As stated in my previous post, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer is being put up for sale. Needless to say, the news has left me–and many others–quite saddened. Not only for the city of Seattle, which could be losing a great news source, but also for the field of journalism.
Now, I’ve got to be honest and say upfront that I’m more of Times girl when it comes to trying to catch up on what’s going on back home. But right now, that doesn’t even matter. What matters (in my opinion) is that Seattle is one of the few metropolitan areas in the country that still has two major daily newspapers. Detroit is the only other one I can think of, off the top of my head (they’ve got the News and the Free Press) and I’ve heard that things aren’t going so great over there, either. I never realized how rare this is and how lucky we Seattlelites have been to have two dailies until my professors in college discussed it. And now, with The Hearst Corp. selling the P-I, it seems as though our luck is quickly running out.
All in all, it’s just a very sad state for the field of journalism. I mean, back in April, the Times laid off almost 200 employees, then in December, the Tribune Company filed for bankruptcy. And now, this. It honestly makes me wonder whether I chose the right profession to go into. But I’ve heard from those who are from a generation (or two) before me that the field has endured situations. So, I guess I shouldn’t be too worried? But I still am.
According to the P-I article (linked above), the paper “will stop publishing unless someone buys it in 60 days. If no buyer emerges, the paper would either become a Web-only publication or cease all operations.”
I honestly hope that’s not the case because becoming a Web-only publication would shrink staff size immensely and leave many journalists out of a job. In the article, Hearst President, Steven Swartz said that if this happens, the current number of staffers, 170, would be greatly reduced.
The article states that when the news was broken to the staff, everybody listened in shocked silence. Some cried afterwards, others were just speechless. I don’t blame them. I’m starting to tear up just thinking about it right now.
The Times also published an article about the sale. And in both this and the P-I article, Times Publisher Frank Blethen said the P-I closing up shop would increase the Times’ chances of survival in an increasingly digital world. But, according to the Times article, “it’s still not a sure thing.”
While this is obviously good news for the Times–which is also struggling–I honestly doubt that they’re thrilled about this.
First of all, Times employees are probably wondering what’s going on with their employer and wanting to know if they’ll be alright because the roles could’ve easily been reversed–especially with the layoffs probably still fresh in everyone’s minds. At least, that’s what would be going through my mind.
Second of all, while this could mean the end of competition, this could mean the end of competition. What I mean by this is that we journalists strive to do the best work we can do and even though we often think that our story on X, Y or Z is the best, we don’t really know unless we’ve got something to compare it with.
With two major dailies, journalists at the Times and the P-I are forced to up their game just that much more in order to be considered relevant. In the end, everybody benefits. The journalists work harder and produce better articles, the two papers publish those articles and the readers have access to multiple perspectives on one particular story. The same goes for editorials; when columnists at each paper write about the same topic, readers are likely to receive a more balanced perspective and able to form a well-informed opinion. I think this is important because not much bothers me more than the ignorant and opinionated.
And finally, professional rivals though they might be, I’m pretty sure a lot of Times employees have friends–or even family members or spouses–who work at the P-I. To see something like this happen to them can’t be easy. If there’s something I’ve learned since graduating, it’s that the field of journalism is a very close-knit community. Sure, there are probably some who fit the screw-ethics-or-basic-human-decency-I-will-do-anything-for-the-story stereotype (honestly though, I’ve yet to come across any). But I honestly believe that I couldn’t have picked a better profession to go into where everybody is so willing to help each other out and look out for one another.
So, I’ve said it once but I’ll say it again: my heart goes out to all the folks at the P-I as well as the city of Seattle. Things may not be great right now but don’t lose hope. We will get through this–one way or another.