Tuesday, March 17, 2009

End of an era in Seattle

It's another "end of an era" within the Fourth Estate, as the Seattle Post Intelligencer -- unable to find a buyer after Hearst put it up for sale -- will publish its last print edition today, and going forward will be a web only newspaper. It's sad, in a way -- it got ahead of a lot of "national" papers and television outlets in investigating stories from crime to politics to entertainment, not just for the Pacific Northwest but across America.

That leaves the Seattle Times as the city's only major paper, which insists it's saddened to see its longtime rival bite the dust -- and one can only anticipate a generation gap with Gen X and younger gravitating to online content while older people will still prefer a paper product in their hands. Different content, different editorial spins -- we're going to pull apart more than we already are I'm afraid. Denver and Seattle are the proverbial canaries in the coal mine as long time two paper towns become one paper -- and there's already a terrible lack of progressive voices in print already.

A few years back, Honolulu came dangerously close to losing its second paper -- and Canadians remember the furore when one paper each in Winnipeg and Ottawa (operated by rival companies) closed, leaving each with an English language monopoly for years until the Toronto Sun started printing local editions (not much of a "choice" if you ask me, for cities with populations educated well above the national average).

It will also be interesting to see how PI can turn a profit on the Web when advertising revenues are scarce right now and people will still want a "free" newspaper.

Could it possible that the Toronto National Post might take this step next? The Aspers are just buying time for it, by getting yet another extension to refinance the debt of CanWest. I think they'd rather sacrifice radio and television properties before their most prized possession, but in this market there are no sacred cows.

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