:51 PM · Report this
Two local columnists?
We're supposed to trust the opinion of an "on-the-ground reporter" who can't count to three?
Posted by 1 ... 2 ... 3! on January 28, 2009 at 11:59 AM · Report this

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