David Black, Virtual Bureau Chief for the Virtual Age

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Black, one of print's great defenders, makes a virtual splash by partnering with the eP-I.
The eP-I just bought itself a slew of local bureaus--cheap. How? By announcing a partnership with David Black's Sound Publishing, wherein the online-only daily will link to stories hosted by pnwlocalnews.com, the portal page for SoundPub's 30 community and suburban newspapers. In addition to the link love, the P-I will publish the full text of up to 10 Sound Publishing stores per day.

Sound Publishing has papers in Bainbridge Island, Bremerton, Bellevue, Kingston, Port Orchard, Whidbey Island, the San Juan Islands, Bothell, Enumclaw, Federal Way, Marysville, Issaquah, Kirkland, Mercer Island, Redmond, and Auburn, among other markets. In effect, then, the P-I, which ceased printing earlier this year and is making an online-only go of it with a fraction of its former editorial staff, gains itself a slew of regional offices through the partnership with Black's empire. In return, Black--one of newsprint's last true believers, as Don Ward noted in a lengthy July 2008 profile--gains increased visibility for his chain's stories with a presence on one of the country's more popular news websites.

At face value, the deal seems a bit more logical than the Knight Foundation-funded partnership announced in late August between the Seattle Times and a handful of successful neighborhood blogs, including West Seattle Blog, the Rainier Valley Post, and MyBallard, in which the Times links to select posts from its homepage (which it already did before the partnership was formally cemented), and vice versa. Unlike the P-I/SoundPub arrangement, these blogs all fall well within the Times' natural coverage area. And while it would stand to reason that the Times might agree to repurpose the occasional well-reported blog entry for print, that's not part of the deal, as West Seattle Blog editor Tracy Record told Damon Agnos in August.

"I am sure [the Times] would need to engage in a variety of discussions before even contemplating suggesting that, for example, they might put all or part of one of our stories in their print edition--though in extremely rare circumstances, it might be worth discussing," said Record.

Added the Times' Bob Payne, the man responsible for nurturing the partnership on Fairview Fanny's end: "[Pulling partner blog posts into print] has yet to be discussed. Certainly for the early parts of the experiment, the focus will be on online collaboration."

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