Monday, March 23, 2009

Final P-I grace notes

I'm still making my way through Tuesday's final print edition of the Seattle P-I, and there's some great fine-print stuff hidden in there among the big-headline commemorative features I highlighted last week.

Buried on Page A32 with the rest of the obits -- between "PETERSON: Susan A." and "RASKOV: Marcia C." -- is this two-line listing under "King County Deaths": "POST-INTELLIGENCER: Seattle, 146, of Seattle, March 17.

And then my favorite, in the Sports section's agate-type transactions column -- where, for example, you might normally learn which spring-training baseball players were cut from their major-league rosters -- the Monday transactions include "Seattle Post-Intelligencer Sports Department." Listed there are the "released" sports editor Nick Rousso, who joined us for Friday's M&M poker game, and baseball reporter David Andriessen who, in the jargon of the form, is said to be "placed on irrevocable waivers for the purposes of granting him his unconditional release."

Everyone in the sports department is given a similar send-off. Funny, sad, classic gallows-humor stuff.

The best transaction report, though, is the final entry, which doubles as a parting shot at the new, skeleton-crew online P-I:

"Optioned Gerald Spratt (night editor) and Greg Johns (reporter) to their minor-league camp."

Spratt and Johns are staying on at

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Family Movie

I made this little video of the girls (using the iSight camera on the MacBook 13'') during our Thanksgiving trip to Grandma Rita's house. I finally got around to getting permission from Jon Brion's people to use his beautiful song "Little People" with the video, so can finally post. Enjoy!


(Sorry, I had to remove the video. I only had the right to use the Jon Brion music for a little while. Thanks Jon Brion!)

Inaugural M&M home game

Never play poker with a guy named Doc, they say, so maybe our first mistake was inviting Rayo “Doc” Inouye to our little card game at Casa M&M on Friday night.

Rayo, a retired copy desk chief at the Seattle Times, is now a semipro poker player whose identity as Doc is so ingrained in local card rooms that, as we laughed about again the other night, he was once called upon to perform CPR at a table-side medical emergency. He’s a fun guy to have in a home game, full of stories about the old days in newspapers and gambling halls.

It was about time that Michelle and I reciprocated by inviting some journo friends over for a game here. We’ve been mooching off pals like P-I managing editor David McCumber and Seattle Timesers Jim Simon and Jack Broom for years -- in fact I played with Jack and Rayo in a regular game 20 years ago -- and when we lived in LA we had a semi-regular game that always seemed to be at the home of our friends Donna Wares and Ed Humes, never at ours. Some kind of Matassalosi aversion to cleaning, I suspect.

This time Broom, Simon, Rayo, McCumber and former P-I sports editor Nick Rousso all came out to West Seattle -- and everyone brought something to eat or drink, including some splendid salmon and delicious salami under McCumber's arm. It was quite the party.

Also a great seven-handed poker game. Michelle, unsurprisingly, drank the other six of us grizzled old-school reporter/editor types under the table and took our money too. My kind of chick.

Doc made it through the night without being called upon to practice medicine. But his poker skills were scalpel-sharp; he was the game’s biggest winner.

We’re hoping to make it a regular M&M event, even if that means we have to tidy up every few weeks.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Jefferson, improvised

Now that I have received permission from Flickr user little.brain (Paul Fankhauser, until this week a P-I tech expert), here is the photo I mentioned yesterday of Thomas Jefferson's famous quote about newspapers. The quote, painted in a P-I newsroom stairway, was modified by a commenter apparently unhappy with the paper's online future.

By the way, there was some speculation online that this is a Photoshopped picture, with the snarky amendment to Jefferson added digitally. Paul assures me the sign was real, that it was still taped to the wall late Monday night but was gone when he arrived at work on Tuesday.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The P-I, going and coming

From my old office at the Seattle P-I you could see the reflection of our iconic P-I Globe overhead in the windows of a building across the courtyard. We used to joke about checking to make sure the world was still turning, figuring that’s how we’d find out if they decided to shut the paper down.

Now that the print version of the P-I really has closed, it’s meager comfort I suppose that the red neon “It’s in the P-I” still spins around the neon globe. Coverage of today’s final edition was at once mournful and celebratory, appropriately, with highlights being Carol Smith’s excellent obit of the paper and Lewis Kamb’s fine “tick-tock” accounting of the final day in the newsroom, along with Curt Milton’s terrific video capturing staffers’ final thoughts, and a couple of nice photo galleries at both the P-I and Seattle Times sites.

