newpi.JPG
Is Hearst maintaining its right to buy the Seattle Times?
Will Hearst maintain the P-I as a Web-only operation?
Would the JOA remain in effect

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CTNT Asks Hearst to Reveal P-I Plan

newpi.JPG
Is Hearst maintaining its right to buy the Seattle Times?
Will Hearst maintain the P-I as a Web-only operation?
Would the JOA remain in effect with a Web-only publication?

Those are the three questions the Committee for a Two-Newspaper Town asked in a letter to the Hearst Corp. today, in wake of its plans to sell the P-I, perhaps even closing it by April. Write CTNT co-chairs Anne Bremner and Phil Talmadge:
 

As members of the Committee for a Two-Newspaper Town,

we are committed to assist any and all efforts to maintain competitive

daily journalism in Seattle. That is why we call upon you to

immediately reveal Hearst's intentions regarding the P-I and the joint

operating agreement with the Seattle Times. Only when Hearst discloses

what will be lost can the community effectively prepare to fill the

void.

Now for the hard part: an answer. Hearst has

promised more info, but has given no indication when it will provide

it, leaving employees (and potential rescuers) hanging.

The full CTNT

letter:

February 2, 2009

Roger Oglesby
Publisher
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
101 Elliott Avenue West
Seattle, Washington

Steven R. Swartz
President
Hearst Newspapers
New York, New York

SENT VIA E-MAIL to rogeroglesby@seattlepi.com and sswartz@hearst.com
Re: Request by Committee for a Two-Newspaper Town to reveal intentions

Dear Mr. Oglesby and Mr. Swartz:

Many people were alarmed and saddened by the Hearst Corporation's January 9, 2009,

announcement that the Seattle P-I might be sold, stripped of its print publication, or shut

down entirely. Community leaders are worried that important local issues will receive less

discussion. Readers fear they will lose the spirited and comprehensive reporting that the P-I

has been producing for nearly 150 years. Journalists face the frightening prospect of

unemployment in a region already besieged by layoffs, and amid a national newspaper

industry meltdown.

In short, the P-I's fate matters to this community.

There are local efforts to respond to the

crisis. For example, Seattle City Council members recently held a public forum to explore a

possible city role in preserving the P-I's journalistic tradition. Other explorations are taking

place quietly, and tentatively, as people wait to find out whether a whole new entity such as a

non-profit or employee-owned group will be needed.

As members of the Committee for a Two-Newspaper Town, we are committed to assist any

and all efforts to maintain competitive daily journalism in Seattle.

That is why we call upon

you to immediately reveal Hearst's intentions regarding the P-I and the joint operating

agreement with the Seattle Times. Only when Hearst discloses what will be lost can the

community effectively prepare to fill the void. We ask Hearst to honor its long tradition of

community service and leadership by answering the following questions as soon as possible:



1. Is Hearst maintaining its right to buy the Seattle Times? Yesterday was the due

date for Hearst to make a final annual payment of $1 million to the Times in exchange

for the right of first purchase, if the Times is offered for sale. According to a union

representative's comment at the City Council forum, Hearst declined in recent

bargaining sessions to say whether it would make the last $1 million payment. This is

vital information for the community. If there really is no chance that Hearst will take

over the Times, as the January 9 announcement indicated, it is hard to imagine a

reason for withholding this information. The answer could cause more or less alarm,

depending on preferences and viewpoints. Certainly, the employees of the Times and

P-I should be prepared for any impact the answer might have on their career choices.



2. Will Hearst maintain the P-I as a Web-only operation? In the January 9

announcement, Hearst said the "options include a move to a digital-only operation

with a greatly reduced staff." If such an option is to be pursued, some people might

feel that a community response is not needed at all. Some might choose to focus on

supporting investigative reporting or otherwise filling the gaps left by a shrunken

staff, rather than on searching for a buyer or constructing a new ownership entity.

Most importantly, if the answer is "no," and Hearst intends to shut down the P-I

entirely, the community needs adequate time to plan a viable alternative.



3. Would the JOA remain in effect with a Web-only publication? A critical

question for any potential buyer is whether the JOA would remain in effect if the P-I

gives up its print publication and exists only online. The existing language might be

subject to differing interpretations, as recently reported on Crosscut.com. The

financial viability of not only the P-I, but the Seattle Times, may hinge on the answer.

Hearst announced that it was selling the P-I and its interest in the JOA. If Hearst is

sincere about attracting a new owner, it should clear up any confusion on this point.



Thank you for your consideration of this important matter. 

Sincerely,
Anne Bremner and Phil Talmadge

 
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