Mark Lamster | Essays

Seattle PI: RIP

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer was founded 146 years ago, when that city was an industrial backwater on Elliot Bay, a timber town with more logs than people. It's been publishing ever since, through countless booms and busts, local and national.

But this is one economic slump the paper won't be chronicling, at least in print. The PI recently announced it's going online only, and cutting back its staff to 20. This news comes on the heels of the all-out shuttering of the Denver Rocky Mountain News, another remnant of the nineteenth century. The overall loss of ad revenue in this economy, coupled with the ceding of classified business to the Internet, and the ubiquity of free online content are posing challenges to which these centuries-old business have been unable to effectively respond.

I'm not naming names, but let me say the I-told-you-so glee I've seen among some Internet boosters is truly disappointing. Are we really ready to give up on print? It seems short-sighted. As David Simon recently pointed out, we need our newspapers to keep an eye on city hall; our democracy is dependent on the fourth estate, and the presumption that vastly diminished electronic staffs will fill in the massive gap we're creating is, I think, foolish. Paper remains a wonderfully inexpensive, malleable, and pleasurable technology. Given all the stimulus cash being spread around, It would be nice if the administration would establish some kind of fund to help our bastions of journalism stay afloat and figure how to retool for the coming century.

Posted in: Business, Media

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