March 22, 2010

I loved my job at the Seattle P-I, and I love this job too

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It's really quite humorous, I know, when journalists get written up. And we pay a lot more attention to it than the rest of you all, I know. But still.

It's just over a year since the print Seattle Post-Intelligencer closed, where I worked as assistant managing editor for news and editor of the investigative team.

So I said to Linda Thomas of KIRO Radio something like this, comparing my job at the P-I to my current role as executive director and editor of InvestigateWest; "I loved my job at the P-I. It was a great job. But I was presiding over a dying industry. Now, I'm creating something new. I'm on the cusp of a transitioning news ecosystem. If I could snap my fingers and go back? No."

(That's not word for word, because Linda was taping and I wasn't, but more or less.)

So here's how it comes out on the radio:

"If I could snap my fingers and go back? No," says Rita Hibbard, a former Post-Intelligencer assistant managing editor.

Ouch. That's a little harsh.

I just want my former colleagues to know that it was a great job, and I loved every minute of it. But at the end, it felt like death by a thousand cuts, and I feel stronger and better building something new. It's exciting to be on the cutting edge of an online investigative reporting organization that is building connections with media partners across platforms and doing regional investigative work that would otherwise go undone.

 Linda did quote me accurately. Just within the constraints of radio time frame. I spoke with Candace Heckman, now in public relations, who worked with me as assignment editor. It was Candace's job to open the shop every morning, and get the engine fired up, responding to every major breaking story that came her way, and she did a damn fine job of it. Candace told Linda, yeah, she'd go back to her old job in a minute, if it was exactly the way it used to be.

And there's the rub. Resources were going away, the paper and its online site just couldn't hang on the way things were. It lost an estimated $14 million a year in 2008. A small group of journalists – about 20 — is busting their butts with an online only Seattlepi.com, putting its local energies into breaking news headlines, city hall and crime coverage.

Linda also used this quote from me in her blog, so I thank her for that:

"We were just deep into this (InvestigateWest) the next day, working really hard and doing a lot of slogging in the trenches, laying the groundwork to get this thing going "We didn't want to see those skills just be lost."

That's exactly right. InvestigateWest troops — Robert McClure, Carol Smith, Kristen Millares Young, and Daniel Lathrop — have worked hard to make this thing work. And it has. We've gotten first year funding from foundations including The Bullitt Foundation and the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, solid membership support from individual donors and have produced strong content that has run in media partners including MSNBC.com, the Spokesman-Review, Seattlepi.com, and KUOW-FM. We're on a roll, and we don't mean to stop.

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