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    Three years after, what remains of the P-I?

    Now a website only, SeattlePI.com is surviving as "a quasi-national medium with a local bent" and a small (and shrinking) staff. Lately, some big names have departed without being replaced.

    As the globe turns

    As the globe turns Flickr contributor Chas Redmond

    Three years ago, when the Seattle Post-Intelligencer ceased operating as a traditional newspaper, the small staff of journalists who survived the transition moved to a higher floor of the newspaper’s headquarters on Elliott Avenue. The second floor, which had served as the main newsroom, resembled a ghost office. Up on the fifth floor, the staff worked in closer, more reassuring quarters — the massive neon globe, icon of the paper and the city, still spinning above them.

    Last  St. Patrick’s Day marked three years since the Post-Intelligencer became a web-only publication, SeattlePI.com. The already truncated staff has grown even smaller, most notably with the symbolically significant departure in December of Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist David Horsey, and the departure one month later of executive producer (the web equivalent of an executive editor) Michelle Nicolosi, who led the P-I’s transformation from print to digital.

    Horsey went to the Los Angeles Times; Nicolosi started an e-book publishing company. The P-I’s newsroom staff no longer works under the neon globe but in the Real Networks building, a half-mile to the south. Those dozen or so journalists, various part-time bloggers, and the outside publications that provide content for the site are what remain of the P-I brand.    

    Last weekend, the website posted staff-generated news reports on a variety of topics — a bus accident, a fatal stabbing, the signing of quarterback Matt Flynn by the Seahawks — alongside the site’s usual mix of slideshows, celebrity gossip, neighborhood blogs, and relationship advice. Nowhere was the anniversary of the newspaper’s metamorphosis mentioned. Indeed, the event long ago stopped being news.

    The P-I did not survive as a newspaper, but it has survived as a news medium. The cost of its survival is debatable, although the same debate can be had over just about every newspaper in the digital age. Despite the shrinking staff, the SeattlePI.com’s owners are committed to its future said Paul Luthringer, vice president at the Hearst Corporation, which owns the P-I as well as scores of daily newspapers, magazines, and television stations.

    In a prepared statement, Luthringer said, the P-I website “continues to be a comprehensive, digital news operation committed to covering breaking news on a local and national scale while also serving readers with the day’s most-talked about stories… Hearst remains committed to publishing a must-visit website in Seattle that reflects and serves the community.” Luthringer said visitor traffic, much of which is national readership, is up to 4 million per month. As for the site’s profitability, he said only that “financial performance continues to improve year-over-year.”

    (Members of the current staff, including interim executive producer Sarah Rupp, did not respond to requests for interviews; nor did Horsey or Nicolosi.)

    The question of the P-I’s success is really two questions, one of business, the other of emotions. The site’s page views, its mere existence is proof of its success or at least durability as a business.

    The financial model of the P-I has two components, the site itself with the advertising revenue it generates, and secondly the sale of advertising to other sites. Three years ago, Hearst executive Steve Swartz, credited with the decision of closing down the newspaper's print side, explained: “On the business side, we are assembling a staff to form a local digital agency that will sell local businesses advertising on SeattlePI.com as well as the digital advertising products of our partners: Yahoo! for display advertising, Kaango for general marketplaces and Google (GOOG), Yahoo!, MSN and Ask.com for search engine marketing,” Swartz said. “The site will also feature a digital yellow pages directory powered by Hearst's yellow pages unit, White Directory Publishers.”

    When the P-I went digital, Hearst offered advertisers not just exposure on SeattlePI.com, but also on partner sites like Yahoo!, MSN, Google, and Ask.com. In essence, the P-I positioned itself to be more than a purely local medium. As a quasi-national medium with a local bent, it stood to gain more advertisers and charge more for its ads. As a result (and also because of that), many of the P-I’s 4 million unique visitors per month come from outside Seattle. In essence, the P-I earns extra revenue by “selling links to content on other Web sites and from Hearst Media Services, which is a full-service digital advertising agency," Luthringer said.

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    Posted Tue, Mar 27, 5:49 a.m. Inappropriate

    Requiring Facebook participation in order to comment on its stories will only hasten the irrelevance/demise of the PI.


