If anybody wonders why newspaper readership is inexorably moving away from print and online, one need only look at Seattle’s two dailies today for a crystal clear illustration of at least one major factor: the online editions simply appear more informative.
Both papers devote their two right columns — fully one third of their available front page real estate — to the same big story: the $97.2 million wasted by the Port of Seattle… or so says a performance audit commissioned by the State Auditor and conducted by an out of state firm. Neither article actually bothers to explain what a “performance audit” is, its intended purpose, or that it’s not by nature as objective or uniformly defined as the more common financial audit. People read the word “audit” and they think of ledgers and spreadsheets and absolute mathematical facts, but more than just an examination of the books, a performance audit is intended to analyze whether an agency is performing its actual task, and recommend procedures to increase efficiency. It’s kinda subjective.
Not that I mean to dismiss the audit or defend the Port, which has in recent years been wracked by scandal, boondoggles, and administrative arrogance, it’s just that the big news isn’t all that much news to even the most casual Port observer, and that headline-friendly $97.2 million figure is more printed in soy-based ink than chiseled in stone. The Port’s problems are well-known and long term, and what both papers neglect to tell readers is that in each of the past two cycles, efforts to elect a reformist majority to the commission have been thwarted when the business community successfully targeted one of the reformist incumbents.
As for the other headlines, the P-I fills up the entire rest of its front page with a dire warning not to inhale buttery flavor, a disturbing and important story, but again, not actually news, while the Times matches by following yesterday’s story about lead in children’s jewelry with a “special report” revealing that few children in WA state are ever tested for lead poisoning. You’d think that with all this focus on lead poisoning, the Times might have mentioned the results of Darcy Burner’s free lead tests? (Hmm. I bet if Rep. Dave Reichert had conducted this innovative public service he would have warranted a headline and a congratulatory editorial touting his bipartisanship.) But no, it’s more important to tell us that Americans like iPods and BBQ, but that beer consumption has fallen 12-percent since 1980… a statistic entirely explained by the fact that I graduated college in 1985.
Read the front page of the dead tree edition of either paper, and you’d think apart from the big story about the Port, it was a pretty slow local news day… but go online and you’ll actually find plenty of hard news stories to accompany your morning cup of
joe coffee-flavored steamed milk. Gov. Gregoire will be doing what she does best, suing the powerful on behalf of the people, this time the EPA for denying states the right to set their own auto emissions standards… A groundbreaking wave-energy project has received a first in the nation license to begin construction in Makah Bay… The downtown bus tunnel will remain closed through Monday due to computer problems (did they upgrade to Vista?), snarling holiday traffic… And despite our supposedly crappy congressional representation, the new 2008 federal budget includes an additional $24 million for Puget Sound cleanup, and $88 million for building light rail:
Sound Transit officials said Thursday the money, allocated on a competitive basis and more than initially expected, is a vote of confidence in the rail extension. The allotment also bodes well for Sound Transit’s chances of winning a $750 million grant, which the agency will seek in January, officials said.
(Shhh. Don’t tell Ted Van Dyk.)
It’s all in the P-I and the Times, and more. You just wouldn’t know it glancing at the newsstand.