Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Goodbye, P-I

So, today was the last day for the SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER, the city's oldest, and by far its best, newspaper.

Having come from an area with a good newspaper (THE ARKANSAS GAZETTE, the oldest newspaper west of the Mississippi),* and having lived more than a decade in an area with two okay newspapers (THE MILWAUKEE JOURNAL and, to a lesser extent, THE MILWAUKEE SENTINEL),** I was glad to make the P-I's acquaintance during my first month or so out here in the Seattle area; I was particularly impressed, early on, with pieces about Washington State's Native Americans and also an expose on Alaska Airline.

I was never a regular subscriber, because when I read a newspaper I read the whole newspaper (aside from the sports and auto sections), and usually wind up clipping out several interesting tibdits -- which (a) takes a lot of time and (b) ends up with a stack of disorganized clippings -- but I picked up and enjoyed a copy from time to time. Therefore my discovery a few years back of the online P-I (www.seattlepi.com) was a welcome one, and it's been high on my bookmark list ever since, though in the last two years or so it had drifted from one of my two primary news sites (along with BBC News at http://news.bbc.co.uk for internat'l events) to being a place I checked a few times a week.

And now the print edition, what we usually think of when we say "newspaper", is gone, and most of the reporters and staff laid off. This shd be good news so far as worries about deforestation goes (has anyone done a study on how the collapse of newspapers might reduce the pressure on paper supply?), but it is the end of something very American: the local quality newspaper. THE SEATTLE TIMES, which has been doing everything it could to drive the P-I under for years, will struggle on for a while, but it's a lesser rag all the way around and is unlikely to pull in much of the P-I's readers. To use a musical analogy, if the Beatles quit touring and recording, how much of their audience would start going to concerts by The Monkees? And, moreover, it's in bad shape itself, like most of the country's newspapers. The two free 'alternate' papers are sad stuff in comparison to Milwaukee's CRAZY SHEPHERD/SHEPHERD EXPRESS, and the local free Kent paper rarely reports any news (focusing instead on 'local color' and puff pieces for local businesses), though the police blotter section remains weirdly fascinating.

So, it's on to the websites we go.

And, in what may be a sign of things to come, on their first day the P-I site has not a story but a link (to the SEATTLE TIMES website!) about a major piece: criminal investigation into the collapse of Washington Mutual:
People forget how much of the 1929 stock market collapse was later proven to be the result of corruption and manipulation, but it poses an interesting question for today. Which is better, executives looting their companies and driving them into bankruptcy, or ineptitude disguised as expertise and rewarded with inflated executive salaries and vast bonuses? Not to say that these two are mutually exclusive . . .


*since bought out by its lesser rival, THE ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT, and sunk accordingly in quality in its current form as THE ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE

**since merged into THE JOURNAL-SENTINEL

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