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What the Star Tribune could learn from Seattle P-I as bankruptcy looms

When Hearst Corporation announced it put Seattle's oldest newspaper, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, up for sale, the newsroom didn't hesitate to report on it. It's news after all, they say.

The clock is ticking on the paper's future and time is starting to run out. Hearst is waiting 60 days to find a new owner, otherwise the paper could go online-only or close completely. Talk about a downer of a week for a newspaper that has gained a lot of respect in recent years as it upped its local coverage.

The paper is now doing something risky and pretty unique. They are documenting their own unknown future and giving readers a window into a frightened and most likely depressed newsroom as everyone waits for good news.

The Star Tribune, which could file bankruptcy in less than two weeks, should use Seattle P-I as an example of how a newspaper handles its own potential downfall. 

Seattle P-I had video coverage of Hearst Newspaper Division President Steve Swartz telling the staff that the newspaper will go up for sale.  

Here is the video:
   

Yesterday, Managing Editor David McCumber wrote what will be the first post of many documenting the next 60 days in the Seattle P-I newsroom.

Here is what he had to say:
Whatever happens, the next sixty days around here won't be dull. 
During that time, on this blog, we'll try to give you a daily sense of what it feels like here in the newsroom as events unfold. Please excuse the navel-gazing aspect of this - we'll try not to be narcissistic, but it is a story and we are in position to cover it. Our mission is to be frank and open, not self-congratulatory and maudlin.
The Star Tribune, on the other hand, has been surprisingly quiet about their financial situation. A search for "Avista," the Star Tribune's owner, on the Strib site comes up with only one story recently discussing the talks between the paper's union and the Strib. The story isn't even written by a Strib staffer and is simply an Associated Press piece.

Some open and honest reporting could do the Star Tribune a lot of good. By making your business more than just numbers, more than just layoffs, readers might realize the importance of keeping you around. The stronger your reader base is, the more value a paper has to a community. Yes, it is all about money, but if readers realize what they could lose, maybe they won't shrug it off.

Strib staffers are real people and dedicated journalists who have serious concerns about the future of reporting in the community. Readers want to see that side of a crisis. The paper personalizes stories about any other major issue in the community, so why not report on the story happening right under their nose? It's not narcissistic, it's news that readers should know. They are paying this company a daily subscription fee after all and the least you can do is explain what they are paying for.