The Stranger’s Eli Sanders asks “How Did the Seattle Times Become a Local Media Villain?” and then does a pretty thorough job answering the question. In short, the Times has long catered to the fast growing suburban market, while the more urban P-I has better matched and served the interests of the city named in its masthead. Not a bad business strategy for the Times, I suppose, but hardly endearing to us city folk.
The Seattle Times also clearly became the more Republican/conservative of the two papers exactly at a time when Democrats were cementing their hold on Seattle and its close-in suburbs, with the Times editorial board reflecting (and at times, regurgitating) the increasingly anti-labor, anti-tax, anti-government ideology of its publisher. As former political reporter Neil Modie once explained to me, his Hearst-owned P-I actually had more editorial independence than the locally-owned Times because its absentee owners couldn’t care less about our state and local politics.
But Sanders is also dead-on in describing the print death of the P-I as a chance for the Times to recast its public image:
In a way, there’s an opportunity here for the Times. Right now, whatever the merits of the sentiment, the Seattle Times—the SEATTLE Times—is not seen by enough people as a true voice of this city. It wouldn’t take much, though, to start turning that around.
Sanders suggests the Times should start by leafing through the archives of their former rival, but I’ve got a more dramatic and immediate recommendation for Times publisher Frank Blethen: if you really want to send a message to P-I loyalists that your paper can credibly represent all the voices in our public debate, you should go out and hire yourself a bona fide, liberal shitkicker like… well… me.
That’s right Frank, give me a regular column… hell, give me a seat on your editorial board, and with it, your personal assurance that I have the freedom to passionately refute the opinions of you and my new colleagues, without fear of reprisal or the need to constantly look over my shoulders. Send a message to readers and the community at large, that the Times not only welcomes debate, it invites it, especially when it challenges the styles and orthodoxies of our media/political/business establishment. Send a message that you’re actually learning something from the Internet other than fear.
(And yes, after all I’ve said and written, I’d happily go to work for Frank Blethen; if I could cash a paycheck from the Church of Latter Day Saints, I’d certainly have no qualms cashing one of his.)
Yeah, I know, that’s not much of a cover letter, which I suppose partially explains my current employment status, so if you really can’t bring yourself to swallow your pride and hire me, then you should hire somebody like Sandeep Kaushik, who’d be just as interesting a read, but I’m guessing a tad more acceptable to your current staff after years of brown-nosing them on behalf of his political clients. But whatever. You get the point.
The Times does have an opportunity to woo former P-I subscribers, but that window won’t remain open forever, so now, Frank, is the time to send a clear, persuasive and loud message that you are willing to represent the views and sensibilities of all Seattleites, not just those of our stodgy ruling class. It is time to send the message that the Times is willing to embrace change.
And who better to send that message than your paper’s loudest critic?