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Seattle P-I on the Chopping Block

The next major metro U.S. daily newspaper to disappear may be the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

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The Hearst Corporation has put the Seattle P-I on the market, giving itself 60 days to find a buyer. Short of that, the company plans to, at the minimum, shut down the print edition. Given today's economic climate, there's a possibility that the Seattle P-I may no longer exist in any form by the end of March.

The P-I's staff is stunned by the news as it was delivered by Hearst president Steve Swartz:

Our journalists continue to do a spectacular job of serving the people of Seattle, which has been our great privilege for the past 88 years. But our losses have reached an unacceptable level, so with great regret we are seeking a new owner for the P-I.

These are historically difficult times for our country and our industry, and our problems will likely worsen over the months ahead. Many companies in our industry find themselves saddled with far too much debt, and a painful restructuring process has just begun, with all the negative publicity that comes with that.

Hearst, which is also mulling options to mitigate its losses at its flagship San Francisco Chronicle, has lost money at the P-I every year since 2000, including $14 million in 2008. According to Swartz, the company also has no interest in buying the rival Seattle Times.

Founded as the Seattle Gazette in 1863, the Post-Intelligencer has been owned by Hearst since 1921. It entered into a joint operating agreement (JOA) with the Blethens-family owned Times in 1983. But since the Times abandoned the AM/PM arrangement and went head-to-head with the P-I in the morning in 2000, the more liberal P-I has seen a precipitous drop in readership. Currently, the Times' circulation is 198,000 while the P-I's is at 117,000.

Click here for Hearst's memo to the P-I employees.