Bye Bye P.I.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer Ceases Print Publication Tomorrow I first went to Seattle in 1971. Fresh out of high school, looking for adventure, escaping New York City, everything about the Pacific Northwest was new, including the local newspaper we all read – the Post-Intelligencer. You come to rely on a newspaper to inform, entertain, capture the personality of the region and to give you the tactile pleasure of ink on newsprint, an essential morning ritual. You read the P-I on the ferry to Bainbridge or the Halfway House in Brinnon. It was (and may still be, on the web only) an essentially Northwest newspaper.

Tomorrow is the last print run of the P-I. A victim of the brutal economy, especially for print media, the P-I will become the largest daily newspaper to shift to a web-only product. That’s sad and unfortunate but maybe there’s opportunity for seattlepi.com to lead the way for a leaner, nimbler, web-savvy established news organization – based on the pioneer spirit that lead to its  founding 146 years ago. Can these old white guys blaze new digital trails and shed generations of print-based baggage? It’s going to be an interesting experiment. I am rooting for them. I just changed my homepage to seattlepi.com - they need the traffic.

Why we need the P.I. … really need it … Recently, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer spearheaded a national expose on the Boy Scouts of America titled Chain Saw Scouting (See Profit trumps preservation for Boy Scout councils nationwide). Reporters from Hearst newspapers around the country worked on that story for a couple of years, they shared resources, connected the dots, followed the leads and a disturbing national pattern emerged. We need that kind of deep investigative reporting that requires professional time and resources. We need the P-I to keep watchdog over the Chief Seattle Council of the Boy Scouts of America. 

The P-I wrote the first stories on the Pulali Point landowners banding together (SavePulali.org) to force Chief Seattle Council to respect the property rights of its neighbors and the sanctity of the land bequeathed to them.  The P.I. deserves an award for the Chain Saw Scouting series. And they deserve our allegiance.

How the P.I. can survive and thrive:  Go totally innovative and ‘web-ize’ reporters so they can transmit to the web instantly from the scene. The Chain Saw Scouting series has interactive features, video, maps, slide shows – and hundreds of virulent, off the charts comments by rabid right wingers who are giddy with glee that the P.I. print has failed.  That’s the kind of fighting media property we need in the Northwest. 

The P.I. now needs to reinvent a major city newsroom. That can be thrilling … or impossible. Maybe the out-of-work P.I. reporters can start their own publication without the baggage of a print-based parent. Ah, the beauty and terror of the web.

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