Relief at P-I, questions at Times
After waiting to buy refrigerators, to plan summer vacations, even to have children, Seattle Post-Intelligencer employees breathed a sigh...
Seattle Times staff reporter
After waiting to buy refrigerators, to plan summer vacations, even to have children, Seattle Post-Intelligencer employees breathed a sigh of relief after hearing Monday's news that the 104-year-old newspaper will continue to publish for the foreseeable future.
"We were really feeling like we were staring into an abyss and standing at the edge," reporter Ruth Teichroeb said. "We're excited about continuing to publish and compete."
Reaction in The Seattle Times newsroom was more subdued, with staff members pondering the terms of the settlement agreement and what changes, if any, it might bring.
A pall of uncertainty was cast over the P-I newsroom when The Times Co. announced four years ago plans to end the joint-operating agreement between the company and Hearst, which owns the P-I.
Many predicted that without the JOA, which requires The Times to run circulation, advertising and presses for both papers, Hearst could stop publishing the P-I, leaving 200 employees without jobs.
Some left soon after the litigation between the two papers began. The P-I has filled many of those jobs with new hires, reorganized the newsroom and tightened the paper's focus on Seattle news to stave off shrinking circulation.
Still, as the arbitration deadline approached, Teichroeb said, she and her co-workers went to "some pretty sobering union meetings" where they received information about unemployment and severance.
"The younger people who just got married were trying to figure out whether they should have children or should they wait," said Scott Sunde, an assistant city editor with two young children of his own.
Employees started working on their résumés and talking about job hunting.
"When you look at the journalism job market, it's not great," Sunde said. "It's not like there's booming jobs everywhere."
At The Times, many staff members said they couldn't talk about the agreement because they had no idea what it might mean for the newsroom or its budget. Others said that while they still had questions, they were glad to see the legal battle end.
"Less money for lawyers is fine with me," columnist Nicole Brodeur said. "As long as we spend money on the paper and not on lawyers, who could argue with that?"
Times reporter Jim Brunner said, "At least there won't be a bunch of journalists out of work, and that's a good thing for the city. I'll still be up at midnight checking the P-I's Web site. That's a good thing, even if it leads to insomnia."
Times Executive Editor David Boardman said the settlement could be good for both sides. "Good for them [the P-I] in that it keeps their doors open," he said. "Good for us in that we can stop spending millions of dollars on lawyers every year and put that money into serving our readers, our advertisers and our community."
On Monday, P-I Publisher Roger Oglesby sent out news of the agreement via e-mail at 8:30 a.m. Only a handful of employees were in the P-I newsroom but many streamed in over the next hour, and Oglesby and attorneys held a company meeting at 10 a.m. to cheers and applause. An office party is in the works.
Art Thiel, a P-I columnist, said he canceled a dental appointment when he heard the news and came into work instead. He described the mood as "relief."
Employees planned to meet after work at Buckley's in Queen Anne. "I'm setting up designated drivers three deep tonight," Thiel said.
Joel Connelly, a columnist who has worked at the P-I for more than three decades, said many felt gratified by the settlement, but he had always been optimistic about their chances.
"It's been 29 years, five months and approximately three days since I heard my first insider prediction that the P-I was going to cease publication," he said.
Sharon Pian Chan: 206-464-2958 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Seattle Times staff reporter Susan Gilmore contributed to this report