Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Community newspapers bite the dust
but the Madison Park Times marches on
We were intrigued by a story we saw on KING-TV last month concerning the demise of a close-by neighborhood newspaper, The South Seattle Beacon. The twice-monthly publication, which had been around in one form or another for almost 100 years, covered Beacon Hill, Mount Baker and Rainier Beach. It quit publishing in December. As it happens, The South Seattle Beacon was a similar-sized sister paper of our own Madison Park Times, which is produced by Pacific Publishing Co. Unmentioned in the KING-TV story was the fact that the Pacific Publishing also shut down the venerable North Seattle Herald-Outlook (once the University Herald and the North Central Outlook) last year. In place of these longtime community news providers, a more-generic weekly periodical, City Living Seattle, is now being circulated to the affected neighborhoods by Pacific Publishing. This will naturally mean little if any neighborhood news for those communities, since the circulation area of the replacement paper is much larger and diverse.
In a memo to readers, the papers' publisher, Mike Dillon, wrote "We mourn the passing of [the Beacon and Herald-Outlook], but they could not--in the current state of the economy--make it to the 100-year mark." It was a simple case of not enough advertising revenue to support the costs of publication, a looming threat for many print publications, especially newspapers. Additional staff cuts, such as those undertaken by Pacific Publishing a couple of years ago, were apparently not a viable option in the face of pure economics.
The death of these two community newspapers naturally raised the question for us, "What's the future of the Madison Park Times?" So we called Pacific Publishing to ask. Publisher Dillon acknowledged how sad it is to have to pull the plug on these respected and longtime publications, but he assured us that our paper is definitely not on the chopping block. "We have no plans to make any changes there," Dillon commented. "The focus of the Madison Park Times is not being altered." As a monthly periodical, he said, the Madison Park Times is able to attract sufficient advertising to make the economics work. The paper, with a circulation of about 6,500, covers Madison Park, Madrona, and Leschi, described on Pacific Publishing's website as "Seattle's most affluent neighborhoods." It's a relatively wealthy audience that advertisers want to be in front of, he noted.
The KING-TV report included an interview with a longtime Mt. Baker resident who stated, essentially, that she had taken the Beacon for granted and now that it was gone she missed it. Since the inception of Madison Park Blogger three years ago, we've taken the view that the Madison Park Times, in spite of its inherent inadequacies, is an important means of communication for our neighborhood. We have always had a mutually cooperative (though not precisely symbiotic) relationship with the paper. We, like the Mr. Baker resident, would be unhappy to see our local paper fold, so we're glad to discover that the Madison Park Times has a renewed lease on life.