If all goes as planned, the next few weeks should bring the emergence of two online-only ventures launched by former Seattle Post-Intelligencer employees who are using their unemployed days (and, in some cases, the cushion of large severance packages) to become online news entrepreneurs. Already there's the SeattlePostGlobe.org, which will be produced by about 30 former P-I employees and launched, after a bit of a delay, on the afternoon April 14. The second will be InvestigateWest.org, made up of seven former P-I investigative reporters and editors and directed by Rita Hibbard, a former assistant managing editor for the paper. That site is expected to launch in the next few weeks.
InvestigateWest will be similar to the investigative news site ProPublica.org, but with a focus on the Western United States. "We'd be looking to cover the West and cover the major investigative and narrative pieces that aren't being done by newspapers as they shed those resources and shed those reporters," Hibbard said. Financing would come from foundation support, partnerships with existing news organizations, memberships, and news-service-style distribution deals. Among the current confirmed staff: Hibbard, Robert McClure, Ruth Teichroeb, Daniel Lathrop, Carol Smith, Kristen Millares Young, and Lewis Kamb.
The business model for SeattlePostGlobe is less clear; Murakami was too busy with the launch to discuss it this week. But at a forum on the future of local news publishing held at city hall on April 10, he said the staff would include familiar former P-I writers such as Mike Lewis and Art Thiel. "There are important voices that the community has lost that I think it is important for us to keep," Murakami said. The plan is for the PostGlobe to play the news of the city straight down the middle, with a non-partisan take that Murakami hopes will differentiate itself by emphasis and attitude—an interesting approach given that the "unbiased" niche is already filled by the Seattle Times and the new online-only P-I.
The economics of web-only publishing are extremely challenging, but the PostGlobe effort is getting help from the local public television station, KCTS-9, which has provided office space for the start-up. And their fellow unemployed P-I workers are cheering for them.
"I hope they make it," Hibbard said. "They've got long odds. Long odds for us, too. But we're going to work hard to make it and I'm sure they will too."