Quick, who would you rather work for: the money-grubbing heirs of tyrannical newspaper tycoon and warmonger William Randolph Hearst, or the maniacally cackling Internet mogul and space enthusiast Jeff Bezos?
We know: it's a devil's dilemma. But in which industry would you rather be damned for all eternity: the ever dwindling newspaper biz, or the salt mines at Amazon.com? In her farewell TV column at the P-I, Melanie McFarland sided with the latter. She's leaving the Hearst-owned Post-Intelligencer for the Internet Movie Database (aka IMDb.com), a division of Amazon.com and one of the most popular sites on the Web. (It boasts a monthly average of 52 million visitors, all of whom are, ahem, encouraged to shop on Amazon.)
At IMDb, McFarland writes in her column, she's to be TV editor. Needless to say, that beat has been a little dead of late during the ongoing writers' strike. Meanwhile, over on Fairview, The Seattle Times has never even bothered to replace its last TV columnist, Kay McFadden, who left in 2006, so don't expect that position to be filled at the P-I. In fact, McFarland writes, Hearst will fill the hole with "a number of talented reader bloggers and regularly updated articles from TVGuide.com." See, even as the networks are abandoning scripted content in favor of shameless amateurs willing to degrade themselves on reality TV, the P-I is also going the non-pro route. And I'm not so sure Hearst is rolling in his grave; given our industry's profit margins, he might even approve.
So, score another win for new media, as shrinking local papers continue to cede their coverage of national arts and culture to the wire services (and Web, often via IMDb). But is the grass really that much greener on the side of the fence? Amazon has a reputation for churning through its employees (including not a few former colleagues from this paper.) Good luck, Melanie, especially if Bezos is paying you by the page-view.