Hearst decision to dump P-I likely to make Seattle a one-newspaper town

by Richard Perez-Pena, New York Times

The Hearst Corporation will stop printing The Seattle Post-Intelligencer unless it can find a buyer in the next 60 days, company executives told the newspaper’s employees on Friday.

Steven R. Swartz, president of the company’s Hearst Newspapers division, flew from the corporate headquarters in New York to deliver the news, at a newsroom meeting convened shortly after noon in Seattle, standing alongside Roger Oglesby, the publisher, and David McCumber, the managing editor.

“Swartz said Hearst is selling the P-I, beginning a 60-day process, at the end of which they will no longer continue to print the Seattle P-I if there is no buyer,” said one journalist who was present and requested anonymity to avoid antagonizing the executives. “They may go to all-digital with a much-reduced staff, or they may cease entirely.”

The prospects of a sale appear poor, considering the paucity of people willing to buy into a declining industry, while the economy is in recession. Many newspapers have been offered for sale in the last year but have not sold, drawing very few offers, and at prices the owners deemed to low — including such well-known names like The Chicago Sun-Times and The Miami Herald.

The Post-Intelligencer has long been locked in a fight for primacy with its rival, The Seattle Times — a fight that newspaper analysts and employees of both papers have long predicted would end in the financial collapse of one of them. But the prevailing guess was The Times, owned by the Blethen family and the McClatchy Company, would be the one to throw in the towel, and that Hearst would buy The Times and merge the two papers.

Mr. Swartz, who assumed his position last month, explicitly ruled out the possibility of buying The Times.

article originally published at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/10/business/media/10paper.html?ref=business.

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