Good-bye Seattle P.I.

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    If you enjoy holding in your hands a printed version of the Seattle PI, tomorrow, Tuesday the 17th is your last opportunity. The PI announced this morning (the Hearst Corp) that the presses will stop rolling after tomorrow’s edition.

    The PI will continue to have an online version.



    Wow… that’s abrupt. I’ll have to remember to pick one up tomorrow as a souvenir.



    Abrupt? This has been City-wide news for many weeks and last week was the (if you will) drop dead date. So, not too surprising.



    this isn’t just about newsprint as much as many would like us to believe…

    though i mourn the loss of newsprint… those papers left behind have been the primary source of news for both the indigent and thrifty for some time..

    but the PI is not going to be the same online paper that it was in print… and that is a shame.

    this is a big deal… newspapers funded the kind of investigative reporting that is not happening online or in cable news…

    breaking news yes.. investigation? no.

    this is not good news.




    I wonder if the demise of the print edition of the PI will boost the Times. Will the ciruculation of the PI’s 117,000 papers translate into that number of more readers of the Times? Probably not, but some readers will convert. And if all subscriptions are to be honored by the Times, some will renew when their subscription runs out.

    With the much leaner operation that the Times is now already running; and the increased readership (of any significant amount) perhaps the Times will live on.



    I’m aware that this has been in-the-making; however, yes, I consider an announcement that the newspaper will be shuttered tomorrow abrupt. I guess I assumed they’d give a little more lead time; maybe that was naive of me. Good luck to all the reporters/columnists/editors who are out of jobs tonight.



    JoB: The economic reality of this situation does have very much to do with newsprint and the tremendous cost of cutting down trees, processing it into huge rolls of heavy paper, printing onto it news that is already outdated by the time the ink hits the paper, and then transporting those piles of heavy paper to every street corner and doorstep. Maybe the economics of that system made sense when it was all there was. But what might have worked well for Benjamin Franklin is simply too cumbersome in 2009.

    As much as I’ll no doubt someday bore my grandchildren with stories of reading the Sunday New York Times over coffee and bagels, I’m not moved by those who would like to prop up an antiquated method of news delivery simply because we like the smell and feel of newsprint or because our grandparents prefer to get their news in that way. The thrifty and indigent can go read the news in any public library in the country or get themselves one of those $150 laptops that they make for kids in developing nations (which would be cheaper than paying 50 cents per day for a newspaper for a year).

    You’re right…it is much more complicated than the economics of newsprint. When you consider that TV Guide has the highest circulation rate of any US periodical and that the comic book they call USA Today is the most widely distributed US newspaper, perhaps something else is at work here. Is it about literacy, attention spans and education? I’m not sure.

    I suspect that if you were to open any of the top US newspapers and measure the column space devoted to investigative journalism you’d find it largely eclipsed by advertising and filler. Despite the number of Pulitzers that are still awarded every year, investigative journalism is well past its prime in an age of corporate media ownership of the news. But then again, even people like Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst were not above things like hype and even total fabrications to sell newspapers. It has always been about money first. But have heart: in an age in which everyone has a cameraphone and easy access to a worldwide audience, average citizens have more power than ever to expose corruption and wrongdoing.

    As the television and advertising industries are also discovering, we have become a nation that no longer settles for the same broad message. Technology has catalyzed what is essentially a democractization of the news. This brings greater customization for the delivery of the news that is most relevant to individual readers. No longer do we have to read everything in black and white. I can now read stories about Melanesia with embedded color video and sound bytes with the actual images and sound of Melee children singing. Data can be presented with interactive graphics. The text of stories can be expanded well beyond the limits of column space.

    Too often these days what passes for news in old media is the same AP story filed over and over in every city in country. News moves fast but turning the Queen Mary takes time. Whereas a big local newspaper would not have the staff and time to cover the hyper-local news that is most relevant to me in my neighborhood, the founders of the West Seattle Blog have stepped in and very cleverly filled this void. When we hear helicopters overhead we don’t resign ourselves to wait until the morning edition. We log on to the WSB and read about what is happening virtually as it happens. When I was sitting in a Midtown NYC office building on 9/11 and heard a rumor that a second plane had hit the Twin Towers, I didn’t sit on my hands and wait until the New York Times typeset the story, half-toned the pictures and delivered a pile of paper to my door. I immediately went to the Web. Internet news sites have broken plenty of exclusive stories that old media was way behind on. Journalists don’t disappear just because the methods of news delivery change. Like the best aspects of our innovative country, they simply reinvent themselves for new media. Patrick and Tracy have done this wonderfully well.

