An appetite for just the facts
There's a news war going on in this city. And the command center for it is a laundry room in a small West Seattle home. There, at 6 a.m a.m., a former TV...
Seattle Times staff columnist
There's a news war going on in this city. And the command center for it is a laundry room in a small West Seattle home.
There, at 6 a.m., a former TV news director gets up and checks a log of the overnight 911 service calls. Then she reads e-mail tips from her neighbors. Most of it details the minutiae of West Seattle life — lost pets, traffic tie-ups, lot-by-lot development proposals. Stuff too puny to make the daily news.
Yet seven days a week she posts it all on a Web site anyway. Much to her own surprise, the site is becoming the top news source about West Seattle.
I'm not sure I can even call it news. It may be redefining what news is. Whatever it is, it's taking off in popularity.
The site is West Seattle Blog (westseattleblog.com). Last month, its founder and reporter, Tracy Record, 48, quit her job at KCPQ Q13 News to feed her blog 18 hours a day.
It's the most thorough chronicling of what's going on in a neighborhood I've ever seen.
Recent items noted a restaurant is closed temporarily. That a "condo-quality" building is for sale. A seal was spotted at Alki (with photo). A truck nicked the overhang at Easy Street Records (three photos!).
There are weightier items, too. An account of an 11-year-old getting robbed. An interview with local businessmen whose plan to rezone an entire block has sparked controversy.
It's an always-on town crier. She reports getting twice as many page views (an average 11,000 per day) as the site of the neighborhood newspaper, the West Seattle Herald.
Which is why Record quit her day job. Now she and husband Patrick Sand are gunning for the Herald's advertisers.
"I wouldn't call it a news war," Record says. "But I do point out that the Herald posts stories only once a week. So we are the sole daily news source in West Seattle."
Record says she started like "most other blogs, with a lot of opinion and links to newspaper stories and silly observations." Then she wondered: "What would happen if I devoted my time just to gathering facts?"
Now the site is almost all original reports. No analysis or sense of motive or crusade. When I called, she was off to the cop shop to pore through the blotter — "like a cub reporter."
"I have an insatiable interest in information," she says.
Yet this just-the-facts approach can be surprisingly moving.
Last week an espresso-shop owner in West Seattle's Junction, Angelia Paulsen, died in a car crash. For reasons Record doesn't fully comprehend, readers turned her brief post into an emotional memorial.
A customer wrote: "Angie made mornings bearable." Then a friend recounted childhood sleepovers. Then Angie's sister wrote: "My heart is missing half of what it was." Finally Angelia's husband mourned his lost soul mate. In all, 85 people left comments within 48 hours of her death.
Where is this little site headed? Record says her ambition is only to be a small local business — "no more than a place where local people can learn and talk about local things."
Something for all of us in the media to think about.
Danny Westneat's column appears Wednesday and Sunday. Reach him at 206-464-2086 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
email@example.com | 206-464-2086