SEATTLE, WASHINGTON — [Editor’s Note: The Seattle PostGlobe announced that it would cease publication on July 29, 2011. Sally Deneen, the site’s co-founder and news curator (and the journalist interviewed for the profile below), wrote about the decision here. This profile was originally published on June 3, 2011.]
When the Seattle Post-Intelligencer laid off nearly all its staff and went online-only in March of 2009, metro reporter Kery Murakami found himself suddenly out of a job. Saddled with an uncertain future and wide open schedule, Murakami wasted little time in establishing the Seattle PostGlobe, an online-only news source that launched just a month after the Post-Intelligencer shut down its presses.
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Armed with a $2000 budget, Murakami gathered together about thirty other former P-I staffers and began posting original reporting on Seattle news, arts, politics, and culture. Murakami worked on the site full-time while contributors wrote at their own pace, usually on the same beat they had covered for the paper. Seattle Mariners reporter John Hickey still covered the Mariners, foreign affairs editor Larry Johnson blogged about foreign affairs, art-film reviewer Bill White reviewed art films, copy editors made themselves available to copyedit, and on and on.
After giving birth to the PostGlobe in the spring of 2009, Murakami left the site later that same year, initially going to work for the Washington State Budget and Policy Center, a progressive fiscal policy think tank, and later for Long Island’s Newsday, where he’s currently a reporter.
Since Murakami’s departure, the site has increasingly functioned as an aggregator, featuring stories from the likes of ProPublica, the Center for Public Integrity, Common Language Project, and InvestigateWest, as well as linking to stories from local blogs, such as the hyperlocal Capitol Hill Seattle Blog. Sally Deneen, a member of that original PostGlobe crew who now makes her living as a freelance writer, is the site’s current editor-in-chief. She explains that the site has shifted its mission from original reporting. “We largely want to highlight work of other independent bloggers and/or news sites,” she says. The site is maintained by a core group of volunteers who act as “news curators,” though they also occasionally contribute writing and reporting themselves.
Deneen updates and edits the site on a part-time, volunteer basis. She describes the site as being “a little bit like a high school or college newspaper, in that people rotate in and out”. As was the case in 2009, the site’s contributors are largely former P-I staffers who contribute on a volunteer basis; the volume of contributions is usually inversely proportional to their employment situations. Former P-I foreign affairs editor Larry Johnson and former P-I assistant managing editor Chris Beringer shared curating duties with Deneen in early 2011, but both moved on after obtaining full-time work.
The site features regular contributions from film critic Bill White, as well as steady contributions from theater critic Gianni Truzzi. An unpaid intern from partner site Common Language Project helps update the site. (The partnership consists mainly of content sharing.)
Spot.us has also helped the site to fund originally reported stories on homelessness and prostitution in the Seattle area. Written by former Seattle P-I reporter Eric Ruthford (who also functions as the PostGlobe’s business manager), both stories were published as two-part series and offered in-depth, probing, and at times jarring coverage of social ills that often go overlooked and under-reported. Readers are able to submit their own stories to be edited and posted on the site, though Deneen admits that reader contributions remain somewhat paltry.
While the PostGlobe had some luck attracting donations in its first months of existence, revenue is now mostly limited to a smattering of local ads that are sold through a
self-serve ad function on the site. Deneen hopes to continue to work with Spot.us to fund stories in the future, and describes the current state of the site as being “in a maintenance mode at the moment, because several of our people have gotten jobs.” She hopes that, in the future, building stronger partnerships with organizations like Spot.us and the Common Language Project will help strengthen the site and increase web traffic.
The site maintains a relationship with Capitol Seattle Blog’s founder Justin Carder, who designed the PostGlobe website. Carder is also the founder of Neighborlogs, a “free, hosted placeblogging platform with an integrated local advertising service” that hosts a network of hyperlocal “neighborhood” blogs like Seattle based Central District News and The Southlake. As a member of Neighborlogs, the PostGlobe will often feature content from blogs under the Neighborlogs awning, and will occasionally enlist Carder’s help for technical support.
Although the prospect of paid employment continues to lure contributors away from the site, resulting in less original content and more aggregation, the site remains faithful to its original vision of being an alternative news source featuring the voices of former P-I reporters. Entering its third year, the site has, in a way, gone beyond that original vision, as well. It’s not only a news source; it’s a proving ground for those unwilling to leave journalism behind.
Seattle PostGlobe Data
Name: Seattle PostGlobe