    Posted Tue, Mar 27, 7:53 a.m. Inappropriate

    I've pretty much given up on the PI because the content has become so limited. It was interesting to read this discussion of the process of decline because I've been thinking about it lately as I would scan the front page and find mostly fluff and quickly move on to other news sites that offer more in-depth reporting like Crosscut. And, like BlueLight the Facebook requirement ended my ability to join any possible discussions. Take away the reporters and editors and you take away the mission and focus.


    Posted Tue, Mar 27, 8:40 a.m. Inappropriate

    An interesting summary of developments at the P-I. I'd been wondering why and for how long Hearst would keep supporting it. The story gives reasons.

    We should worry about the Times as well. It keeps getter smaller in size and thinner in coverage....with a newsstand price now of $1. Print dailies are having a difficult time in all major markets. Let us hope that Seattle does not become the first major city without one.

    Posted Tue, Mar 27, 9:11 a.m. Inappropriate

    It certainly would be ironic if the only paper serving the Seattle market ended up being the Tacoma News Tribune.


    Posted Tue, Mar 27, 9:47 a.m. Inappropriate

    In your list of folks that still work for the e-P-I you forgot Josh Trujillo, the P-I's sole remaining visual journalist. He is probably the best known and respected photojournalist in this city and recently shot what probably became the most discussed and debated local photo this decade: The image of Dorli Rainey pepper sprayed at an Occupy protest. His work surrounding the John T. Williams totem pole was also stunning. He just taught a cell phone photography class that packed a conference room at Fisher Plaza.

    But thanks for the info on the e-P-I. I have wondered how it was going over there. I wish them luck.

    And yeah, I agree, the Facebook requirement at the e-P-I and e-Times is annoying.


    Posted Tue, Mar 27, 12:02 p.m. Inappropriate

    Josh indeed does commendable work, and his omission was not intentional. Like a lot of the journalists there, he is a one-man band. I'm betting his job is especially challenging. Print reporters can take a few shortcuts in the digital age, but there are no shortcuts when capturing images. It's physically demanding, and you have to "be there," which takes time...sometimes a lot of it.

    Posted Tue, Mar 27, 12:28 p.m. Inappropriate

    I very much appreciate the sentiment that what we're doing at InvestigateWest is an extension of the spirit of the Seattle P-I. But it should not go unsaid that the journalists who remain at pi.com also are nobly laboring to do the same. They come up with solid original reporting and commentary that is a benefit to the community and, as Mr. Hkugiya's piece points out, the nation. Original reporting is what's increasingly missing, and we should encourage it wherever is survives in the news ecosystem that is developing. And so, for as long as pi.com continues to support original journalism, I say more power to them.


    Posted Tue, Mar 27, 12:32 p.m. Inappropriate

    What goes on in all the other floor space of the former P-I building?


    Posted Tue, Mar 27, 12:55 p.m. Inappropriate

    Yes, buy the print editions of Seattle Times and The New York Times and support nonprofit news operations with your cash -- you'll support the livelihoods of reporters and photographers who do the heavy lifting of making sense of the world for readers, as well as for TV and radio reporters who turn around and write their own stories based on The New York Times and Washington Post articles.

    Web ads pay *pennies* on the dollar compared to print advertisements. They cannot support a vibrant news operation.

    That’s why staffs are shrinking and layoffs continue to be rampant. PR professionals outnumber journalists by at least 3:1.

    See map of the 4,000 layoffs last year here:

    That’s on top of nearly 3,000 in 2010:

    Nearly 15,000 were laid off in 2009, the year the print P-I ended:

    Last I knew, for every $1 in ad money that a print newspaper receives, a web ad for the news web site pays 10 cents. That’s a 90 percent reduction in money available to pay for staff.

    “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” Gandhi said. If you want a vibrant press, please buy the print product. Or donate to nonprofit news operations.


    Posted Tue, Mar 27, 1:30 p.m. Inappropriate

    Here's how to support the journalists who remain at Seattlepi.com: Click on their stories and photos.

    A cheat sheet...

