This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.
An obit for the P-I, 1863-2009
With its last print edition today, the state’s oldest newspaper passes into history.
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, née Seattle Gazette, passed away today after a long and courageous battle against falling revenues and changing readership habits. It was the grande dame of newspapers in Washington state, but at 146 years old still one of its scrappiest, regularly scooping the rival Seattle Times.
The P-I, as it was familiarly known, led a rich and rewarding life, chronicling the frontier days of Seattle, the Alaskan gold rush, world wars, the rise of the Northwest aviation and technology industries, and the city’s lively arts and rock music scene. But it couldn’t overcome a death spiral of revenue losses, and no buyer stepped forward to save the venerable newspaper when it was put up for sale on Jan. 9.
In 1983, the P-I entered into a journalistic marriage – a joint-operating agreement – with The Seattle Times to save money on business operations. Although often overshadowed by the larger Times, the P-I remained fiercely competitive.
Survivors include the parent Hearst Corp. and a handful of employees who will staff an online-only edition, seattlepi.com. Competitors of the P-I, including The News Tribune, express sympathy for those employees who are losing their livelihoods in a shrinking industry that offers them few alternatives. And they mourn the loss of a strong editorial voice in what is now a one-newspaper town.
Particularly ironic is the fact that the P-I’s demise comes during Sunshine Week, which is set aside every year to focus attention on the importance of access to information and the public’s right to know. The P-I was an important vehicle in Washington state for digging up information the powers that be often didn’t want disinterred. With the P-I’s passing, the public is the loser.