By: Karim Mostafa
POST-STRIKE SEATTLE: THE WEB WINS
Journalists See Attitude Shift
Looking back, perhaps the only clear winner of the Seattle strike was the Internet.
As the newspapers resume normal operations, there are indications that the Web’s
role during the strike could bring changes in the papers’ newsrooms.
“[SeattleTimes.com] was better than it’s ever been,” said Nancy Bruner, vice
president of new media at the newspaper. “We were focused on publishing
information when we had it, where we could.” For The Seattle Times, that
often meant publishing information online since the strike had moved print
At Seattlep-i.com, General Manager Lee Rozen said that despite less content from
reporters, “We went to very heavy updating every few minutes for 12 hours a day.
We focused on that much harder.” Rozen also launched online forums during the
strike, even though they were scheduled to appear later, since he thought users
might want to say their share.
For the strikers, the Web was the driver, since the print edition of the strike paper
came out only three times a week. “The Web site would be the primary product,”
said Chuck Taylor, the aerospace reporter at the Times who served as
managing editor of the strikers’ Union Record.
Both Rozen and Bruner said that the strike didn’t affect traffic at their Web sites,
which work together to produce regional portal NWSource.com. Traffic dropped
slightly in the second half of December, as it typically does.
But the strikers’ unionrecord.com did attract a hefty online audience that averaged
50,000 page views a day, according to Taylor. Initially traffic was much higher
due to the publicity surrounding the strike, but users settled in to find other stories
going beyond the strike, covering the Seattle community and its sports.
Taylor said unionrecord.com aimed to compete directly with the Times
and Post-Intelligencer. He said unionrecord.com routinely held Web
stories until the evening so that the newspapers couldn’t chase them down in time
for their print editions. “Naturally, [the site] was a weapon of the strike,” Taylor
Joy Nieman, a Web site editor at unionrecord.com and an online news editor at
SeattleTimes.com, said, “[The strike] taught the newspaper people a lot about the
Web.” At the Union Record operations, journalists wrote for the Web
first, then for print, she said.
“Several people said that working on the Union Record demystified the
whole Web experience for them,” said Nieman, who was one of only six online
employees in the Times newsroom who were also members of the
Newspaper Guild. “I’m hoping to bring that [mindset] back to the newspaper,” she
Managers left behind in the newsrooms may also see things differently. Editors
who stepped down to fill reporting positions, “by necessity, came to view
SeattleTimes.com as their best outlet,” said Stanley Farrar, managing editor of
online news at the Times. He stayed on in the paper’s newsroom during
SeattleTimes.com updated stories more frequently and broke more stories online,
according to Bruner. One evening, when news from an evening Seattle Mariners
game didn’t make the earlier print deadlines, the story went online the same night.
And the paper’s print readers found a notice to check out the game’s update on
“It was a wonderful paradigm shift,” Bruner said. “We tried to change people’s
approach by saying ‘Think of online as the primary focus of what you do.'” And
people finally understood that with the Web, there were no router issues, no
deadline issues, and no space limitations, said Bruner.
“We got a lot of positive reaction from users,” Farrar said. “It was so successful in
many ways, that we think it will stick.”
Taylor added, “My hunch is that we’ll all be a little more willing to get up stories
on the Web site during the day.”
Karim Mostafa (firstname.lastname@example.org) is associate editor for E&P Online.
Copyright 2001, Editor & Publisher.