Why Didn't the P-I Fold Sooner?

Today, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer published its last print edition after 146 years. And as sad as I am to see some smart, hard-working journalists losing their jobs, I can't help but wonder: why did it take so long?

I am in no way advocating the collapse of the P-I -- in fact, just the opposite. Why an organization priding itself on the timely, accurate distribution of information wouldn't want to embrace the most robust and fastest medium of all time baffles me.

This isn't a sad time; it's a joyous one. Everything good journalists have ever wanted has finally come to fruition but they're looking at it with fear and trepidation.

The Internet, for all its terrifying newness, is still just words laid out on a page, sometimes next to some photos. There is no reason a paper's home page couldn't look exactly like their front page. There's even a "fold!"

And it's so much better than physical paper. Start with photography. How many photographers' hearts have been broken when a beautiful picture gets washed out by crappy ink and paper? Photographs are clearer, larger, more detailed and more easily saved and shared on computer screens. Plus, slideshows mean you can fit as many good photographs as you have on the page, rather than just one.

It's a better medium for writers, too. There's something to be said for keeping a story lean and concise but there are undoubtedly times when a story had to be cropped for space. There is a physical limit to the number of words you can put on a page -- but not on the web. A story can be exactly as long as can hold a reader's interest.

Furthermore, writers can now clean up their stories by avoiding cumbersome backstory, titles, and legalese. Hover over a highlighted word on a page and the reader can get definitions for complicated jargon, meaning they're going to be better informed about the subject. A writer can instantly link a reader to all the research he did for the story, giving it more weight and believability.

Which brings us to standards. People talk about the Internet like some big lolcat black hole looking to devour reasoned thought.

Glenn Ericksen, Copy Editor for the P-I, said the Web "lowers the standard of literacy all around. Who needs copy editors on the Web?"

Well, who needed copy editors in print? Anal though the AP might be, they don't show up in the newsroom with guns when someone writes "hung." There isn't and never has been a governing body or penalties for grammar and punctuation. Glenn Ericksen enforced them for 25 years because it made the content better.

The Web is desperate for that good content and publications like the P-I are poised to deliver it if they get their feet out of the mud and start worrying about the information more than the medium.

And it's clear when you look at their site, they're not there yet -- tiny, hard to read text, small pictures and way too much copy. But they will get there. Same as they created a fantastic paper they can create a fantastic site ultimately delivering more information faster with more citations to readers. Because that's all that counts.

Is it new? Yes. Is it scary? If you're over 30. Is it better? For the love of God, yes.

So I'm not mourning the "loss" of the P-I. I'm raising my glass to their new opportunity to make an even better publication. May they have many, many happy years.