    JOSH TRUJILLO, the photographer who made the 84-year-old Occupy Seattle pepper-spray victim internationally famous, has photo galleries here:


    STAFF BLOGS -- by Seattle institution Joel Connelly, cops/crime/courts reporters Casey McNerthney and Levi Pulkkinen (Seattle 911 blog), sports writer Nick Eaton, Big Blogger Amy Rolph, Boeing/tech/real estate guy Aubrey Cohen -- are found via the "blogs" tab:


    It's helpful to follow the staff via Twitter or Facebook, so as not to miss their work. Examples: Levi Pulkkinen (@levipulk), McNerthney (@McNerthney), Josh Trujillo (@JoshTrujillo).

    The news media industry is in an upheaval. It's important for us readers to support the kind of journalism we like while we have it.


    Posted Tue, Mar 27, 2:10 p.m. Inappropriate

    The only one of Hearst's news sites that hasn't become an empty shell of its former self is Sfgate.com. I'm going to guess this is because there's still a connection to a functioning daily newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle. While I am one of those who believe the Times is the paper that needed to close, the P-I is gone, and it's not coming back. And nobody outside the realm of journalism much cares...


    Posted Tue, Mar 27, 2:18 p.m. Inappropriate

    So... Investigate Northwest began requiring a person's name to comment (a very irresponsible thing for a commenter - especially a dissenting one - to do in the age of the internet AND a very establishment thing for a press - supposedly the voice of the powerless to demand, IMO)... PI online requires Facebook enrollment... Crosscut, this very home of "thoughful journalism", has censored (deleted) some of my posts - not for vulgarity - but for content contrary to a Party Line... Publicola - that "blog about Seattle written by journalists who are dedicated to non-partisan, original daily reporting that prioritizes a balanced approach to news" recently did the same thing...

    Yes, Sally, the news media is in an upheaval.

    From top to bottom. From regulatory failures to obsolete business plans to electronic markets to partisan, unethical propagandists. The whole mess has destroyed the public's trust in - what should be - their Fourth Estate. Here, for what it's worth, is a link to the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics. A great many of today's "journalists" do not even pretend to adhere to them. The ends justify the means journalism. Hey! If you get caught lying about - say - working conditions in China, just claim to be an entertainer. If you don't get caught, well, let them think you're a journalist.

    In my opinion, impersonating a journalist is akin to impersonating a cop.

    Here's the link to the Code of Ethics. I, particularly, like this one: Journalists should Support the open exchange of views, even views they find repugnant.

    Don't you?



    Posted Tue, Mar 27, 2:27 p.m. Inappropriate

    My sense is that seattlepi.com is a peripheral player on the Seattle-area news scene, an inessential part of the daily news churn. My 500-plus media-savvy Facebook friends in the region rarely link to it, and it even more rarely occurs to me to go there on my own. My daily time is much better spent checking in with The Seattle Times, The Slog, Crosscut, Publicola and West Seattle Blog. They are the sites that give me the sense that I'm oriented to what's going on around the Puget Sound.

    I'm sure the seattlepi.com journalists are good people and good workers, but in my opinion, they work for a shrill, screamy site that whores for story-clicks and largely plucks low-hanging journalistic fruit. I'd love to see those folks put their talents into something more worthwhile — and something with a future.

    Posted Tue, Mar 27, 3:15 p.m. Inappropriate

    Poor, poor little blue light. Are those bad, bad websites not following the rules you demand for journalists. Hey, here's an idea little blue light. Start your own on-line journal. Then your comments will never be deleted and you can always conform to whatever set of ethical standards you want. That way you too can impersonate a journalist!

    Posted Tue, Mar 27, 3:18 p.m. Inappropriate

    of course, this one's good, too: Journalists should encourage the public to voice grievances against the news media.


    Posted Tue, Mar 27, 3:23 p.m. Inappropriate

    And I forgot to include The Public in my list of factors contributing to the crumble. Thanks for reminding me, swifty.


    Posted Tue, Mar 27, 4:27 p.m. Inappropriate

    Poor little blue light. Even the public is now against you. What a horror it must be to be a little blue light fighting against the darkness of the storm.

