The big news in Seattle today is the death of one of our two daily newspapers… mostly ignoring the fact that the Seattle Post-Intelligencer really isn’t dead. At least not yet. And while the ceasing of print publication after 146 years is certainly a momentous, and even a sad occasion, it is the loss of people not paper that we should really mourn.
Ten years from now we may look back on this day and shrug. As our nation’s first major online-only daily, the P-I may prosper and grow. It may find a workable business model through innovation or providence or some combination thereof. It may over time expand its staff and its original reporting; it may even become a better news organization online than it ever was in print.
Maybe. Who knows? After all, it’s only newsprint we’re losing, something fewer and fewer of us bother to sully our hands with every day. This is high tech, digital Seattle, and if an online daily is gonna work anywhere, there’s a good chance it’s gonna work here first.
But the people—the 85% or so of P-I staffers who are now without jobs—well, they’re irreplaceable, and they’re who our city will really miss, at least in the short term. Some will retire, some will move away and some will switch careers altogether. A few will continue to cover our region as freelancers or independents or through new online news ventures of their own. But the void in our local media left by today’s furlough of the bulk of the P-I’s newsroom staff won’t be filled easily or quickly.
So while I wish the remaining P-I staffers the best of luck in their online adventure, and remind them that it is an encouraging first step to see the Hearst Corporation even try this at all, it is their fallen colleagues to whom I send my condolences, not the institution itself. And for those of you who choose to continue your journalism careers by joining together and striking out on your own, I hope you use today’s events as inspiration to get out there and kick your former employer’s ass.