Hearst Corporation puts the Seattle Post-Intelligencer up for sale on January 9, 2009.

  • By Alan J. Stein
  • Posted 1/12/2009
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 8891
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On January 9, 2009, the Hearst Corporation, which owns the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, announces that the newspaper is up for sale. The P-I’s parent company states that unless a buyer is found within 60 days, the newspaper will either become an internet-only publication or cease all operations.

News Breaks 

News of the impending sale was first broadcast on KING-TV the night before. An unnamed source “close to the deal” told the television station that the announcement was imminent. Editors and reporters at the P-I were stunned, unaware that the Hearst Corporation was planning to announce the sale.

When Post-Intelligencer staffers arrived at work on January 9, many of them were confused, waiting to see if an official statement was forthcoming. At 12:01 p.m. they received a body-less email from publisher Roger Oglesby with only a subject line stating, “Please join me in the newsroom for a few minutes for an announcement." 

After employees gathered in the newsroom, Steve Swartz, president of Hearst Newspapers addressed the crowd. The P-I was being sold. He told them that economic reasons had forced the sale, and that the P-I had been losing money each year since 2000. “One thing is clear,” Swartz stated, “At the end of the sale process, we do not see ourselves publishing in print” (Richman and James). 

Standing behind Swartz, managing editor David McCumber appeared noticeably shaken up. Some staffers cried quietly, while others stood in shock. A few employees tried to ask questions, but Swartz wouldn’t answer them. 

Old News 

The Post-Intelligencer traces its origins back to Seattle's first newspaper, the Gazette, founded in 1863. It was published as the Weekly Intelligencer from 1867 until 1876, when it began daily publication as the Intelligencer. In 1881, it merged with another daily, the Post, to become the Post-Intelligencer. William Randolph Hearst took over the paper in 1921. This was not announced but rather revealed when Hearst's first editorial appeared, on December 27, 1921. 

For years, the Post-Intelligencer was one of three major dailies in Seattle. After the Seattle Star folded in 1947, only the Post-Intelligencer (the morning newspaper) and The Seattle Times (the evening newspaper) remained. In 1983, the Times and P-I signed a Joint Operating Agreement (JOA), wherein The Times managed printing, advertising, circulation, and most other commercial operations for both papers, while the two remained editorially independent and ran separate, competing newsrooms. 

In 2000, after serving as the Puget Sound region's primary evening newspaper for more than a century, The Seattle Times shifted publication to mornings, putting it in direct competition with the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. In 2003, The Seattle Times attempted to end the JOA, but the Hearst Corporation sued The Times to stop the action. After a long legal battle, the Joint Operating Agreement was extended in 2007.

Sources: “KING-TV: Seattle P-I for Sale, Could Close,” The Seattle Times, January 8, 2009 (http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/); “For Sale: The P-I,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, January 9, 2009 (http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/); “Please Join Me in the Newsroom for a Few Minutes for an Announcement," The Stranger, January 10, 2009, Stranger website accessed January 11, 2009 (http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2009/01/10 /_please_join_me_in_the_newsroo); Sharon A. Boswell and Lorraine McConaghy, Raise Hell and Sell Newspapers: Alden J. Blethen and The Seattle Times (Pullman: WSU Press, 1996); The Seattle Star Suspends Today," The Seattle Star, August 13, 1947, p. 1; Scott Maier, "P-I to Roll Off Times Press Starting Tonight," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, May 22, 1983; "P-I Owner Hearst Goes to Court to Defend JOA," Puget Sound Business Journal, April 28, 2003 (http://seattle.bizjournals.com/seattle/ stories/2003/04/21/daily58.html); Dan Richman and Brad Wong, "Seattle P-I and Times Settle Legal Dispute," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, April 17, 2007, p. A-1.

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