Tuesday, March 17, 2009

In Honor of the Seattle Post Intelligencer

Today is the last print run of a newspaper I have long admired: the Seattle Post Intelligencer. I was a faithful reader and subscriber both times when I lived in Washington and I've continued to read that paper online nearly every day since I moved away from Washington. After today, the paper will continue with a limited online-only edition, but somehow, it won't be the same.

I know it seems peculiar in this day and age, but I'm such a newspaper lover. I mean a real news-PAPER lover -- I like the ink and the paper and the pages themselves. I've been this way ever since my dad started working for the Tribune Company when I was 13, and he started getting all kinds of newspapers sent to the house. When he did that, I started reading all those newspapers and I became addicted.

In all the different places I've lived, I've subscribed to a local rag, and once the web came along, I continued to read many of those I left behind. I currently subscribe to the hard-copy edition to the San Antonio Express, and I pay for some online stories from the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. I also read the online editions of the NYT, the Seattle PI, the Houston Chronicle, and the occasional story from the Lake Charles American Press and the Chicago Tribune.

None of this is strictly about the news -- you can get that straight from AP and Reuters (or the plain vanilla CNN) -- it's about the place. With the exception of the New York Times, which I read because it tends to have more in-depth coverage of major events, the primary reason I read newspapers from different places I've lived is because those papers give not only in-depth coverage of those specific regions, but they also report with the viewpoints of those regions.

For example, when Hurricane Ike hit the Gulf Coast last fall, I wanted to read about it in the Houston Chronicle. Who else would have a more relevant viewpoint? CNN? The NYT? The Seattle PI? Highly doubtful. Of course those viewpoints were relevant when I wanted to read about how the rest of the country viewed the storm, but not when I wanted details about the storm itself. And now, no one cares about the aftermath of the storm except the Gulf Coast, and so for that, once again, I turn to the Houston Chronicle.

It works that way for most things. For an earthquake in California, naturally, I turn to the LA Times. For the economic melt-down in the car industry, I start with the Detroit Free Press. There are so many wonderful newspapers: the Boston Globe, the Chicago Sun Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Austin American Statesman...

The economic downturn and falling advertising revenues has really hit the newspaper industry hard. The Tribune Company, where my dad finished his career, declared bankruptcy in December, and it made me incredibly sad. The venerable Rocky Mountain News of Denver, Colorado, which began in 1859, published its final issue in February.

And now, today, the Seattle Post Intelligencer, which started in 1863 is distributing its last press run. Without these papers, the news will still go on and it will still be reported, but we lose so much when we lose these local voices doing the reporting of it. The headline on the final issue of the PI is "You've meant the world to us" -- playing on the iconic symbol of the globe that sits atop the PI building in Seattle. I think I can say the same back to the PI and all the other great newspapers out there.

You've meant the world to us.


tamsaunt said...

My morning routine includes reading the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette from front to back. That is a habit I picked up from Daddy many years ago when no one read the paper before he did. He started at the front and read it through, including the classifieds, which I do to this day.

I watch with foreboding as the Dem-Gaz gets smaller and smaller and things get more compressed. The Wednesday food section is now part of another section, the classifieds get smaller and smaller. Since advertising the the life blood of newspaper, the drop in advertising dollars has led to lay offs and consolidation.

I may ot agree with their editorial pages very often, but I don't know how I would start my day if I didn't have it to read.

Doubtful Muse said...

I always read the DemGaz when I'm at your house -- I read whatever paper is available wherever I am. The SA Express News just cut a bunch of staff, so I hope they're going to survive -- I'd hate to live in a place without any newspaper at all. I hope the DemGaz survives too.

adam hartung said...

The change at Seattle Post Intelligencer is a good thing for Seattle, and for Hearst. Developing a viable news model for on-line reporting is important to future readers and society. Read more at http://www.ThePhoenixPrinciple.com