From the blog

The future of journalism in Seattle, part 1

The notion that the newspaper industry is in trouble has achieved truism status over the last couple of years. The industry has taken an undeniable hit from the migration of classified ads online, as well as from gradually decreasing circulation figures, as news consumers replace faster and more configurable online news sources over older dead-tree delivery systems.

This is the first of three posts gathering together insights from a cluster of recent and upcoming Seattle events looking into the future of our daily newspapers and the journalism they deliver.

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Financial collapse threatens real journalism

David Horsey, Post-Intelligencer

In a week when Congress was consumed by debate over the best way to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to revive the economy and bail out bankers, one ailing industry was being left to fend for itself: newspapers.

Arguably, newspapers are as vital to American democracy as banks are to the American financial system. Yet the implosion of the news business is the most underreported story amid the great flood of bad economic news.

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Many rural areas making digital TV switch early

Jonathan Lawson, Daily Yonder

Last week Congress voted to delay the upcoming digital TV transition date until June 12. The decision was provoked by the fact that an estimated 20 million Americans remain unprepared to lose access to over-the-air TV broadcasts. Over three million are currently on a waiting list to receive $40 coupons intended to defray the cost of buying DTV converter boxes for old TVs. Funds for the government coupon program effectively ran out in January, and have not yet been replenished.

Delaying the switch until June 12 should mean a sigh of relief for these unprepared viewers. Turns out, not so much, at least for those living in rural areas and small cities.

Congress left a loophole in the date change, allowing local stations the option to turn off their analog signals as early as Feb. 17 if they chose. And across the country, many stations serving rural areas are deciding to do just that.

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When will Seattle-area TV stations go digital? June 12

Seattle DTV Assistance Centers

[Updated 2/10] While Congress has set June 12 as the date for the national switch to digital TV, local stations across the country were given the option of shutting off their analog broadcasts sooner.

Nearly all Seattle-area stations have confirmed that they are delaying their DTV switch until June 12: KCTS (PBS), KING and KONG (NBC), KIRO (CBS), KOMO (ABC), KCPQ and KMYQ (Fox), KSTW (CW), and KUNS (Univision).

Only KWPX (ion) will shut off their analog signal on Feb. 17.

Here's what's happening in other areas of Washington State:

In Bellingham, KVOS and KBCB (ShopNBC) will shut off their analog signal on Feb. 17.

In Spokane/Pullman, KWSU (PBS), KAYU (Fox), KHQ (NBC), KXLY (ABC) and KWDK will shut off their analog signal on Feb. 17.

In Yakima/Tri-Cities, KVEW (ABC), KAPP (ABC), KNDO/KNDU (NBC), and KTNW (PBS) will shut off their analog signal on Feb. 17.

In Seattle, Reclaim the Media and other local organizations are providing DTV Assistance Centers (see www.seattledtv.com for details) and a DTV Assistance hotline at 206.508.1277. (We're still looking for volunteers - call if you'd like to help!)

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Digital TV conversion delayed until June 12

Ryan Kim, San Francisco Chronicle

Television viewers who rely on sets with antennas to pick up their broadcast signals have about four extra months to get ready for the nation's switch to digital TV.

The House of Representatives voted 264 to 158 today to move back the Feb. 17 deadline to June 12, sending the fast-tracked legislation to President Obama, who has promised to sign it. The vote, largely along party lines, gives approximately 6.5 million unprepared households more time to prepare for the day when all analog TV broadcasts are turned off.

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Hispanic media coalition wants tracking of hate speech on cable

John Eggerton, Broadcasting and Cable

In a petition to the Federal Communications Commission last week, the National Hispanic Media Coalition claims hate speech is "prevalent" on national cable-news networks and wants the government to do something about it. That was one of the assertions made by the group in a formal request that the commission open a notice of inquiry into "the extent, the effect and possible remedies" to what it said was a pervasive problem, and not just on conservative talk radio.

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Seattle Mayor, City Council urge retailers to provide options for a no-cost DTV conversion

Reclaim the Media

Two weeks after a federal Digital TV coupon program effectively ran out of cash, elected officials in Seattle are asking retailers to do their part to help local consumers prepare for the upcoming Digital TV transition (currently scheduled for Feb. 17). Mayor Greg Nickels wrote to local electronics retailers asking them to carry DTV converter boxes at the low cost of $40-$45 (view letter here). All nine members of the City Council have following up with a similar letter.

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Obama names Copps interim FCC chair

Stephen Lawson, IDG News Service

President Barack Obama has appointed Commissioner Michael Copps as acting chairman of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, filling the seat emptied by former Chairman Kevin Martin's departure on Tuesday.

Obama has not yet named a permanent successor to Martin, who had been appointed by former President George W. Bush in 2005. Each incoming president appoints the head of the five-member commission, though commissioners serve staggered terms and Martin could have remained on the panel. The FCC is required to have at least two members from outside the president's party. Also on the commission are Democrat Jonathan Adelstein and Republican Robert McDowell.

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DTV coupon wait-list tops 2.5 million

John Eggerton, Broadcasting and Cable

The National Telecommunications & Information Administration's waiting list for DTV-to-analog converter box coupons continues to grow. As of midnight Wednesday, it had reached 2,527,839 coupons from 1,426,717 households, half of which (50.2%) identified themselves as over-the-air only.

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Fourth estate foreclosure: why we need a National Endowment for Journalism

Alex Stonehill, Common Language Project

2009 promises to be another tough year for the journalism industry, and it looks like it’s our turn to take a beating here in Seattle. The imminent closure of the Seattle Post–Intelligencer, the city’s oldest and second largest newspaper was announced last week, just a few months after the second round of major staff cutbacks in 2008 went down at our other major newspaper, the Seattle Times.

With the country sliding into a massive recession, two major foreign wars raging, federal investigators uncovering a series of juicy political scandals, and our first black President entering office, all on the tail of an exciting local weather emergency, it’s hard to imagine the newspaper industry is having trouble finding news people want to read.

So what’s the problem? Industry insiders blame the internet for all of newspapers’ woes. But it’s a bit more complicated than that.

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The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. - John Dewey