"I've always had an affection for divey little bars," Mike Lewis tells me. The first time he entered the Streamline Tavern, he came as a reporter on assignment for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, writing a series called "Diving Lessons" about the characters who congregate in such places. Now he has become the starring character of the Streamline, having invested his P-I severance pay into buying part ownership of the classic Queene Anne's Hill establishment.
When the national economic downturn coincided with old media's pre-existing condition of fiscal vulnerability, a virtual hemorrhaging of the fourth estate erupted. Beginning soon after last Christmas, bulk emails would arrive in my inbox on a weekly basis, as one friend after another ruefully announced they'd joined the growing ranks of unemployed journalists.
In February, Denver's Rocky Mountain News halted operations entirely. A couple weeks later, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer announced it would cease to exist in newsprint form. While retaining a skeleton crew to generate online content for SeattlePI.com, 160 reporters, editors, designers, critics, and columnists lost their jobs.
Pundits have thoroughly dissected the slow downfall of print media, typically citing the availability of free newspapers on the Internet as sparking the bleed of subscription rolls, thus creating an increasing margin of unprofitable. More bitter media watchers blame blogs and online news aggregators for parasitically sucking content (and readers) away from the original creators.
Longtime Seattle P-I book critic, John Marshall, believes the most critical loss of revenue can be pinpointed with greater precision: "Craigslist is what killed the old media. That was the cash cow that drove old media, and now that cow is dead."