Journalism in the time of slideshows

18 Feb

I guess I can say I’m happy we paid the Seattle Post-Intelligencer a visit while the luster of a big city had yet to wear off. In a word, the place was disappointing. I say this so bluntly in the name of concision – obviously, I was far from underwhelmed for most of the visit. In fact, I’d be prepared to do about anything to work somewhere with such a killer view of the Sound. In hindsight, though, my enthusiasm putters out there.

Still, I respect that the PI has had to make some tough choices. I respect even more that its staff continues to defend those choices. I admire anyone who can so stubbornly follow Tim Gunn’s “make-it-work” philosophy. And by and large, the PI has made it work. Its staff mentioned a devoted following, and in doing my research for trip, I found myself browsing several of the PI’s slideshows, namely How to avoid looking like a tourist in Seattle and Seattle’s 15 best coffee shops (although I’m not sure I agree with Starbucks).

That those articles were the top results for my Google queries (Sorry, Microsoft) means the folks at the PI know a thing or two about SEO, not to mention many of their stories feature input from engaged readers. Moreover, you’d be hard-pressed to find an organization that knows its audience better. With a staff of 12, a story that’s not going to get a lot of attention is traffic — and revenue — lost. Maybe it’s not a perennial contender for a Pulitzer, but I have to give the PI props for doing what it can with what it’s got.

As journalists, it’s easy to fall into the hard-news-is-the-only-news trap. At the end of the day, though, we all end up on sites like the PI — even if we aren’t necessarily interested in working for them. Because it represented one of two poles on the journalistic spectrum, the PI visit lent a certain roundness to our itinerary. Thus, while it might have been harrowing, spending an hour at the slideshow capital of the world was certainly worth it.

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