    Posted Tue, Mar 27, 7:11 p.m. Inappropriate

    The P-I piece is an exercise in monotonous reycling:
    The author talked to former staff, made a perfunctory effort to get comment from Hearst, and makes a highly suspect claim of having sought to contact current staff who did not return requests for comment.
    The formula is unchanged year by year. The departed magnify their importance. The owner vouches to keep going. The atmosphere inside is assessed inaccurately from the outside.
    'Expect to see exactly the same article, touching the same bases, every year.

    Posted Wed, Mar 28, 9:18 a.m. Inappropriate

    In reply to BlueLight (if that really is his name): As someone who has always been by nature a dissenting "commenter" I've never felt the need to hide behind an assumed name. The only reason my full name isn't displayed here is because when I signed up for Crosscut, the enrollment page didn't state that the "user ID" I chose would be the name that appeared under my comments. But anybody with a shred of sense and a web browser could pretty easily figure out my full name. I draw the line, however, at letting PII harvesters like Facebook get into the act.


    Posted Wed, Mar 28, 2:27 p.m. Inappropriate

    I recently exchanged unpleasantries with a typically elitist, arrogant, Ayn-Rand-minded professional Nurd who made no secret of his glee at the plight of U.S. print journalists.

    Nor did he hide his smug contempt for print journalism in general. Indeed he damned print as irrelevant and denounced its writers, photographers and editors as members of an extinction-bound species reduced to a doomed struggle to prove our relevance, the last stage of descent into the evolutionary grave.

    When I pointed out to him the impending death of print media is a malaise limited to the United States – that the Canadian and European press is in infinitely better condition – he as much as called me a liar.

    Nor was testosterone a factor in his response. Most of the female computer professionals I have encountered – not all, but probably 98 percent – voice exactly the same views.

    Apparently, despite their own formidable technological acumen, Nurds are not particularly skilled at researching more general subject matter. Or maybe it is just the utter lack of intellectual curiosity that seems to be among the primary identifying characteristics of their entire generation. Whatever the cause, it quickly becomes obvious their alleged minds are closed to any reality that challenges their belief there is no god but Kernel and Nurd is its prophet.

    Hence they accept without question the so-called “conventional wisdom” that print – at least print in the form of newspapers, magazines and books – is a dead medium. More importantly, they preach it as their virtual-world gospel.

    But the truth, attested by the material linked below, is the accelerating collapse of U.S. newspapers is a unique phenomenon. It is only the One Percent's campaign of disinformation combined with our national ignorance and our sense of the United States as the global trend-setter – in other words, the Moron Nation factor – that keeps us from asking at least five never-asked (and therefore probably forbidden) questions:

    (1)-To what extent is the collapse of U.S. print journalism part of the One Percent's escalating and ever-more-successful war on public access to information?

    (2)-To what extent is the collapse of U.S. print journalism an expression of One Percent greed (i.e., the withdrawal of money from newspapers and publishing in general and its re-investment in more profitable ventures)?

    (3)-To what extent is the collapse of U.S. print journalism an index to the nation's declining literacy?

    (4)-To what extent is the collapse of U.S. print journalism an index to the psycho-social impact of public schools that – built as they are on the prison model – teach unquestioning obedience rather than inquisitive thinking? (For more on how U.S. public schools have abandoned educational goals and become entry-level penal institutions, producing generations of youth who never dare function above the drone level, the critiques of Henry Giroux are invaluable: http://www.henryagiroux.com/online_articles.htm .)

    (5)-To what extent does monopoly control – particularly the doctrine of corporate personhood – facilitate the death of print journalism?

    The links below do not answer these questions. Nevertheless they make interesting reading – not the least because of the message implicit in how three of the four skirt or avoid entirely the political, psychological and cultural factors obviously central to the issue. The fourth link, “u-s-europe-worlds-apart,” does touch on these factors, albeit in a superficial, even apologetic way.

    But the links are at least a starting point, a suggestion that – probably in reports yet untranslated from their native languages – there is already a wealth of relevant material available in realms where the above five questions are not tabooed.





