Photo by Amber Zbitnoff Photography

Photo by Amber Zbitnoff Photography

New Era, New Editor: Not Dead

A greeting and mission statement from your new Seattle Weekly editor.

New is increasingly becoming a dirty word in Seattle. I get it.

“New” is the reason friends have been forced to move away to comparatively cheaper locales. “New” has leveled many of the small businesses and dives that have provided Seattle with so much of its character. “New” inherently feels disconnected from the soul of our once-isolated little Pacific Northwest gem.

So I completely understand skepticism about a new era at Seattle Weekly.

But at least we’re not dead. We’re still here. And that’s important.

I repeat: We are not dead.

Last year was a nightmare for community news across the county, especially on the alt-weekly front. Baltimore City Paper shut down. Village Voice and Houston Press discontinued their print editions while slashing their staffs. Shady libertarians bought out LA Weekly and gutted the paper’s award-winning editorial talent. Even without getting into the web losses of DNAinfo and Gothamist or “pivoting to video,” it was a constant parade of editorial horrors.

I’m not here to pretend that Seattle Weekly was immune to all that. Transparency and honesty are key to any functioning journalistic enterprise, and there’s no glossing over the fact that this paper cut a lot of its core staff a few months before I arrived. (I was laid off from an editorial gig at another local publication last May due to budget cuts. I totally get it. It sucks.) There’s no sense in sugarcoating that.

I’m also not going to try and convince you the issue that you’re holding (or reading on your phone) is the greatest edition Seattle Weekly has ever produced. It’s not. But over the next few months we hope we can slowly morph into a community paper with a clear and distinct voice that you trust. And one that you actually look forward to reading every week.

Under my direction, Seattle Weekly will be a home for storytelling that focuses on the people that make up our city. We don’t want to simply regurgitate dry news you can get from other sources in town. (Seattle is lucky to have other newspapers, alt-weeklies, city mags, and neighborhood blogs to keep us all informed.) We’re not really that interested in being the first place you turn to for breaking news, and we’re not even logistically capable of covering everything. Our goal is to share the stories of the individuals in our community who actually feel the impact of the news. We want to be an outlet for Seattle’s voices. When an issue arises that impacts a specific Seattle community, we want to let the strong voices in those communities speak for themselves.

Seattle culture will be a cornerstone of this new Weekly as well. As an ex-arts editor, I’m passionate about developing entertainment coverage that feels vital. (I’ve been to 100-plus concerts two straight years, and have been known to duck out to a house show as a nightcap after attending the ballet. I believe in the scene.) And we will maintain some of the alt-weekly staples that helped define the Weekly prior to my tenure as well, like the events calendar, food and cannabis coverage, and Elissa Ball’s weirdly wonderful Space Witch column.

It’s not like everything is going to transform by the time you pick up next week’s issue. We’re a shoestring staff. It’ll be a period of maturation. Yet, there are already reasons to be excited. We’ll soon launch a new weekly podcast called Seattleland under the direction of producer Sara Bernard. Our city reporter, Melissa Hellmann, possesses a tireless devotion to finding stories that touch on Seattle’s core issues. As part of Sound Publishing—home to dozens of regional papers—we have a plethora of neighboring publications that will help us stay on top of the Northwest news that matters to you, but doesn’t occur within the borders of Seattle proper. Overseeing this part of the operation will be former SW editor Mark Baumgarten, who has moved into the role of Editorial Director for the company’s King County publications.

I hope that you’re open to the changes, which will all be guided by a belief that journalism is at its best when seeking out and magnifying the truth in a community. We’re not doing this because it’s easy (and it certainly doesn’t pay as well as an Amazon gig). We’re going to try and make this era of Seattle Weekly the best, because we genuinely care and feel an obligation to deliver you the stories that will help you better understand your city.

If you want to help, just spread the word. Pick up a copy every week. Share articles. We’re going to strive to be a storytelling hub for Seattle, but ultimately you’ll decide if we’re welcomed in as a part of the community.

ssommerfeld@seattleweekly.com