No one likes to see the underdog get beaten, but the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, long the David against the Seattle Times newspaper Goliath, just got clobbered. The Blethens are the last men standing in this long-time grudge match, but they're staggering too.
Seattle likes to regard itself as an exceptional place, and staying a two-newspaper town fed our sense that we're something special, a literate, world-class city that could buck the trend that saw most major cities become one-daily burgs. We buy more books, we have more education, we're paragons of the creative class. Members of Committee for a Two Newspaper Town often made it sound as if having two daily newspapers was somehow the Platonic ideal of civic enlightenment.
Seattle never likes having its exceptionalism questioned. We don't like to be reminded that we're not so special, or that national trends can reach across the Cascades or Pacific and slap us upside the head. No matter our deeds and intentions, daily newspapers are dying like Ebola victims, bleeding from every orifice: circulation, advertising, public confidence.
To put the folding of the print edition of the P-I into a little context, check the grim statistics this week from the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism's annual "State of the News Media" report. It finds that newspapers are dying across the country, thriving only in small markets where Craigslist has yet to penetrate or where isolation, monopoly and intimate connections with readers have not yet been lost. Small dailies and community weeklies still connect with micro-communities and offer the kinds of things Facebook does: The paper you read is about your friends and family. It has recipes, obits, weddings, and school sports. These aren't newspaper assets, they're the embodiment of the community itself: What's vital belongs to the readers, not the writers and editors.