    Even though the current technology of the delivery methods (expensive laptops, battery-dependent cell phones and Internet devices) are crude, I’m convinced that in short order the technology will rise to the task and will produce methods of news delivery that have all of the benefits of paper without the significant downsides. I think those who are nostalgic for the smell of newsprint are perhaps a bit short on faith and imagination for what the future holds. It is when we learn to be nostalgic for the future that amazing things can happen.



    What JoB said. Instant gratification is great (hey, I’m the first on my block to know!), but some context, opinion, and investigation make for a healthier diet.

    I can imagine the hell that could some day arrive when all news is delivered via Twitter/Tweets. Ugh.




    the problem with the supposed economics practiced by the times is that they shared operating expenses with the PI…

    now they shoulder them alone..


    “in an age in which everyone has a cameraphone and easy access to a worldwide audience, average citizens have more power than ever to expose corruption and wrongdoing.”

    exposing corruption in this manner has a lot less meaning than investigate journalism. It often takes the background work of investigate journalism to realize the context making a picture have merit…

    Yes, collaborative news gathering gives us a lot more news a lot faster than we would have it any other way…

    and i think what Patrick and Tracey are doing is phenomenal…

    but it is not the same as long term reporters covering the same small beat year after year… learning the kind of background information that sets abuses in context… and having the time and resources to pursue a story for years before uncovering the piece of pivotal information that reveals the hidden story.

    Patrick and Tracey are stretched to their limits delivering the quality product they are putting out now…

    yes.. we will still have the fifty second scapegoat.. the easy target.. but those with more experience or with co-conspirators will be much harder to uncover… and silent partners will remain silent..

    as for that $150 laptop.. have you noticed that like cheap meds they aren’t available here in the states?

    and there don’t seem to be philanthropic organizations handing them out to the disadvantaged children in our nation.

    in fact.. there aren’t any philanthropic organizations handing them out to the classrooms in disadvantaged schools in our own greater neighborhood…

    it’s easy to think that the kinds of opportunities that we have are shared by all.. but it just isn’t true…

    not only do many not have easy access to the information in libraries…

    visiting the library takes time and if you are holding more than one job to make a paycheck and using public transportation it isn’t so easy to access the library…

    but too many in our nation are functionally illiterate.. they may be able to read but obviously have difficulty with complex thought…

    it is increasingly difficult for a well educated person like myself to navigate the complexities of myriad insurance policies, taxes, conflicting laws at local and federal level, lending policies and most a host of life’s little hassles.. let alone sort through the conflicting information to find the consistencies across ideological fences that lend towards differentiating fact from opinion.

    And yes, i was purposefully obtuse… because that accurately reflects much of the language used…

    Only those with advantages will be making the shift from print media to electronic… the rest of the nation will be getting their news from the network news… with little real competition for their attention.

    and… if the short attention span of younger readers catered to by advertisers is any indication… the shift to electronic media does not bode well for encouraging prolonged thought…

    I fear this is a step in the wrong direction.. replacing analysis with factoids…

    and blurring the distinction between the opinions of experts and the opinions of talking heads…

    A well informed public is crucial to the practice of democracy. if nothing else, the last 8 years of lockstep reporting should have taught us that.

    it is not time for more of the same but a return to appreciation for well presented dissenting opinions…



    What CBJ said. I’ve been trying to articulate this for a week or two now with the first rumored announcement of this closure.

    Also, maybe the issue isnt really about print, TV, internet, etc. but about news itself and that news is now about ratings (probably always has been but now its also entertainment) and not about providing an ‘unbiased’ source for information to the public.

    I know people are going to say it has never been unbiased. However I remember in college (25+ years ago) and even growing up, newscasters and reporters reported facts and information but didnt give their opinions…You never knew where they stood on an issue really. Did anyone really know the views of Cronkite, Huntley and Brinkley? I dont think so, not like we do now.

    And its not only the newscasters, radio and web personalities whose views we know but its the companies they work for.

    IMO its the because the media has become more about $$ and ratings that makes people have to work so hard to get information.

    If anyone watched Jon Stewart when he had Jim Cramer on last week you would see how CNBC – once thought of as a channel where perhaps I could get some good financial info back in the 90’s (especially as a layperson) – has now turned into a farce –

    To be informed you have to tap into countless sources and its exhausting enough for those of us who care. I cant imagine how difficult it is for those who want to care but dont know where to go for information.



    TammiWS: Nicely done! Jon Stewart is a perfect example of someone from WAY outside of the old media system who is asking the questions that no other newspaper has thought to ask (and perhaps some the SEC should have been asking a long time ago too).

    JoB: Take it from someone who has worked in many different areas of journalism and media since the time I was in high school..investigative reporting is not brain surgery. Virtually every reporter I’ve dealt with (as an interviewee) has gotten something wrong. I don’t subscribe to the notion that investigative journalism has to be conducted by some kind of elite. As long as people know how to look at something and to ask the right questions, they are capable of exposing malfeasance. The capacity for everyday citizens to blow the whistle on corruption is broader than it ever has been. And non-professionals are busy exposing corruption and crime around the world on a daily basis. Information printed once a day on paper is backward compared to the power of mobile computing and networked information.

