The P-I died today. The death was noted in the obituaries. The P-I will still be online; but most of the reporters and staff are gone. Who is going to research, investigate and write the news? They've added to the list of citizen bloggers, but blogging isn't journalism. Bloggers aren't accountable to anyone. We write what we want to write, and correct it if someone calls us out on it, maybe. You can do that with a blog. But can we do without professional journalism, the fourth estate of the democracy?
The P-I will probably become something more along the lines of a big blog, pointing to and repeating information from other news sources. Blogs can't replace what the P-I did, with a huge team of people, professional staff who spent days, weeks, months investigating a story, writing a series, an expose. They had professional fact checkers, editors, all those people to keep you on your toes and in line, story subjects who would sue if you got it wrong - and then there were those deadlines.
Here are just two examples of many from the P-I work of recent years, series that took a lot of time and effort by professional journalists which resulted in something memorable and powerful enough to make things happen - or at least get the wave of interest and momentum that can set a process in motion. There was the series about the orcas, "The Sound of Broken Promises", which followed their history from the imagined point of view of a real orca known as Granny. Then there was the series about the Duwamish River, "A River Lost?". The P-I took responsibility for being the voice of those without a public voice; there were many human stories besides these.
The P-I is dead. Perhaps I helped to kill it. I stopped reading print news years ago, instead reading several "papers" online everyday. Please forgive me. I delivered print papers for years and came to hate the smudgy ink, the very smell of the paper. I like clean digital news. I would have paid for an online subscription, honest, but newspapers are failing not so much because of subscriptions as that the business model based on advertising was not working. It doesn't work online either, so the online P I will be something different from what it was.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, in memoriam March 17, 2009. You will be missed.