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Goodbye, P-I?


Post-Intelligencer flag

UPDATE The bad rumors have turned real. This just in: “The Seattle P-I is being put up for sale, and if after 60 days it has not sold, it will either be turned into a Web-only publication or discontinued entirely. ‘One thing is clear: at the end of the sale process, we do not see ourselves publishing in print,’ said Steven Swartz, president of the Hearst Corp.’s newspaper division. Swartz addressed the P-I’s newsroom at about noon Friday, flanked by P-I editor and publisher Roger Oglesby and Lincoln Millstein, Hearst’s senior vice president for digital media.”

UPDATE 2 The corporate letter on the situation.

Last night, when KING-TV reported that the Seattle Post-Intelligencer was about to be put up for sale – as necessary legal prologue to closing it in a month or so – our reaction was caution. The story apparently had a single unnamed source, and everyone quoted by name, at the P-I and the Times, said they knew nothing of a planned sale.

That doesn’t mean the report wasn’t credible – metro papers all over the country are in this kind of position, and if a sale/closure isn’t being mapped out now, it’s probably not far off.

Midday today, the story is looking more likely because of the response, when finally elicited, from the publisher (Roger Oglesby) of the P-I: “There’s nothing I can tell you now. I will call you later today.”

Uh oh.

The Northwest hasn’t lost many daily papers in the last few years: after, of course, a long stretch when the numerous multi-paper cities slid to one apiece. (The last lost was the east-King County paper based at Bellevue, a couple of years back.) The loss of the P-I means the last city in the Northwest with two general-interest daily newspapers will have just one.

The word of “sale” raises the immediate suggestion that closure isn’t necessarily in the wind. Couldn’t Hearst (which owns it) just sell, and a new owner continue on? Theoretically, sure. But in practice, no one with serious money wants to buy a newspaper these days. In the last few months many around the country have been put up for sale only to find no buyers at all.

A suggestion, which may or may not work at all:

Is there the possibility of the P-I’s employees taking it over, and running it either as an ESOP (employee stock-owned) or as a non-profit (which is a model more and more people are examining for newspapers)? The idea, at least, should be considered.

Meantime, we await more news from Oglesby.

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