    Posted Wed, Mar 28, 2:52 p.m. Inappropriate

    If the All Powerful One Percent were truly trying to keep people ignorant, they never would have allowed the internet to develop as it has. Information is more democratic, opinion more amplified, nowadays and much of the hand-wringing sounds like lamenting loss of exclusivity. Still no reason the democratized exchange can't have a place where an ethic to objectivity reigns; even if its just a place where citizens collect and post agendas and minutes of government. Untranslated. Unspun. The storytelling all starts to sound like a pitch. Notice the number of times your TV anchor "reports" on the findings of a new "study". With no thought - or report - as to the author's method or interest. I suppose its food for the goat, but there seems too little skepticism and too much onboard enthusiasm in the "press" nowadays.


    Posted Wed, Mar 28, 7:51 p.m. Inappropriate

    BlueLight: The Internet is neither the reliable information source (too many) people assume it to be, nor is it as widely available as the Nurds would have us believe.

    Indeed in the United States, Internet access is so prohibitively expensive as to hardly warrant the label "democratic" – a truth, by the way, that produced significant friction between the Nurds and substantial numbers of non-computerized (or recently de-computerized) poor in many local Occupy movements.

    The most recently available census figures, oddly enough no newer than 2009, show 31.3 percent of U.S. households had no Internet use at home. (http://www.census.gov/hhes/computer/publications/2009.html)(Table 1) This means 37.3 million U.S. households were without Internet connections.

    With the staggering decline in the income of the U.S. 99 Percent – nearly half the total population is now officially "low income" – the number of off-line households has surely grown. (Could this be the reason the government is withholding more recent data?)

    When U.S. household Internet usage is compared to overall Internet usage of leading European countries, we're noticeably behind at 68.7 percent.

    Internet usage in Norway, for example, is 97.2 percent. Sweden's is 92.9 percent. Little Iceland's is even higher: 97.8 percent.

    Other European countries' percentage of Internet use include: Belgium, 81.4; Finland, 88.6; Germany, 82.7; Netherlands, 89.5; Switzerland; 84.2; United Kingdom, 84.1. (http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats4.htm)

    Even when U.S. figures are inflated by addition of the people whose lack of home Internet access forces them to use libraries and other such portals, the U.S. percentage – once by far the world's highest – is a relatively lackluster 77.3 percent, behind Estonia's 77.5 percent and Slovakia's 79.2 percent.

    And since the 2010 census figures are still withheld, the given U.S. figure (http://www.internetworldstats.com/am/us.htm) includes, of necessity, always-boastful market research numbers. These sums are invariably hedged upward, whether to impress clients or maintain the illusion of positive change in a negative economy.

    Especially significant to this comparison is the fact much of Europe has a vigorous and aggressively skeptical press to question authority and thereby provide reliable information to non-Internet households. But we in the United States no longer have such an alternative.

    In the U.S., journalism that meaningfully questions authority is strictly prohibited by the news monopolies. U.S. mainstream newspapers have thus been reduced to nothing more than organs for official propaganda: note for example the now infamous role of The New York Times in promoting the invasion of Iraq.

    Meanwhile the U.S. Internet becomes ever more infamous as a vehicle for partisan disinformation campaigns, whether by the Left or the Right. Responsible, genuinely informative Online journalism – for example as practiced by Crosscut or the Washington State Labor Council daily The Stand – is scarce as the proverbial hen's teeth.

    To further darken the picture, lower-income seniors, disabled people, those who are chronically poor or homeless – the very demographic groups most needful of specific information about community events, social services and political developments – are specifically denied information by major media. This information-access equivalent of redlining – the bankers' exclusion of various ethnicities and neighborhoods from eligibility for home ownership – is typically in response to edicts from advertisers who reject such groups as “unprofitable.”

    The devastating lack of Online access by lower-income people and the resultant obstacles to dissemination of essential information is a problem with which our governments and non-profit social service organizations struggle every day. Sources I interviewed for a 2007 study of computer use in the Tacoma/Pierce County area – a story assigned by a local newspaper for seniors and disabled people – estimated at least half the area's lower-income households were too impoverished to pay for Internet service.

    Nor is there any evidence the picture has improved. For example, in the (unassisted-living) senior housing project in which I reside, the residents of only six of 52 apartments are Online. Why? When I ask, the response is invariably “I can't afford it.” (Disclosure: officially retired since 1995, I am both lower-income elderly and physically disabled.)

