Saturday, January 10, 2009

End Times

As readers of this journal know, it has been pretty bleak for local dead-tree media. Seattle has been favored with two dailies, the Post-Intelligencer (PI) and the Times (Times). I've been detailing the slow decay of the Times in regards to the loss of features - decimation of its editorial page, loss of recipes, shrinking of Sunday Book pages (I have a note here from 2005 talking about when they had three pages - now they are down to one), loss of crosswords, no daily TV section, etc, as well as loss of key staff and reviewers.

Yet the diminishment of the Times gets swept aside by the sudden announcement that the P-I has been put up for sale by its parent corp, Hearst. And this offer is considered only a formality, required by agreement, before shuttering the paper entirely. So from one paper we've had a cascade of children tossed off the back of the sled to the waiting wolves, while for the other the announcement that the entire sleigh is going off the cliff.

The thing that is particularly concern-making, is that the staff had no clue. The initial report was from KING-TV that the parent Hearst group was going to offer the paper for sale. The newspaper itself had no clue, and the various reporters seem struck dumb by the suddenness of the decision. This is a concern not only for the P-Iers, but for anyone whose corporate masters are not within throttling distance. Those who chose to close the P-I were far removed from those who are to take the hit.

So we may go to one major daily, or maybe none (despite the perky concern-trolling from the Times on this, it ain't in great shape, and the idea that a major client for its printing is evaporating make not make up for the fact that a major competitor is going away. Over on the free weeklies side, the Seattle Weekly continues its painful diminution into irrelevancy, guided by the same people who are destroying the LA Weekly. Of the newsprint media, the Stranger, of all people, seems to be the strongest, yet that is supported by a extremely viable and vibrant online presence.

Mind you, the current economic crisis is the reason for "why now" in the same way that extremely cold winter is why great-grandma finally passed on. In reality, the symptoms have been evident for some time, and in many ways the recession gives management the cover to abandon all attempts to rebuild reader base and throw the readers to the wolves in hopes that the sleigh escapes.

More later,