Print Media Deathwatch: Seattle PI’s Days Are Numbered – At 60

Jan 10th, 2009 | By | Category: General

Despite the fact that we’ve seen the death of traditional newspapers coming for a long time, actually seeing it happen is still pretty shocking.

The Seattle PI has announced that its days are numbered – at 60:

After 146 years of delivering news, the Seattle P-I faces becoming what it has chronicled: history.

Economic reasons have forced the state’s oldest morning newspaper into a sale, Steven Swartz, president of The Hearst Corp.’s newspaper division, told employees Friday.

“Since 2000, the P-I has lost money each year, and the losses have escalated and continue to escalate in 2009. We have had to make a very tough decision.”

Editorial cartoonist David Horsey was nearly speechless.

“This is awful, awful, awful,” he said afterward. “I was just standing there looking around at all these people I love to work with. I don’t want this to happen to me or them.”

He said that he’s been watching the news about the newspaper troubles nationwide, but that doesn’t make it any easier to understand the business reasons behind the decision.

“You realize you’re part of a huge implosion of the newspaper industry,” he said.

Does your local newspaper have long to live? Do you think there’s a way for traditional newspapers to beat this trend?

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No Responses to “Print Media Deathwatch: Seattle PI’s Days Are Numbered – At 60”

  1. Tapeleg says:

    My local paper is dying. And I am, as a blogger, part of the problem. And the solution.

  2. The saddest thing about the implosion of the print news business is that it’s not the result of anyone’s malfeasance or bad judgement, unlike the banks or the auto companies.

    It’s just happening, as the public’s attention span shrinks and their reliance on electronic media grows.

    And as the holder of a journalism degree myself, someone who’s worked in the lower echelons (read small dailies and weeklies) of the print journalism world, I can say with some assurance that the weakening and slow death of the print journalism business has been going on for a long, long time — even pre-blogging and pre-internet.

    Newspapers have always held a unique place in society — they are a business for the survival of which hard business decisions have had to be made. But newspapers are also supposed to work in the public interest by reporting *all* the news.

    Well, as the print news business began to shrink back in the 1980s, places for print journalists to work began to disappear. So competition for jobs became tougher and tougher. Editors and publishers at all but the largest and best-financed papers found that to meet the needs of their readers, they could hire freshly minted graduates for a fraction of what they would pay reporters with more experience. And new journalism graduates have kept pouring out into the workplace — quick, talented and more than willing to work for next to nothing in order to get clips to (presumably) boost themselves up the journalism food chain.

    A little-discussed fact of journalism is that it can be done adequately by almost anyone with a basic grasp of “who, what, when, where, how and why,” accompanied by a reasonable sense of fairness. Editors with eyes on maintaining a thrifty bottom line can hire a couple of moderately new grads for next to nothing, and edit their copy into something that’s, at the very least, not embarrassing.

    It doesn’t matter in such circumstances if there are more experienced reporters (who might expect to make a living) available. The editors and publishers look at their bottom line first. Believe me, I know this from experience.

    Blogging is in the same position. There are only a few bloggers making a paying career out of what they do. Don’t believe it? Even most of the writers at The Huffington Post, which is *the* liberal political blogging site, aren’t getting a dime – not one. Most bloggers are talented, woefully underpaid tyros who will get tired of being paid nothing, and will eventually move on, or they will have to find other ways to pay their bills while continuing to blog.

    Blogging *is* a problem, as I see it, because the level playing field that so easily gives everyone a voice. So a growing number of voices of wildly varying experience and talent to tell a story straight are swelling to a cacophony that make it more and more difficult for the general public, who are becoming less and less willing readers (read: lazy), to find sources they trust.

    Thus, the public is falling further and further away from reading, toward strictly image-based information distribution, because online though it may be, blogs still require people to READ.

    I could go on …

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