As P-I union employees today prepared to ratify a severance package if their newspaper closes, City Council member Nick Licata has called for a hearing this Wednesday to discuss the P-I's future - perhaps to even come up with a plan to save it.
The severance package, according to P-I staffers, is required under the newspaper guild contract - two weeks pay for every year of service. But Hearst, bless its black corporate heart, bumped up the deal to include previously ineligible employees with less than four years service. So all full and part-time employees will get something going away.
No buyer has so far emerged publicly. But "there are talks," says one reporter, who didn't want to get specific. Don't write off the print edition just yet, say several optimistic staffers - it's still got a life as a free tabloid for some creative deep-pockets investor. Yet a Half-Off Sale, and a future as the E-P-I, is a more likely outcome as the March deadline nears.
Problem is, no one seems to have any idea how Hearst wants to play this. For starters, will it effectively hand over the print edition for zip if someone wants to buy the online entity? And how does the JOA work into all of this?
Some of that may be answered, or guessed at, during Licata's Wednesday committee meeting in City Hall, 2 p.m. It's billed as: "Is it Curtains for Daily Newspapers in the Culture of Democracy and Citizen Discourse?" Staffer Lisa Herbold says Licata wants to look at how other communities have dealt with a dead or dying newspaper - such as in Peoria, no less.
"Nick had heard that an elected official in Illinois [Senator David Koehler] had put together a core team in the community to study the problem of how to save their Peoria newspaper," Herbold says. "Their team also includes another state senator, two state reps, the economic adviser to a congressman, their former managing editor, their convention and visitors bureau president, and several bank presidents. They all agreed the goal is imperative that they get the paper back."
The Wednesday group discussion will include Roger Simpson and Doug Underwood, both communications professors at the UW; attorney Anne Bremner, the co-chair of the Committee for a Two Newspaper Town, and Beth Hester, Seattle Channel programming manager. Any White Knights also invited.