I know I’m the last person who the Seattle Times would want to consult on how to save their dying paper. But despite myself, I feel a certain affinity for newspapers. I still read the dead tree version of New York Times, and although I make fun of the Seattle Times stupid ed page, I’m glad they’re around.
While I often have real problems with their editorial stance, and I don’t understand why they still have stale columns from national writers, I do think they are an important piece of what gets reported in Western Washington. So let’s start there. The Seattle Times shouldn’t run syndicated columns who we’ve seen the day before in their own paper, and who we can read for free online. I don’t know that it saves them much money, but it makes them more of a local paper.
So what to replace those columns with? Some days, I say dissenting opinions. Especially on candidate endorsements where Ryan Blethen says it’s important to have a conversation, there should be editorials in favor of each candidate (and let us know who wrote what). There would still be an endorsement, but the Times would acknowledge that there’s another side.
But mostly, just use the freed up newspaper space for more, you know, news. I’d say don’t run any opinion some days. Nobody cares what the paper thinks on any given issue except for people who already had an opinion about that issue, and nobody under 60 cares what Bruce Ramsey or Joni Balter think about anything. Make a couple days a week opinion free days, and give the space now for Ed and Op-Ed to in-depth reports on upcoming races, or investigative pieces, or important issues. Imagine picking up the Times in the 5 weeks leading up to an election and reading great pieces on each city council race. Imagine a full 2 pages given to an important issue. Imagine knowing every Saturday that there will be a well researched, well edited, well written long form piece instead of another vapid editorial.
And speaking of well written, give your writers license to write. The staid, boring style of reporting is often not worth reading. Of course as a fowl mouthed blogger that partly means swearing when it’s relevant: sometimes people say “Shit” in congressional hearings. And they say “Fuck” on the Gotti tapes. They don’t say “S***” or “F***” and when I read that sort of nonsense in their pages, or too clever by half word play that makes me have no idea what was said, it makes me not care if the Times goes under: while I know they’ll never swear as much as me, not having blanket censorship makes it a better read.
Because more than anything, I want a good read. I want to smile at a turn of phrase in the news coverage. I want to be wowed by the transition between ideas in the opinion pieces, and I want passion in the sports section.
But really, I’d settle for not complete shit in the sports section. I seriously can’t think off the top of my head of any Seattle Times sports writers. As much as I wonder if Art Thiel is fucking insane when I read him, or assume George Vecsey is writing with a quill pen when I read him, he’s so old fashioned, they are fun to read.
So those are my suggestions that I know will never actually be implemented. They’d make the paper more fun to read, and maybe save it in the end.