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The Seattle Post-Intelligencer is the latest casualty in the American newspaper industry. The final edition of the city's oldest daily hit newsstands and doorsteps this morning. But the P-I, as it's known, isn't disappearing entirely, the paper will continue to be available online. NPR's Wendy Kaufman reports from Seattle.
WENDY KAUFMAN: Everyone in the P-I newsroom and readers across the city knew the paper's demise was imminent. Two months ago, Hearst Corporation, which owns the newspaper, said it was putting the P-I - the city's number two daily - up for sale. And if there was no buyer it would close the paper. Yesterday, Hearst made it official, announcing that today's edition would be the last to roll off the presses.
Mr. JOEL CONNELLY (Reporter, Seattle Post-Intelligencer): We've done an awful lot here. We've done an awful for the city that we've served.
KAUFMAN: Joel Connelly is a veteran P-I columnist and political writer. Standing in the newsroom a few days ago he said, when he came to the paper in the early 1970s, the P-I was blowing the whistle on a gambling payoff system that reached, deep and high, into the courthouse and city hall.
Mr. CONNELLY: Nearly 40 years later, I see the paper blowing the whistle on the golden parachute for the managing director of the port of Seattle, so there's a continuity of what this paper has stood for and what this paper has fought for.
KAUFMAN: David McCumber, the managing editor of the P-I, calls it an amazing, wild and enterprising place. And the man who's been in journalism for the better part of 40 years, says he's grateful for his time at the P-I.
Mr. DAVID MCCUMBER (Managing editor, Post-Intelligencer): This staff is like family. I mean, it really is like family.
KAUFMAN: He talks about the joy of walking through the newsroom and watching journalists do what they love. Now, he says, there's the pain of losing talented staff, and sadness.
Mr. MCCUMBER: I'm sad for the industry. I mean, it's not just us. I mean, it's that the industry can't seem to find a way to make journalism work, and, you know, people need it — democracy needs it.
KAUFMAN: The newspaper industry is struggling financially. The advertising-fueled revenue model no longer works. People and ad dollars are migrating to the Web. So Hearst will launch an experiment — taking the P-I into an online-only format.
University of Washington journalism professor David Domke suggests it makes sense to try here, in a city that is highly wired and highly literate.
Professor David Domke (Journalism, University of Washington): P-I is going to be a - what I think it's going to be a test case for major metropolitan daily newspapers. Can they go online? Can they survive and maybe even thrive if they change the kind of news, and their definition of news, that they deliver to the public?
KAUFMAN: Writing about the online venture yesterday, its executive producer, Michelle Nicolosi, said the online P-I doesn't feel like it has to cover everything itself.
Only about 20 newsroom staffers, including Joel Connelly, are moving to the new venture. A couple of others will provide sports columns on a regular basis. Along with staff reports on hard news, there will be lifestyle content from Hearst-owned magazines, including Redbook and Popular Mechanics. And there'll be lots of blogs. Long investigative pieces probably won't find a home. In short, its content won't resemble that of the hardcopy newspaper.
Mr. BILL LAUB (Post-Intelligencer reader): I think it's tragic.
KAUFMAN: P-I reader Bill Laub was one of many customers at the Elliott Bay Bookstore Cafe who was saddened by the demise of the 146-year-old newspaper.
Mr. LAUB: It seems tragic that we're heading towards a world where there's only USA Today and these generic kind of papers that don't have a local flavor and really don't have the interest and the voice of the local communities guiding them. And it's just - it's crazy.
KAUFMAN: Laub said he didn't intend to read the online edition. The demise of the Post-Intelligencer is not expected to do much to bolster the finances of the Seattle Times, That newspaper too, is in serious financial trouble.
Wendy Kaufman, NPR News, Seattle.
MONTAGNE: And you'll find links to today's commemorative edition of the P-I and more from member station KPLU on our Web site npr.org.
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