There’s no joy in Mudville, or Seattle Timesville, over the demise of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, believe me. These are scary times for all print journalists. Every day brings a new round of shocking news about layoffs here, massive cutbacks there. It’s not over-stating things to say that this is an industry in crisis, and when something like this happens, it’s a punch in the gut to all of us.
It’s a “There but for the grace of God…” feeling, but especially when you know, respect, and are friends with many of the people affected. Put aside the fact that newspaper competition is good for everyone in a community, including the competitors — journalistically, anyway. Anyone who saw the look on the face of John Hickey, the P-I’s long-time Mariners’ beat writer — until today, that is — when he got THE phone call yesterday in the press room in Peoria, Ariz.,, will understand the human toll that the P-I’s closure is exacting.
I’ve known John Hickey for almost 25 years, dating back to my days in the Bay Area, when I was working for the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat and then the San Francisco Examiner, and he was working for the Hayward Review and then the Oakland Tribune. He’s a hard-working journalist, one who truly loved the job of covering a major-league baseball team and did it extremely well. John’s a gentleman, and a gentle man. I’m pulling hard for him to land a job that allows him to keep covering baseball, and soon. And the P-I’s other main baseball writer, David Andriesen, was a worthy adversary and a great traveling companion when we’d take Mariners’ road trips together. I know how much covering baseball meant to him, as well. I hope he, too, somehow finds a way to stay in the business; Dave’s an elegant writer, and there’s never enough of those.
It’s a weird dynamic in our business. Sportswriters often spend more time with their competitors than they do with co-workers at their own paper, especially when they’re a beat writer. You’re traveling together, eating dinner together, waiting in clubhouses together, sitting in press boxes together, going out after games together. You still want to beat them on every story, but it’s hard not to develop bonds.
I’ve cross paths with virtually all the P-I writers over the years, and wish every one of them the best. Clare Farnsworth and I worked together in 1985-86 at the Bellevue Journal-American — another newspaper that doesn’t exist any more, A nicer man I’ve never run across. I go back even farther with Dan Raley, who was covering preps at the P-I in the early 1980s when I was doing the same at the Yakima Herald-Republic. I think Dan is a brilliant writer. I had many long talks with Art Thiel about the future of Seattle newspapers (this scenario never came up), and wish him luck in his new gig. Any time Jim Moore walked into a press box or a press room, it always gave you a good feeling. Same with Greg Johns. Best of luck to Molly Yanity, Gary Washburn, and everyone else on that staff. You’re going to be missed in the sports pages. Truly.