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 …