Last night Michelle and I went to the paper’s unofficial bar in lower Queen Anne, Buckley’s, for a fun, drunken wake that was primed by loose change in the newsroom’s “Flower Fund” and replenished for hours, incredibly, by people around the country who heard about the party on Facebook or Twitter and phoned donations directly to the bartender. A couple hundred dollars worth, I heard.

Newspapers may die, the economy may tank, but generosity abounds ... or at least appreciation of a good excuse to throw a few back.

There was an undercurrent of tension at Buckley’s last night as, I understand, there has been at the P-I these past couple of weeks. Not just the bad feelings about the paper’s demise, I mean, but mixed feelings about its future. The P-I is not going away completely. As widely reported -- even in the lead spot on the New York Times site last night -- a small, online-only operation will survive, led by Michelle. That’s good for us personally (it’s nice to have one income between us) and for the couple dozen people who will join her in the new venture. I also believe it’s good for journalism. As newspapers struggle to stay afloat and new news models pop up, all eyes will be on to see if it can figure out how to commit journalism and make money at the same time.

But there’s a palpable backwash of resentment too among those 150 or so P-I journalists not staying on board for the next phase. Some of the online staffers, already suffering survivor’s guilt, told me they’ve been guilt-tripped further by former colleagues for accepting less pay to remain with the new venture while others were passed over. “I got the full ‘Norma Rae’ treatment,” one said.

A friend of ours, political reporter Angela Galloway, was quoted this morning describing the feeling last week when online execs trolled through the newsroom asking to speak to certain staffers about joining the new crew.

"Waiting for them to come out and pull in their latest hire was like sitting through a game of Duck, Duck, Goose," Angela said.

I saw a photo online this morning that also suggested some doubts about an online-only model: Thomas Jefferson’s famous quote about newspapers, as painted on a P-I newsroom wall, with a little jab at the new model tacked on.

"Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter," Jefferson said. Added, on printer paper: "Or at least on online version with a greatly reduced staff and lots of links."

Isolated misgivings notwithstanding, I think most of the old P-I gang wishes the new venture well. Even some who are talking about starting a news site of their own -- which they initially viewed as competition for the P-I -- are now coming around to the smart (I think) realization that two (or more) sites could complement and help one another.

Meanwhile, it’s been kind of fun for me to watch Michelle become an online news rock star. She was all over the Internet yesterday and in publications from The Stranger to the New York Times. One Twitterer, relaying a link to her description of the new online P-I, referred to “Nicolosi’s St. Crispin’s Day speech.” As a fan of Henry V -- the play, not necessarily the king -- I thought that was cool.

I feel bad for all my friends at the P-I, and for the loss of the paper itself. I loved working there and made many enduring friendships. I’m forever indebted to the now former managing editor, David McCumber, who has become a good friend and who wrote this sweetly sentimental departing column, for taking a chance and hiring me and Michelle five years ago, getting us back to Seattle from Los Angeles. He made a tremendous difference in my life.

Given the scrappy and positive outlook of my colleagues at the paper I have every confidence they’ll emerge from this sad day with exciting new professional or personal ventures.

There’s a lot of good will in this town just waiting for them. Last night, after the Buckley’s fest, I dropped Michelle off at the P-I to pick up her car. We were accosted at the garage by a middle-aged couple who said they just stopped by -- this was 11 o’clock -- to pay their respects.

They left this little shrine to the P-I.

Here are a couple more links from today's coverage:

Seattle P-I through the years (Seattle Times photo gallery)
Vintage covers from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (Seattle Times photo gallery)
Under the Needle: P-I had a cast of characters, with storied histories, by Mike Lewis
Last day at the P-I (P-I gallery)

Photo credit: Spinning globe, top, by Flickr user Helpcraft
Franny and Gina from another era, 2005, in my P-I office.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The premiere of Greg In Hollywood

Of all the thousands of journalists to lose their jobs lately, few can be luckier than our friend Greg Hernandez. Offering to help -- and meaning it! -- was an incredible posse of talented friends: one of the world's leading Internet search experts, a brilliant web designer, an expert web engineer and a marketing guru.

The result: A week after losing his job at the Los Angeles Daily News, Greg today launched his new venture, Greg In Hollywood, a site that has the feel of an instant winner.

Greg and Michelle are close friends so I'll let her tell more about his story and their common friends who helped launch GIH, but the site's only been up a few hours and I wanted to post a quick shout-out.

Good luck, Greg. I'm sure you'll rock in the new gig. I wish you equal measures of success and fun.