Midday Scan: Thursday's top stories around the region

Say it ain't so: U Village without Barnes & Noble?; media changes; Joel Connelly on the northern border; Doc Hastings to Alaska's defense?; and remembering a speech by ex-Reedie Steve Jobs.

Crosscut archive image.

The Peace Arch on the Canadian border sends one kind of message. But today we are emphasizing other kinds of images on our borders.

Say it ain't so: U Village without Barnes & Noble?; media changes; Joel Connelly on the northern border; Doc Hastings to Alaska's defense?; and remembering a speech by ex-Reedie Steve Jobs.

A change of command at one of the Northwest's flagship newspapers is another sign (perhaps portentious of an uncertain industry) of the evolving media landscape. After ten years, Allen Funk will leave as publisher of The Herald in Everett. The Herald reports that Funk will step down later this month "saying personal issues and the changing business model of newspapers played key roles in his decision." That "changing business model" is a cruel beast, a real-world expression of Joseph Schumpeter's theory of "creative destruction" (and no writer, editor, or ad manager wants their livelihood creatively destroyed).      

From the Best family, the early owners of the paper, to the Washington Post company, to Chris Little, Larry Hanson, and Allen Funk, the Daily Herald has a distinguished publishing history. Older reporters recall visits to Everett by the redoubtable Katharine Graham, with the Herald as one of the rare newspaper gems in the Washington Post Company's portfolio. Funk, from a newspaper family, came up through the business side of the Post. Unfortunately, Funk was freighted with a contracting market and the misery of layoffs. According to a confidential source, over the past several months the Herald has replaced its Circulation Manager, Ad Director, Retail Advertising Manager, and Pressroom Foreman. In addition, the Classified Ad Manager's job remains empty (maybe another unintended casualty of Craigslist). There is hope, however, as the paper continues to soldier through and adapt. As Mike Benbow writes, "Under Funk, The Herald has worked with a Web-first philosophy in recent years, publishing stories first on Heraldnet.com and working to add more information and context in the newspaper." 

So, where are you going to purchase a copy of Joseph Schumpeter's History of Economic Analysis if Barnes & Noble shutters its massive U-Village store? As Amy Martinez of the Seattle Times writes, "After 16 years, the largest retail tenant at University Village in Seattle appears headed for the door." Yes, this is reason for mourning (the company could not come to terms on a new lease, Martinez reports). The U-Village store is the last redoubt, a throwback to the halcyon days of booksellers with PhDs, and a diverse collection that doesn't emphasize the latest diet books or discounts on its e-reader, the Nook. True, the store is more market driven and leaner than in the past, but thankfully not as sans substance as the newest outlets (the Northgate store, for example). Bibliophiles will now graduate to the more expensive but nevertheless wonderful University Bookstore or Third Place Books or, yes, Elliott Bay Books even if Elliott Bay, in a spasm of middle-age recklessness, took up with a younger, sexier Capitol Hill. Make no mistake, however: If the University Village Barnes & Noble is replaced with a gargantuan Banana Republic, we have indeed reached the end times.

Is it time to build a fence along the 49th parallel to repel those huddled masses of bellicose Canadians from reaching U.S. territory? The Seattlepi.com's Joel Connelly thinks not. "Alas, the National Security State can never limit itself to the reasonable and practical. It is prone to excess:  An example, wanting to fence portions of America's border with the Great White North." One of the more illustrative examples of border-patrol overreach can be found just outside North Cascades National Park. One of Connelly's friends was caught in a border-patrol checkpoint in Newhalem(!) on the North Cascades Highway. "It would have taken a terrorist who was a world class rock climber to do an alpine traverse from Chilliwack Lake in British Columbia, up over 8,900-foot Mt. Redoubt, through mile-high cliffs of the wild Picket Range and down through the slide alder of Goodell Creek to arrive at S.R. 20," Connelly writes. A nudge for a future Connelly column: border fence notwithstanding, what is the fallout of so many additional agents with so much time on their hands? (Read: are they unfairly targeting the Hispanic community?)         

Alaska benefits from a small but mostly bipartisan and tightly knit congressional delegation. The universal catchphrase that is transmitted both politely and undiplomatically, depending upon the circumstances: Hands off. As Sean Cockerham of the Anchorage Daily News reports, the delegation is unhappy about Massachusetts Rep. Ed Markey's call for an investigative hearing into federal contracting with Alaska Native corporations. (The suggestion comes on the heels of a high-profile scandal involving an executive at a subsidiary of the Eyak Corporation). "Members of Alaska's congressional delegation questioned the move, with the spokeswoman for Alaska Democratic Sen. Mark Begich suggesting it could be a 'showboat political hearing,' " Cockerham writes. What does the delegation have going for it on this issue? A friendship with Washington Rep. Doc Hastings, who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee. "Hastings won't commit to holding the requested hearing but didn't rule it out either," Cockerham writes. Well, don't hold your breath.

Finally, the death of Steve Jobs provides a chance to look back at one of the more inspired commencement addresses of the past decade: Jobs at Stanford in 2005. Jobs, who briefly attended Reed in Oregon, sounds like a Northwest-Nordic realist. Life is short and often cruel. It's how you deal with the reality of death that matters. "Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart." 

Link summary

Everett Herald, "Herald publisher Allen Funk stepping down from post"

Seattle Times, "Barnes & Noble to close U-Village store"

Seattlepi.com, "Official foolishness--fencing the U.S.-Canada border"

Anchorage Daily News, "Alaska delegation wary of probe into Native contracting"

Stanford University News, "Text of Steve Jobs' Commencement Address (2005)"


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About the Authors & Contributors

Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson is the former editorial-page editor of the Everett Herald. Follow him on Twitter @phardinjackson