Seattle needs competing media

There’s no question that Washington State is bluer and greener as a result of the PI’s contributions to elevating the public’s and elected official’s awareness as to the need to protect our natural assets. I believe it was Tim Wirth who said, “the economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment.” Now that they are both in the toilet we need more reporting on such issues if we hope to have anything to report on in the future.

I guess it only follows that the consolidation of oil companies, banks, and the insurance industry will be covered by fewer media outlets. Perhaps we will only need one political party in the future? Who needs democracy anyway? It’s so messy having to address the needs of all the people when you can so easily cater to the powerful few.

Thank you PI for all you have done and what you may be able to do in the future. I hope the region will not lose the institutional memory that resides in your reporters, columnists and editorial board. Fred
Seattle needs competing media

Last updated January 13, 2009 9:44 p.m. PT


WHEN NEWS BROKE that the Seattle P-I was up for sale, one of the first e-mails to arrive came from our longtime press contact at the Bush White House, who showed Job-like patience with this corner of the “Left Coast.”

“While I have often found myself on the opposite side of a host of issues editorialized about in the P-I, I certainly think Seattle and Washington state have benefited from the competition of two major dailies in the state’s largest city,” wrote Ken Lisaius.

The same sentiment came in a Web posting by Dori Monson, the KIRO/710 radio pundit who has agreed with this column only once — on city snow response.

“Competition makes the combatants stronger,” Monson wrote. “Monopolies breed laziness” — just look at the government.

The P-I has resisted it’s-all-about-us journalism.

Our competition writes about itself so much to have spawned a delightful joke. Q: How many Seattle Times reporters does it take to change a light bulb? A: Six, one to change the bulb and the other five to write about how they did it.

Staff cuts have pared that, but you get the point. At lunch, as a joke, I proposed to then-P-I publisher J.D. Alexander that he copy The Times’ Michael Fancher and write a self-praise column: “Under the Globe.”

I walked out of the restaurant trying to nonchalantly hold my head in my hand.

It’s not about us. Imprint on the community, and on the region, is far, far more important than all the awards that media bestow on each other.

Up on the Ebey’s Landing bluff at Whidbey Island, you can see peaks in two national parks, a national recreation area, and sections of four wilderness areas. The Protection Island National Wildlife Refuge sits across Admiralty Inlet, and Ebey’s Landing is America’s lone national historical preserve.

The P-I supported all these “lockups” — as critics called them — even at a time when a competing editorialist labeled as “mountain climbers and bird watchers” those wanting to create a North Cascades National Park.

We fought against supertankers on Puget Sound, and the governor — Dixy Lee Ray — who wanted an oil port in our waters, and a national nuclear waste dump at Hanford.

In recent times, the P-I has exposed threats hidden beneath blue waters, and uncomfortably close old boy ties between the Coast Guard and the shipping industry.

A city is well served when one newspaper’s sacred cow is another’s goreable ox.

Seattle P-I photographer Dave Potts recorded a nocturnal visit by gambling kingpin Ben Cichy to the Capitol Hill home of King County Prosecutor Charles O. Carroll.

The 1969 photos marked the beginning of the end of a “tolerance policy” in which vice payoffs reached high into the courthouse and City Hall. Ben Cichy, alas, drowned in Lake Washington a few months later, his body found in 3 feet of water.

Chuck Carroll was a pal of a top Times nabob. The P-I backed reformist challenger Chris Bayley. Bayley won, inaugurating nearly four decades of a squeaky clean, highly professional prosecutor’s office.

The two papers have gone nose to nose at times.

My favorite recollections are of a week when The Times broke major stories on mishaps in nuclear bomb production at Hanford. The P-I countered with a scoop on how the Department of Energy was rigging studies in order to send nuclear waste to the Eastern Washington nuclear reservation.

The P-I has, at times, tried the patience of The Hearst Corp., our corporate parent here at San Simeon North.

A bevy of P-I employees — including researcher Marsha Milroy — signed a letter renouncing the newspaper’s 1972 endorsement of Richard Nixon.

We broke news of a long-suppressed Hanford radiation leak on the morning that Hearst brass were flying into Richland in hopes of finalizing purchase of the Tri-City Herald.

“Over my (bleep) dead body,” thundered Herald publisher Glenn Lee, who doubled as head of the Tri-City Nuclear Industrial Council.

But support has come whenever anybody tried to lean on us.

As a rookie writer, I marveled as our editorial page editor Ruth Howell went nose to nose with a Weyerhaeuser vice president who came in to argue that the P-I was “anti-business.” Our sin was supporting creation of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

We’ve also tried readers’ patience with bloopers.

“Tuna Biting off Washington Coast” is a beloved headline. So, after election of John Paul II, is “A Stunning New Pope.” Reviewing a Vancouver, B.C., restaurant, the Muck-a-Muck, yours truly wrote: “It specializes in the cooking of North Coast Indians.”

We’re honored by our enemies. Fox News bloviator Bill O’Reilly has singled out the P-I as a “left-wing” newspaper.

Yet, with revelations ranging from a golden parachute at the Port of Seattle to lax food inspection, much of what this paper does consists of holding big government accountable.

The Pugetopolis needs media competition, and feistiness, critical coverage of politicians and investigative reporting that doesn’t just pick easy targets (e.g. fly-by-night contractors and car lots that roll back odometers).

Here’s hoping this newspaper survives in some form.

It’s not about us as scribes. It’s keeping the big boys — girls, too, nowadays — honest.

P-I columnist Joel Connelly can be reached at 206-448-8160 or Follow politics on the P-I’s blog at

© 1998-2009 Seattle Post-Intelligencer

~ by fredfelleman on January 14, 2009.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: