Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Another Seattle Post-Intelligencer Blog Bites Newspaper In Tail

Posted by Peter Quennell

Click above to read what appeared on a Seattle Post-Intelligencer blog before it was yanked.

Biff! Bam! Pow! Take that, rival Seattle Times! So. Are the monkeys now driving the train at Hearst’s Seattle PI ?!

Seattle’s excellent TechFlash website had this to say about the yanked post.

Ah, the wonders of newspaper rivalries in the age of online media.

Regina Hackett, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s art critic, cast a critical eye on her departing counterpart, Sheila Farr of The Seattle Times, in a blistering blog post Monday afternoon on the P-I’s site. By this morning, the post had disappeared.

It was the kind of commentary that probably wouldn’t have made it into a traditional print edition. But as blogging spreads through the mainstream media, one result is a reduction in the editorial layers between journalist and audience.

Hmmm. “But as blogging spreads through the mainstream media, one result is a reduction in the editorial layers between journalist and audience.” 

So. You think that the editor of the Seattle PI, David McCumber, might finally have noticed that he could use a few more editorial layers?!

Hearst must be wondering about the monkeys layer. They could use less of that.

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I really smiled at that. Dempsey 2! I think a lot of newspapers are having problems with their blogs, but usually it seems to be the commenters who lower the tome. You have a serious thoughtful tone here which is very nice.

Posted by Anne on 12/30/08 at 07:54 PM | #

Nice one, Pete. Maybe McCumber will think through all of the ramifications of what he is quoted as saying.
I agree with Anne. You set a thoughful tone here, and I am delighted to see that the vast majority of those who stop by to comment emulate you and understand what this site is all about.

Posted by Skeptical Bystander on 12/30/08 at 08:29 PM | #

Oops - I read too quickly and thought you were quoting McCumber. I should have known that insight came from elsewhere. Kudos to TechFlash.

Posted by Skeptical Bystander on 12/30/08 at 08:32 PM | #

I think we’ll see much more of this until the papers start reining in their runaway horses. The internet gives any aspiring journalist,author or street corner ranter the means to publish, however mediocre or deluded. When wedded to a newspaper they get an audience as well and the impression of their endorsement. Perhaps it goes to their heads as they get more partisan than the staff journalists. Maybe we’ll see pistols at dawn before the loose cannons are tied down.

Posted by Faustus on 12/30/08 at 08:51 PM | #

I like that from Faustus. The general consensus of the great journalism schools in Manhattan seems to be that upping the quality of journalism is the only way forward if the papers are to have a future.

Regina Hackett, who wrote the blog post, may actually have been pretty close to the truth. Now, may she please take a shot at the Seattle PI reader blogs. The ones with ads, intended to sell books, and to make money off grief.

Posted by Fast Pete on 12/30/08 at 09:00 PM | #

Casually looking over the PI website I was actually rather impressed by the way they have embraced the brave new world of the blogosphere: there are a wide variety of reader blogs set up. Handled well,a paper can get coverage on a wide range of specialist subjects that it could not hope to fund or properly cover with staff journalists. Ideally the paper gets a deeper connection with its core community and multiple gateways for a wider audience to be teased in. Audience equals advertisements equals much needed revenue.

But they cannot have their cake and eat it too. The PI disclaims any responsibity for the blog contents. Well it’s their resources, their address, their reputation and brand and it IS their responsibility whether they accept it or not. As somebody who lives in a galaxy far far away from Seattle I came across the now infamous cookery blog by accident while trawling for some proper reporting on this case. I am used to clicking on editorial blogs and I assumed that she was PI staff or official PI comment. It seems strange that with a genuinely international case to report they should leave everything but the most casual guff to a reader cookery blogger whose main recipe is chemical and biological warfare against anybody who disagrees with her. Her banned list would make Stalin and the Inquisition green with envy. Blogs can enhance a papers ability to inform a wider audience, PI has allowed it to be a way of stiffling debate and diseminating propaganda instead. It’s no time to bury their heads in the sand. Time to get a grip and set some ground rules for their bloggers before PI gets the reputation for accuracy and fairness that Pravda has cultivated.

Posted by Faustus on 12/31/08 at 01:22 PM | #

That’s a generous and very insightful take on the Seattle PI website and on newspaper websites in general and it has been on my mind since early yesterday.

Both the Seattle newspapers could use some help right now. Faustus, if you have any time on your hands, which I guess you dont, it would be really nice to have a post up comparing the two websites and offering some encouragement where due. Perhaps you’d contact us

Regina Hackett of the PI writes in a sharp and colorful way that I for one would want to keep reading, and as I said already, she seemed pretty close to the truth re the Seattle Times default on the arts front and how that contributes to its struggling. (The Seattle Times staff has had to take 5 days unpaid leave.)

I’ve been critical of the PI’s professional case coverage at the Seattle end (the reporter at the Rome end is superb and should be blogging daily) because a good series of stories on the Knox context there could have helped both the city of Seattle and case-watchers elsewhere and boosted circulation and quite possibly got them a Pulitzer or two.

As for the cook’s blog… well, it would be nice to know what you REALLY think! That was a riff of some brilliance if I might say so.

Skeptical Bystander in several great posts here has suggested that the PI really blew it in handing the case to an amateur who went absurdly overboard for a defendant and who could provide no real depth or professional context or good judgment.

The cook’s blog started out badly in refusing to even name Meredith in the posts for several months, which seemed to suggest an unbalanced and obsessional psychology at play.

Then there was the extreme defensiveness re the commenters and her own heavy involvement in the comments under many different names (she confused them at times so the evidence for this is concrete).

Then it came out (so I am told) that the editor himself decides who among the other commenters ends up on the infamous black list and thus banned from commenting anywhere on the PI website.

And then the book deal somehow emerged (!) and now there is the current to-me really nauseating attempt to associate with Meredith and thus presumably to ingratiate herself with the Kercher family so that the book does not emerge as TOO ridiculous.

Given the extreme biases and lack of professional depth and deep connections with the Knox PR scheme and blatant attempt to make money and create prominence out of grief, she seems to me the last person in the world who should be writing the book on the case.

I hope Mignini locks her up if she returns to Perugia. Or better still, frog-marches her right out of Italy. That’d be a story I’d want her involvement in.

Okay… I’m being told we’re outta here!

Posted by Peter Quennell on 01/01/09 at 02:49 PM | #

I just saw this report from KING 5 News in Seattle by reporter Linda Byron.  It appears that the announcement could come as early as tomorrow that the Seattle PI is up for sale:


Posted by Tara on 01/09/09 at 04:10 AM | #

Yeah I caught that one too Tara. A sad day for Seattle.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 01/09/09 at 04:58 AM | #
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