    But with that said, I don’t agree that the failure of paper news harkens the end of professional journalism. It is just transitioning to new methods of delivery.

    I also don’t agree that Patrick and Tracy are “stretched to their limits.” You must have some information that I don’t. From my perspective they seem to be constantly expanding and doing new things with the blog.

    I can get both cheap meds AND $150 laptops here in the States. The latter are available on, BTW. If you are having trouble finding these things I can only advise you that you will not find sources for them in the want ads in the back of the local paper. :-)

    I think it is inappropriate to compare the hardships of any one nation against another. And I think it cheap populism when people play that “let’s take care of the US first” game. The biggest problems with the US education system do not have to do with lack of money as heaps of money haven’t done a thing except breed ineffective school bureaucracies.

    The collective poverty of much of Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia significantly eclipses even the most at risk American children. Africa alone has more than 12 million AIDS orphans. And the unraveling governments of many of the nations where they live directly threaten the US in their capacity to incubate significant future threats. It makes more sense to me to invest in the health and education of the extremely poor now so that those poor American kids that you care so much about won’t have to go over to Africa to fight and die a decade from now.

    The indigent may not have your level of education with which to navigate the complexities of insurance, taxes and laws. But you underestimate them if you don’t think they know how to work the system. They do what they need to survive. And I doubt any of them have the time or inclination to pick up a picket sign and demand that newspapers stay in business.

    I perceive a lot of fear over the failure of newspapers simply because it is frightening to not know what comes next. This issue seems to polarize along generational lines. And maybe because old media has itself foreseen its own death, that it has programmed its readers for so long that technology is dangerous and bad. But technology and the democritization of the news will be a much richer and more powerful system for the delivery of information than tired old newspapers ever were. You might look at bees and only see the sting. I look at bees and see the honey.

    It is too easy for Luddites to deconstruct new media and dismiss it as information without the depth of analysis. Newspapers can hardly be held up as a shining example of a medium that encouraged people to think independently and critically. I have more faith in my fellow man to parse what the real message is. I’m not disturbed at the prospect of no longer having an elite, all-knowing news entity to control my news. I see the failure of the industry of printing news on paper as something that is long overdue.

    Just like those people who threw up their hands and ran screaming at the notion of horse-less carriages and radical ideas like giving women the right to vote and admitting African-Americans to college, you’ll see a lot of positive things come from change. You might try riding the horse in the direction it is going.



    Hey Christopher – today some folks said they wanted to buy me a stiff drink for all the work we do.

    And if somebody else is buyin’ then I’m as stretched as stretched can be!



    Well geez, Patrick. If you weren’t so busy fielding calls from Time Magazine maybe you might have some time left to hoist a few.



    Print journalism is dead. Make way and welcome to the blogsphere. Listen to KPLU if you want investigative journalism.





    in the first place, i am not sure where you got the idea that i am somehow demeaning the work that Patrick and Traci are doing…

    how many times do i have to say that i am astounded at the job they do for that sentence to mean something?

    I said they were stretched.. not that they were incompetent or lacking in content or service or innovation.

    I am not sure how you define stretched.. but i measure it in time… and if their twitter reports are any indication, they are already stretching their time to the limits…

    I have no doubt that they are using that time wisely to add content and service to the West Seattle Blog… their efforts speak for themselves… and i have often praised the work they do.

    can we get past that?

    As for the rest, i am truly unsure where to start…

    i didn’t mention any elite when i spoke of investigative journalists.. in fact, i believe i spoke of people who invested a lifetime in the business of gathering the news and over the course of that lifetime made contacts, generated trust and amassed a body of knowledge that allowed them to put the news they gathered in context…

    i don’t think that has anything to do with being elite.. it has to do with choosing excellence.

    You say you have known a lot of investigative reporters who got it wrong. I have too.

    I have also known a lot of poor cab drivers and salesmen and attorneys and accountants and doctors and steelworkers and gardeners and dog trainers and… dare i say it.. photographers.

    in fact i would venture that there isn’t a single profession i have come in contact with that doesn’t have people who fail at their job as well as people who succeed…

    the same goes for those who scam their work rather than produce it… journalists have no edge on that either…

    like the physician who recently fabricated results for some pretty important drug trials for a major manufacturer…

    However, there are people who choose excellence in whatever profession they follow.. even journalism.

    I don’t think we can replace them with random individuals who stand a much smaller chance of getting it right than an experienced journalist who cares deeply about getting the scoop and getting it right… whose reputation and ability to earn money at their chosen profession literally hangs on their ability to get the story and to get it right.

    reporters like Patrick and Tracey..

