OLD Media Moves

Biz news coverage sleeps in Seattle

March 17, 2009

Bruce Ramsey, an editorial writer for the Seattle Times, reflects on his days as a business reporter at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which published its final edition Tuesday, and how business news coverage has changed in the city.

Ramsey writes, “Most of my time at the P-I was in the business section. In the late 1980s, we managed to cover all the public stock companies in the Seattle area, including such little guys as Lynden Transport, Lindal Cedar Homes and NeoRx. At The Times, editors were also stressing business news. Business had its own section every day.

“A year or so ago, when Safeco Corp., the biggest insurance company in the state, announced it was sold, I asked to talk to the Times reporter covering it. I was told that nobody covered it. The Times covered the sale, of course, but nobody had been doing the grind: the quarterly earnings, reading the annual report and going to the stockholder meetings. Twenty years ago, ignoring the No. 1 insurance company in the state would have been inconceivable. Ten years ago a reporter would have been assigned to Safeco but would have been stretched too thin to do most of the work.

“These days you can go to web pages of public companies and read annual reports and such directly. You couldn’t do that 20 years ago. For some, the new way is better: there is no reporter acting as a filter between the company and the reader. But it also means the company is covering itself. It is not a good idea to leave big corporations to do journalism on themselves. An important company should be covered by someone who knows it and who does not take orders from it.

“And it’s not just companies. When I began my career, both Seattle papers had maritime reporters — indeed, ‘marine reporter’ was my first job at the P-I. Going back a bit further, both papers had labor reporters. Imagine that.”

Read more here.

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