Monday, March 16, 2009

Goodbye, Seattle P-I

The Seattle Post Intelligencer ceases print publication tomorrow. The blame for its demise, I think, can be found in the last word of the third paragraph:
The company, however, said it will maintain seattlepi.com, making it the nation's largest daily newspaper to shift to an entirely digital news product. [emphasis added]

If the fourth estate is to be maintained, we need to stop thinking of the newspaper as a "product." ("Product," for those who haven't heard, is capitalist shorthand for any means to the end of making money.) As long as we view the conveyance of news as a "product" that the investor can interchange with any other "product" to make money – preferably bigger and bigger stacks of money – we run the risk of having no news at all.

People don't expect public broadcasting, Boys & Girls Clubs, or schools to make money. (Wait, forget I said schools. Let's recast that to to "Sane people don't expect ...") Can we build news organizations along similar lines?

As the article continues, it gets worse:

[Steven Swartz, president of Hearst Newspapers] continued: "The Web is first and foremost a community platform, so we'll be featuring new columns from prominent Seattle residents; more than 150 reader blogs, community databases and photo galleries. We'll also be linking to the great work of other Web sites and blogs in the community."

In other words, the Web site will be chock-full of content for which Hearst Newspapers pays absolutely no money.

The article doesn't talk about layoffs, but we can infer that they're planned, despite the printing costs that Hearst will be saving when it ceases print publication. Seattle P-I editor and publisher Roger Oglesby told staff this morning:
This is a hard day for all of us. We were fortunate to be part of a great newspaper with a great tradition, and we've been blessed to be part of a wonderful group of talented people. We all hate to see that end. [emphasis added]

Guess it's just as well I didn't go to J school for that master's.

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