Tomorrow brings a number of opportunities for Seattle Post-Intelligencer staffers to meet one-on-one with Ken Riddick, Hearst's vice president for digital media, and offer him their ideas for how to potentially transition the P-I into an online-only publication.
However, it doesn't sound like people in the P-I newsroom are exactly climbing over one another to get to the sign-up sheet and grab a 20-minute chunk of Riddick's time. "Lots of openings strangely enough," one P-I writer told me this afternoon.
When I asked another writer last week if a meeting with Riddick was in the future, I got a one-word response: "Nah."
I know the P-I has a sizable staff, but among the people I'm hearing from there is a strong undercurrent of resentment (or, at the very least, awkward feelings) at being asked to turn over their ideas for an online venture they most likely won't be invited to participate in. For example, while e-mailing with a third P-I writer on a somewhat related matter I received this digression:
Can I also go off on a tangent and say how bizarre it is for Hearst to ask us for our groundbreaking, lean, out of the box ideas for a profitable online venture? (1) If they were going to ask, shouldn't they have asked before they let us know via KING 5 that we were probably all about to be laid off? (2) Do they seriously not have a plan already in place? That seems like terrible business planning, (3) Why are they asking us these questions instead of paying someone who might actually know something about how to make money on the Internet? Aren't reporters notoriously bad when it comes to issues like this, because we have always prided ourselves on having nothing to do with how ads are sold? But, (4) Didn't the two reporters who did know something about how to make money on the Internet, John Cook and Todd Bishop, come to them with a groundbreaking, lean, out of the box idea not so long ago and get rejected?
So it doesn't surprise me that this afternoon I also received a forward of this e-mail, from the union that represents P-I writers, calling a meeting for
tonight next Tuesday at which (it sounds like) P-I writers will discuss their own damn online venture.
From: On Behalf Of Newspaper Guild-CWA
Sent: Tuesday, February 17, 2009 12:54 PM
Subject: Unit meeting on alternate ownership of the P-I
From Guild Administrative Officer Liz Brown:
Since the Hearst Corp. announced its intent to stop printing the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, there has been much speculation and talk about finding new owners for the newspaper, or starting an online news site that can replace the P-I.
Some P-I employees have put effort into searching for new owners, or in envisioning a startup venture that would provide the community with good journalism and at least some people with journalism jobs.
In other cities, the Guild has partnered with investors or other entities to explore alternate ownership models.
The Guild will hold a P-I unit meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 24 to see if there is interest among P-I Guild members in working together on such an effort. The meeting will be downstairs in the first-floor conference room.
We hope P-I Guild members will attend whether they support such efforts or not. We want to know what a majority of P-I members think, and what, if anything, they are interested and willing to work on. Thanks!
Obviously, the missing element in all of this is "investors or other entities" to back such a project. I've been asking, and so far I haven't heard of any stepping forward.