A couple nights ago, my former colleague (and all-around great guy) Jim Moore sent me a message on Facebook asking me for some thoughts as we approach the one-year anniversary of the closure of the P-I. Tuesday, March 17 was the last time an the Seattle Post-Intelligencer ran off the printing press. Even that last sports page was strong. Each of us beat writers did a look-ahead. There were good columns, good info graphic thanks to Steve Rudman and a giant empty bracket in anticipation of March Madness.
That Monday night, after we put the final issue to bed, we met up at Buckley’s on Queen Anne. Even our managing editor, David McCumber, was doing shots. My best friends were with me, as were all my coworkers, bosses, and even rivals. I drank too much Jameson (it was almost St. Patty’s Day!) and really don’t remember much of my cab ride home. I cried when I wrote my last blog post that Monday. But, I didn’t cry again until after buying tickets and watching the Huskies in the first and second-round games in Portland. It took me realizing I had nothing to do before it all settled in.
(A lot of this I sent to Jim, so you may read it twice if you’re in Seattle.) The one-year anniversary of the closing of the P-I falls on the day of my last final of Winter quarter. So, Jim’s request for my feelings about the anniversary was received at a time I’ve had little sleep, lots of stress, and would really rather be getting ready for spring football in Seattle.
Like it did to lots of my colleagues, the closing of the P-I turned my world upside down. A year later, I’m still dealing with the surprises that move set in motion. My original plan had been to head to Ohio University, earn a Master’s degree in journalism in a year, and get back to the world of sportswriting. Instead, I applied for — and was accepted to — Ohio U’s prestigious PhD program with full financial support. By accepting the offer, I have pretty much decided my future lies in teaching journalism rather than practicing it. It also keeps me in Athens, Ohio for a couple more years.
A lot times — like the Saturday the Huskies football team beat USC, the day Jake Locker told Sark he planned to stay for his fifth year, and every day of the Vancouver Olympics — my heart hurt a bit. I liken the feeling to being dumped by the Prom Queen. On those kinds of days, I look next to me and force a smile because now I’m dating the runner-up, who for all intents and purposes is awesome, but she ain’t the Prom Queen.
I absolutely loved my job at the P-I. I had strived to be a sportswriter since I was a teenager and, for a decade, I got to do it in a great city, covering a phenomenal university with an exciting athletics program (albeit, a poor football team while I was there.) Covering the Huskies became as much my identity as my job. So, this last year has been an exploratory shift both occupationally and personally. While I miss Seattle, the P-I, its readers, the Huskies, my friends, my home, my favorite haunts like Jabu’s Pub or Elliott’s, I’m developing a new identity.
Turns out, I’m a pretty good teacher. Would you believe my research thus far has focused on the media coverage of college football scandals? My thesis is going to be about the coverage of the SMU “Ponygate” scandal of the mid80s. I mean, if you’re going to be an “academic” and bury your nose in books, that’s a hell of a way to do it! Seriously — Dr. Molly Yanity. Whoddathunk?!
I love Ohio University, too. Smart, fun people. While I missed the Halloween festivities with a sinus infection, I have taken advantage (and then some) of the daily dollar beer specials on Court Street. There’s a brew pub called Jackie O’s where you’ll find me almost every Thursday night. (The back patio reminds me a bit of the Pacific Inn in Fremont, minus the Duck tour buses.)
As a matter of fact, that is where you will find me on Wednesday night — celebrating the end of finals while fighting off a pang of sadness and regret about the P-I. I’ll likely be whooping it up with my new friends, pounding some dollar Bud Lights and wrapping my arms around the runner-up to the Prom Queen.
Speaking of the Prom Queen, she has kind of turned into a dog.
My friends who still work at SeattlePI.com are good journalists and deserve better. Hearst is trying to pass off what’s under the Globe as journalism. While there is a little (and some quite good) journalism on SeattlePI.com, the sports coverage is tough to read.
The lone former sports staffer still there, Greg Johns, is hamstrung. A great journalist, Johns doesn’t get to travel to see games. Instead, he watches on TV — like the rest of us. He takes quotes from the radio or Web sites — like the rest of us. And blogs about it — like the rest of us! (Folks, in Sacramento, that kind of journalism gets you fired.) This isn’t differentiating the crap that is out there from the great work of someone like Greg Johns.
I got an email blast this morning from the P-I.com. Apparently, the editorial staff is looking for writers with a background in the Arts — to blog, for free. Do you even know how good Regina Hackett is/was?
The Prom Queen got old, you could say. I know the P-I isn’t the only media outlet doing this. The L.A. Times, after significantly cutting its staff the last five years, recently hired a kid just out of school here. These newspapers are saying out with the old and in with the new — at half the price. I get that, especially when they’re hiring Social Media coordinators and the like. That isn’t my background, and — even if I had learned enough of it for the P-I to have kept me on — I probably cost too much.
With that in mind, I’m going to teach well and I’m devoting myself to the runner-up. I sure as hell don’t want these just-out-of-school hires to forget about ethics, balance, the importance of a good narrative, that people make the story. In sports writing, there has to be something that distinguishes the rabid fan (internet half-brains, I believe they have been called) from the semi-objective journalist, though we all need to learn to appreciate each other.
I’m not incredibly religious, but maybe my path has been leading me here all along. Maybe I’m supposed to be with the runner-up.