    Already denied health care, jobs, education, adequate public transport and a functional socioeconomic safety-net, we in the U.S. 99 Percent are also sorely deprived reliable information. Which is no doubt the reason we have what is arguably the most badly informed, often appallingly ignorant electorate in the industrial world – exactly the malleable mass the One Percent needs to complete imposition of its looming slave state.

    Posted Wed, Mar 28, 8:08 p.m. Inappropriate

    So... only 77 percent of the population has access to the internet. In their heyday, what percentage of households received the daily newspaper? What percentage of households watch the TV news? What percentage of people even care?

    All people - in this country still - can be as informed as they choose to make themselves. What percentage of horses, led to water, refuse to drink?


    Posted Thu, Mar 29, 1:22 p.m. Inappropriate

    Is there some significance attached to spelling "nerd" as "nurd"?


    Posted Mon, Apr 2, 11:10 a.m. Inappropriate

    lorenbliss's comments and analyses are spot on. The story of the destruction of the news media in the U.S. is a part of the story of the corporatization of our governance. A good recent book on the subject is Jeff Clement's "Corporations Are Not People," http://www.amazon.com/Corporations-Are-Not-People-Rights/dp/1609941055 He thinks a constitutional amendment is needed to undo Citizens United etc. -- http://corporationsarenotpeople.com/

    BlueLight--Your perspective is off base; an informed citizenry require that the news and analysis actually be available, and quality journalism requires more than people pounding at their keyboards. Comparisons to TV news are irrelevant. The data is (probably) available on the internet to do excellent investigative reporting, but I see very little in the tradition of Jack Anderson or I.F. Stone (check out http://www.ifstone.org/ and the great documentary about him, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0070211/, to see how he did it--he constantly trolled the press for bits of data and then connected the dots).

    There are exceptions: Joe Romm at thinkprogress.org has good reporting.


    Posted Mon, Apr 2, 8:19 p.m. Inappropriate

    As a source of news worth reading the PI is pathetic. I removed the PI bookmark from my browser as It is not even worth spot checking. It says something about the quality of the PI in that Joel Connelly is the last columnist still employed there.

    Posted Wed, Apr 4, 11:07 a.m. Inappropriate

    Unlike many of you, I think the Seattle PI made the right choices for a web publication. The Seattle Times is more like a printed page put up on the web. The PI adopted the bloggy-posty style that is more appropriate for an audience that wants to check in and see the news a few times a day and see a lot of updates. They often change the top news stories several times in a day. The integration with Facebook is a plus...as you have one login, and you can post your news comments to your social network, providing good integration especially if your friends and family are local. The PI has one good marketing thing going for it -- the name. It's a known brand, and the "Seattle" label carries far to expatriates and people interested in the place.

    Overall I like what the PI has done, and I think it will be successful as the traditional household converts to web only news, but longs for more local, tailored reporting that relates to their lives.


    Posted Thu, Apr 5, 11:16 p.m. Inappropriate

    louploup says: "...an informed citizenry require that the news and analysis actually be available, and quality journalism requires more than people pounding at their keyboards."

    It appears that accuracy and honesty aren't on your list. but what with the likes of Judith Miller, Stephen Glass, Eason Jordan, Janet Cooke, Dan Rather, the Murdochs, NPR & their hatred of Juan Williams, Janson Blair, and others to numerous to mention, just where does the citizenry get accurate, honest and insightful news of the day. One merely has to look around America to see that journalists aren't interested in "the news" but interested in ratings and Pulitzers instead. Been that way since Viet Nam.

    We've been lied to enough by The Media from all camps that their words are almost always suspect. They've hid behind the 1st Amendment for decades, lied, got caught and lied again and caught again so often that the public has regulated them to extinction. Which is just fine with me. Perhaps their replacements will learn that Americans are plenty smart enough to handle the news in a straight forward manner. Receiving a Pulitzer these days is meaningless to the public especially if takes a lie to get one.

    American journalism has earned the disdain the public shows it. And it has nothing to do with the 1%ers, that cop out merely shows the lack of an intelligent argument.


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