    If newspapers aren’t going to employ those people, who will?

    Patrick and Tracey do an incredible and extremely credible job of what they do.. but investigative journalism and editorials aren’t what they do…

    at least, it isn’t what they do now.

    As for the cavalier way you dismiss the ability of those without advantages to procure the kind of equipment that will allow them to access the new online media…

    could you explain to me how someone without a credit card buys a computer from Amazon?

    How about someone without an address to ship it to?

    The assumption that everyone has access to the technology you take for granted is built into your reply.

    How are children who are barely introduced to computers in their schools.. or have perhaps an hour of computer time a week supposed to be able utilize that technology?

    I am not indulging in cheap populism when i talk about the lack of opportunity to access anything other than network news by children in our own community…

    I am talking about the incredible difficulty that those without technological advantages face… and the unwillingness of those in our community who have those advantages to even admit that those without are at a definite disadvantage.

    I didn’t label those without resources stupid…

    To be honest, i find more stupidity among the adequately educated than among those who lack that advantage.

    I am not afraid nor am i a Luddite.

    We are living in a time when many people get the most honest news of their day from a comic…

    That comic does an incredible job and i really enjoy watching his program.. but John Stewart would be the first to point out the need for more in depth coverage than he provides… in fact.. i have seen him shake his head more than once at the misconception that his is a news program… yet he has more credibility than any other commentator currently broadcasting.

    You say “I’m not disturbed at the prospect of no longer having an elite, all-knowing news entity to control my news.” ..

    I am sure you aren’t.. you have access to the internet and have developed the skills to procure information.

    But do you really want the major source of news for most voters in this country to be the network nightly news ? and the glorification of ignorance that promoted Sarah Palin as a Vice Presidential candidate ?

    Probably not.

    If we are to be a digital society, than we need to make certain that all citizens have daily access to digital media… our democracy depends upon it.




    i will gladly buy both you and Tracey a drink any time you can find the time to fit me between your many commitments…

    the work you do is worth far more to me than a drink or two.


    HMC Rich

    At least Palin doesn’t need a TelePromptor every time she speaks.

    If the mainstream press would get over their orgasm of Obama maybe they would see his and all the other political crooks actual agendas and start doing their jobs as watchdogs of the government instead of being cheerleaders.

    Concerning a digital society. People have options. The library for one. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Also, maybe some people have to save a little harder if they want that computer. Plenty of free wifi around once they get it. There will be, unfortunately, quite a few people who will never come close to their potential due to whatever reason. Not everyone gets to play but they all, for the most part, have the opportunity to play. Government and charities can help a bit and they should to a point. People need to keep trying.

    All I know is that there will be less trees used to make the paper but more electricity usage in the future for those computers and flatscreens. Pretty soon there will be (if not already) anti computer advocates saying that digital information is hurting the planet.

    Goodbye P.I. I won’t miss you, well, I will miss the sports section.



    what have you ever run for, HMC Rich?

    Those “political crooks” are people who volunteer to serve, and are chosen by the electorate.

    Disagree with the voting public? Welcome to the minority.

    Think you can do a better job? Then run.



    Strictly FYI and for future reference-

    Her name is spelled T-R-A-C-Y R-E-C-O-R-D

    And mine’s J-E-T-H-R-O B-O-D-I-N-E




    my apologies for the misspell..



    ‘Bye P-I paper edition! It was a great long run! [big hug][big kiss]



    Hey Guys,

    I wrote an article regarding the P-I closure that was just published to Associated Content and I’d love for you to check it out and comment so that I can get your feedback. Please also feel free to re-post the link. Here it is:





    HMC Rich…

    Sarah Palin should have used her teleprompter more often…

    what i objected to most about Sarah was the glorification of ignorance… that it was not only ok… but somehow noble… to not only not have the answers… but to not really understand the question…

    And that this was what we expect from our leaders.. a good public relations face but not much more???

    as for political crooks… the kind of abuse President Obama is taking in the press and from our former Vice President in his first 100 days is unprecedented… so i am not sure how you count this one as a love affair.

    I agree that we need to keep a careful eye on political crooks.. i just think it is really too bad we weren’t doing a better job of it the last 8 years.

    If the sports scores are all you will miss about the PI….

    you missed some pullitzer prize winning reporting along the way.

    the saddest thing for me is how little that reporting was appreciated.




    i enjoyed your article very much..

    There is something inherently relaxing about scanning a newspaper… and for many people it is still how they start their day.

    What i like most about newspapers (i pick up the local paper every place i travel) is the unexpected… the item you would never have sought out or read if it hadn’t happened to catch your eye and you hadn’t had time to entertain yourself.

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