Lichen Frittata

Hoping for a Phoenix

Posted in Uncategorized by lichenfrittata on January 10, 2009

picture-1I awoke to the most surreal newspaper reading experience of my life this morning: The Seattle Post-Intelligencer putting itself up for sale on its own front page. Of course, the story was written like any other they might have run about staff cuts—for comparison, there is even one about Boeing slashing jobs just to the right, or the Seattle Timescoverage of the sale—and I’ve read enough stories by the New York Times about its own legal troubles to not be surprised when a newspaper treats itself as a subject. Still, I feel for the reporters who had to chronicle the heartbreak of their own newsroom, not to mention the likely loss of their own jobs (It might even be worse than the NYT’s Celia Dugger reporting the capture and imprisonment of her own husband this spring in Zimbabwe, which carried the same air of bizarre impartiality.)

But putting meta-press coverage aside—and stifling a more personal anguish for my own darkening career prospects–I’m not sure this is such a bad thing. My family has had both papers delivered at various points in my upbringing (we switched to the P-I when I decided it had better environmental coverage) and it’s never seemed to me that the competition made either of them better papers. I have heard about and understood the evils of media consolidation my whole life, but in this case, committing to broader coverage may serve the region better than competing for the same stories.

This is especially true if the demise of the P-I leads to two things: 1) a reinvigorated Seattle Times, which can turn the additional ad revenue into more thorough coverage and better investigations; and 2) a livelier online journalism community to keep the Times honest. If I were one of those laid off editors, I would take my credibility and start something like Politico, or even Slate, for the Northwest: a more agile news source that can put all its resources into a really user-friendly site, unburdened by the conventions of print publication online. Having two dailies—unlike the Stranger-Weekly rivalry, which is much more entertaining—has never made sense to me in the Seattle context. This could just be a healthy readjustment, however painful.

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