March 17, 2009, 11:52 am
Filed under: Events, Internet, Journalism, News Industry, Sea Change

spi-20090317-a-001I’ve been avoiding this topic on my blog, partly because I’ve been too lazy to write about it and partly because I’ve been trying to ignore it. But, obviously, the time has come. It’s time to post a tribute to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

This morning I spent an hour and a half reading the closure coverage in the P-I. Sipping my coffee, it was a ritual I’ve repeated hundreds and hundreds of times. Only this time it was my last. Tomorrow morning, the paper at the doorstep will be The Seattle Times. I’m not exactly happy about that — clearly I’d rather the P-I keep publishing in print.

But I must admit, I am excited to see what happens with the P-I’s transition to online-only. will be the nation’s first major experiment in whether a traditional newspaper can cut ties with dead trees and survive on the Web. Everyone in the industry is watching.

Pardon the upcoming romantic memoir.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer was the newspaper I grew up reading. Like so many other people in so many other cities with so many other papers, the P-I was my conduit into the journalism world. I cut my teeth by reading the comics — called, in the P-I, “Coffee Break” — and Mariners coverage in the mid-’90s fooled me into actually reading the newspaper.

But before I even cared about the newspaper’s content, the Seattle P-I had cemented a place in my heart with — what else? — its big, revolving, neon globe. Way, way back in the day, my dad had an apartment in the Lower Queen Anne neighborhood. From his balcony you could watch the P-I globe spin. My dad would look out the window and tell me, quoting the globe, “It’s in the P-I.” Yes, there was so much wonder in that big ball of glowing metal.

It was the hometown newspaper. The Seattle P-I, for as long as I’ve been alive, was the underdog. The Seattle Times was the big, mean Doberman. The P-I always seemed closer to the hearts of Seattleites; it had a better finger on the city’s pulse.

I’ve often wondered if my early experiences with the P-I steered my future toward journalism. The allure of newspapers brought me into the Daily Evergreen newsroom at WSU, and though it took a semester for me to find my reporting legs, I ended up falling for journalism. After a year of working for the Evergreen, taking on more and more important stories, I applied for an internship at the Seattle P-I. And got it.

There I was, just a year into my journalism career, working at the newspaper I grew up admiring. The internship did not disappoint — I took what I learned there, and my stronger passion for journalism, back to the Evergreen and ended up as editor-in-chief. That, in turn, landed me my job at The Spokesman-Review in Spokane. And I credit the P-I for all of it.

That’s why today’s closure of the P-I — at least as Seattle has known it for 146 years — hit me hard. It’s not like it was a surprise, since Hearst put the paper up for sale two months ago. And it wasn’t the first major newspaper to die this year, after the closure of the Rocky Mountain News in Denver last month. But the fact that it happened to the P-I — my newspaper — gives it a more personal sting.

I am sad for the 100-plus journalists who lost their jobs today. I know many of them, and many of them were mentors who helped me become a better journalist. I am more sad for Seattle, which has now lost its heart, and a voice. And I am devastated for the state of American journalism, both for its dwindling effectiveness and its incapacity to adapt to the digital age.

For most Americans, the demise of the P-I is yet another drop in the bucket. Many people are saddened at the loss of another important institution. Many people are disaffected, happy to see the Big Bad Media fall apart and excited for the future of online news.

I feel discouraged, only able to watch from the sidelines and so far unable to get another job in journalism. A significant piece of my life dissolved today. However close to home this downward journalism spiral has been, the P-I’s closure brings it closer.

But, as I mentioned above, I am still excited to see what happens. I’m rooting for the success of the online-only P-I. It would give struggling journalists like me, and so many people I know and care about, some much-needed hope in these dismal times.

So, rest in peace, P-I print. And welcome to the new world, P-I online. Godspeed.


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[…] Journalism, News Industry, Sea Change I may just be the luckiest person alive. A few weeks ago, I wrote about the closure of the Seattle P-I and how sad it made me, how it had a special place in my heart, and […]

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