Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Michael Hood: "Only the trees aren't crying"

Michael Hood (BlatherWatch):
We weren't going to write about this -- the last day of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer

-- but how can we not?

It is, after all, the biggest Seattle media event since Frank Blethen shot the dog, or the first edition of The Stranger, or the fateful day KVI picked up Rush Limbaugh.

(Unlike if we were a newspaper, we didn't have an obit ready to go when the lingering Loved One suddenly passed. We shoulda: this day has been predicted for years.)

Now the Times is reportedly tottering. Losing one of the huge daily newsrooms is bad enough, losing both is unthinkable.

The jerks will breath a little easier; the Republic is left a little queasier; having these many fewer reporters digging around.

Local broadcast news isn't up to it: teevee and radio have been laying off for years, and have been barely more than sound-bite generators for a long time. Except for timid public radio, who does some depth (but little investigative) radio and teevee have been dependent on their editors reading the dailies first thing in the morning.

We never thought much of the P-I growing up. The family males were Republicans, and the stodgy, Seattle Times with its, cautious, gray columns, cautious gray writers, and predictably conservative editorial pages suited our family of small-town family business just fine. Besides, they only read it on Sundays.

People we knew said the P-I and all Hearst papers were yellow rags, and sure enough, lurid stories of violent crimes were splashed daily across the front page in a type size the Times was saving for the 2nd Coming... and if there were no suitably violent crimes in Seattle, then another city's violence would do.

Our first involvement with the paper was 7th & 8th grades as a vital link in filling the newshole in the town and environs of Ferndale, Washington. We peddled the P-I bike-wise, six mornings a week. It was hell, but extremely well-paid.

But by the mid-1960 's our perceptions, politics, and the P-I had changed. Our heads were turned by cartoonist Ray Collins, reporter Tom Robbins, education writer Frank Herbert, the mythic Darrell Bob Houston. It became our personal Seattle paper of record.

The Times, we shed with our father's politics.

We did our first freelance for the P-I because we knew Walt Evans, a long dead editor for whom we'd worked on the Lynden Tribune while in high school.

Our first story was a feature about a couple of Seattle kids who were our shipmates on the SS Brooklyn Heights, a raggedy freighter we were signed onto in the South China Sea in 1966. We mailed it from Da Nang, but it never saw print because the pictures were ruined after the film was x-rayed by the Army as it came into the US. We got our first kill-fee.

Later we were the restaurant critic there, wrote a dining column, and did some freelance features over the years.

We don't know if business columnist, Bill Virgin is staying or leaving. His Wednesday On Radio column is one of the few, if not only, local radio columns still in print. If it gets some bytes on the new on-line P-I , we'll all be lucky. Read his incisive last column: Class final: How to kill an American newspaper here.

Despite it was owned by the Hearst Corporation, one of the largest (and historically one of the most ruthless and reckless) corporations on earth; despite the reporting staff was smaller, and the coverage thinner than the Times, the P-I was always the underdog in the Seattle newspaper wars.

We always liked the underdog; we'll miss the P-I. but hell, we stole it off the Net everyday like everybody else. We had a hand in killing it.
Howie P.S.: Michael is one of the best (if not The Best) writers around here. Most of the time our political ideas were compatible. There was one little disagreement during the presidential primary campaign that got a little testy. I believe a lunch was involved, though I have no documentation for that.

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