Sunday, January 11, 2009

Mossback's debut weekend goes well, despite bad newspaper news

Two great events for this kick-off of the Pugetopolis tour. On Saturday, Jan. 10 I spoke to a full house of the Seattle Neighborhood Coalition at Ballard's Salmon Bay Cafe where we had a lively discussion about the fate of the city and I discussed my book. I should have brought more to sell as the copies I had were snapped up and I took orders for more. Thank you SNC members!

The Q&A session was great and there was much interest in the big story of the weekend, the sale and likely folding of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. I weighed in with a story on Crosscut over the weekend called "Dead Newspaper Walking" in which I sympathized with the difficult position of the editors and staff over the next 60 days and suggest they can motivate themselves by going out with a bang. As a former magazine and newspaper editor myself, I know there are few things as difficult as managing through such painful transitions.

But one of the larger questions is: Where does this leave a P-I-less Seattle? I liken the current state of daily papers in Seattle to the Great Seattle Fire of 1889. The P-I, which survived the fire, will likely not survive the virtual collapse of the newspaper business model. It's been on life-support for years. But it's not like the survival of the Seattle Times is now a slam dunk: they are still struggling under debt, a major recession, the collapse of advertising, bad investments, and the legacy of major management mistakes. We definitely could wind up as a No-Newspaper town. Or, perhaps a four or five Website town, to look to the future a bit. Either way, the loss of a major journalistic and civic player like the P-I is huge. Inevitable perhaps, but not to be celebrated.

On Sunday, Jan. 11 (see photos above, taken my my sister Kari Berger) I had my first-ever bookstore reading at Eagle Harbor Book Co. Again, a big crowd. I was told maybe 65 people, I was nervous. When I talk, I'm usually looking across the microphone at Steve Scher in the KUOW studios, not an audience of expectant faces. And friendly though they were, I was anxious. But people were great and we had a good discussion afterwards. I even read my column in defense of book burning, which seemed like a good thing to do. I mean, if people want a book to burn, Pugetopolis should be their choice. As long as they buy it first!

All in all, a great start. Next up: Elliott Bay Book Co. in Pioneer Square on Thursday, Jan. 15. A full list of readings in in the right-hand column on this page.

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