Wednesday, February 25, 2009

News news, news talk

With the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on the brink of folding and several local groups meeting to discuss the future of news in Seattle, Chuck Taylor and I are joining the fray here and at Chuck's site Seattle Post-Times.

Periodically -- we haven't set deadlines or a time frame for this series -- we'll both post on both blogs our thoughts about the city's changing newscape and about the discussion tracking it. Chuck and I are friends, longtime former colleagues at the Seattle Times and parallel but unconnected travelers in the world of online news. We're also simultaneously (temporarily?) unemployed journalists.

Although there's nothing new about blogged conversations, this format is new for both M&M and Seattle Post-Times. Please feel free to join in with comments at either or both sites, and let us know how we could improve the format.

Thanks for joining us.
-- Mark Matassa


Ever since Hearst announced last month that it would likely close the Seattle P-I in mid-March, Seattle journalists, bloggers and even public officials have been abuzz with concern and -- in some quarters, I suspect -- excitement: What if the Seattle Times closes too? We could go from a two-newspaper to a no-newspaper town inside of one year!

To buck each other up, rally the troops or maybe just find a shared room to stew in their shock and sadness, several groups have organized public forms on the future of the Seattle news business. There’s one tonight at the University of Washington, in fact, sponsored by the Online News Association, with a nice mix of panelists from print, online and radio.

Tomorrow night, Thursday, an ad hoc group of mostly bloggers is putting on an event titled “No News Is Bad News” at City Hall, promising to address the rather unfocused question “Seattle as a No-Newspaper Town?”

A couple of weeks ago City Councilman Nick Licata convened a hearing on the same subject, with some of the same folks involved. You not only attended that one, Chuck, but covered it live on Twitter and later posted about it on your Seattle Post-Times blog. Last week was yet another forum, this one by CityClub.

All well and good. And this subject of the changing news landscape has gripped the national media and blogosphere as well. The discussion as I’ve been following it seems to break into a couple of branches: wailing and navel-gazing by old-school newspaper loyalists who complain about short-cutting bloggers and who bemoan their own companies’ failure to stave off death; righteous attacks on those head-in-the-sand “curmudgeons”; and sometimes hopeful, sometimes heated arguments about which financial models might or might not save the news biz.

So, as a means of kicking off our own conversation, let me ask you:

Will you be attending this week’s events? And does tomorrow’s group even have the title right? That is, assuming the P-I does in fact close (and even if the Times follows suit), will that constitute “no news”? If so, would that be bad news?

I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts.


Anonymous said...

Mark, I am attending the events this week and plan to respond at my blog sometime after tonight's Online Journalism Association event.

freda said...

wow, difficult times. In addition to perhaps changing fields you are going to have to contend with the current economic situation as well. In addition to the difficulties faced by journalists, there will be a huge loss to the public. Who will investigate the next Watergate, or the University of California fertility clinic, if they keep shutting down the papers? thanks for keeping us informed.