– Dead Dead-Tree News Arggh!

The Logo of the Seattle P-I

The Logo of the Seattle P-I

I’m saddened today, to hear of the potential demise of the Post-Intelligencer, one of the two daily dead-tree newspapers here in Seattle, and a paper which first published in 1863, six years before Seattle incorporated as a City. The PI’s owner, Hearst Corporation, plans to put it up for sale. If it is not sold, Hearst can close it down under terms of a joint operating agreement between the PI and the Times.

I’ve blogged in the past about how neighborhood blogs like our own West Seattle Blog may very well displace dead-tree papers simply because they have a massive reporter and photographer base – virtually anyone, anywhere with a cell phone, digital camera and Internet connection – and can report news and events in an “up front” rapid way unmatched by the traditional media.

I enjoy blogging and twittering (see http://twitter.com/billschrier) and social networking via Facebook. I’m helping to drive the City of Seattle to use such new technologies into making City government more efficient and effective – see our latest deployment, a vastly revamped version of “My Neighborhood Map”, just unveiled today.

But I mourn the end of old-style newsprint papers such as the PI.

Maybe it’s because I’m a bit older than the median age of a Seattlite (although still younger than the AARP median age). Maybe it is a “generation thing”, and “younger folks” get their news and information from Twitter and RSS and the Internet. I don’t think that’s true – there are many twenty-somethings vastly more conservative and less tech saavy than I.

Maybe it’s because I’ve always longed to be a journalist, hence my interest in writing this blog. That might stem from my college English professor, Father Daniel Rogers of Loras College, who said “I think you might be a writer someday”.

I’ve often told my wife, I’d love to own a small-town newspaper and attend/report upon/photograph events in a close-knit small City. She – an award-winning journalism teacher – laughs at that, knowing small-town newspapers are 80 hour weeks for a pittance of salary. And I, in my brain (not my heart), know that “beat reporting” such as the City Hall beat or the Boeing beat is probably a thing of the past.

And I also fear that true investigative reporting may end. Perhaps this sounds odd, coming from a government official. I’m proud of Seattle’s City government and I’m proud of public service. But I know there are the Richard Nixons and Dick Cheneys of government. We owe a lot to newspapers and reporters who dug deep inside issues and stories to expose Watergate, for example, as well as hundreds of other serious issues – just look at the Pulitzer Prize finalists/winners for great examples of such reporting.

Without newspapers to fund and support such long-term, labor-intensive investigative journalism, who will do it?

Pardon me, but I’m heading down to the Pike Place Market to get a copy of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. I hope I can continue to do that … that copies of the P-I will continue to be there …

3 Comments

Filed under blog, newspaper

3 responses to “– Dead Dead-Tree News Arggh!

  1. Bill: Your fears about the consequences of traditional journalism’s demise are already coming true, at least as it relates to coverage of state government in newspapers across the country. See: http://www.governing.com/articles/0901press.htm

    And the pace of media cutbacks, as chronicled on one related Twitter feed alone, are alarming. I sincerely hope the name doesn’t tell the whole story: http://twitter.com/themediaisdying

    Definitely not the best time to rush out and startup that local paper, I’m afraid.

  2. schrier

    Thanks, Mark, for the link to the Governing article about the rapidly declining press coverage of government. I had not seen it and it is spot on. The twitter feed http://twitter.com/themediaisdying is equally alarming and also depressing.

    One longs for the days of “The Front Page”. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0071524/

    -bill

  3. I think there will still be papers to uncover and expose stories like watergate and unsalted icy roads. Let’s hope they’re not so expensive that only rich people can afford their community’s paper of record. Watch for prototypes of electronic paper editions later this year …

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