Opinion

Demise of the Seattle P-I is like losing an old friend | In Our Opinion | March 20

Excuse my lapse into first person, but this is personal. I could go on for hours about how the loss of the Seattle P-I represents the painful “silencing of a voice.” That’s what Mark Trahant told me on the day the last issue hit the streets. Trahant is the last editorial page editor of the P-I and now just another Bainbridge Island resident looking for a job.

Unequivocally, the increasing economic failure of America’s newspaper model means fewer watchdogs in a culture that desperately needs them. If you think a one-newspaper town the size of Seattle or San Francisco or Denver sucks, try a no-newspaper town. Perhaps the industry will eventually right itself before large, daily papers become extinct. But enough of that.

I’ve come to praise the P-I, which employed me for less than a year (same with the Times two decades later) in the mid-1980s before I joined United Press International. I was a bit of a maverick myself, so I quickly embraced the many intriguing characters who worked under the globe at Sixth and Wall.

When I was there, the P-I – like many other Hearst publications located in multi-paper cities – had a stable of skilled journalists who considered themselves the underdogs in a highly competitive battle for readers and circulation. They worked a little longer and harder, dug deeper, disliked being bridled and hated to lose. Put them all together and you had a good read.

On the surface, the people over on John Street seemed above the fray, but they were equally competitive. The real winners, of course, were the people of Seattle. The competitiveness was palapable. It wasn’t coincidental that the Times often hired people away from the P-I – better for them to join you than to beat you.

The P-I liked to hire young journalists who had the potential to shine. Maybe they were a little shrill at times and occasionally difficult. But they had to be devoted to the cause. I had a buddy who was a talented photographer with a terrible temper. He lasted several years at the P-I until he bounced a coffee cup off of a photo editor. He wouldn’t have lasted a month at The Times.

So long, old friend. We won’t see your kind in these parts for many a moon – if ever again.

Community Events, April 2014

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