Saturday, January 10, 2009

What do you call a newspaper without a printing press?

Or one that doesn't print a paper at all? Serious question.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which first rolled off the presses in 1863 and has been the state's longest-publishing newspaper, is up for sale.

The newspaper's staff was called into a closed meeting today by Publisher Roger Oglesby. Present at the meeting was Hearst Newspaper President Steve Swartz, who told the newsroom that Hearst Corp. is starting a 60-day process to find a buyer. If a buyer is not found, possible options include creating an all-digital operation with a greatly reduced staff, or closing its operations entirely.

In no case will Hearst continue to publish the P-I in printed form, Swartz said.

Regardless, he said, if no buyer is found, the P-I as a newspaper will not publish after the two months is up.

The joint operating agreement that the Post-Intelligencer performs in conjunction with the Seattle Times requires a minimum of thirty days for Hearst to find a buyer before they shut it down. Hearst has previously bought out JOA partners and then sold its own newspaper (The Examiner, the paper that W.R. Hearst parlayed into a empire) in San Francisco, and bought out the competition only to shutter its own property (The Light) in San Antonio.

This is NOT a newspaper company big on sentimentality for its brands.

In the wake of Ike last September, the Beaumont Enterprise gave up trying to publish its own paper:

The Beaumont Enterprise is eliminating its pressroom and mailroom operations and outsourcing its daily printing and packaging to the Houston Chronicle, a sister Hearst newspaper, Publisher John E. Newhouse II announced (September 29).

The move, effective immediately, was necessary because of deteriorating business conditions and the high cost of repairing or replacing the newspaper's 34-year-old press, which has been inoperable since Hurricane Ike, Newhouse said.

Twenty employees were affected by the shutdown of the platemaking, press and mailroom departments. Seventeen were laid off and received severance packages. Three were reassigned to new jobs. ...

The move is part of a newspaper industry trend toward consolidation and outsourcing in response to the high cost of replacing antiquated and worn-out equipment. In The Enterprise's case, that could be more than $30 million for a new printing facility, Newhouse said.

The Houston Chronicle, whose presses can accommodate the additional color preferred by advertisers and readers, has been printing some sections of the Sunday Enterprise since last year and all of the newspaper's weekly products since early this year.

The entire Enterprise has been printed in Houston since the day after Hurricane Ike struck Southeast Texas.

So if a newspaper doesn't print a paper, what is it exactly?

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