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Seattle P-I, writing its own obit

It's got to be a weird thing to have to write your own obituary.

Yet there they are in Seattle, the reporters and columnists of the now-defunct Seattle Post-Intelligencer eulogizing the 146-year old newspaper as it succumbs to the digital age.

The watered-down P-I now exists only online, another major daily to shut down its printing presses and embark on what columnist Joel Connelly hopefully calls an "adventure in journalism."

Elsewhere on the P-I's Web site, readers are greeted with mournful headlines like, "The pioneering P-I slips into the past" and What led to the Seattle P-I's demise?"

The P-I was the beta paper in a two-newspaper town, competing against the larger Seattle Times. Two-newspaper towns are a vanishing breed, and it seems only a matter of time before the first major American city has no paper at all. San Francisco is on the short list.

Newspapers have been closing down for years, though of course their decline has accelerated with the gathering ubiquity and spare advertising revenue of the Web. Then the bottom drops out of the economy, the pneumonia that comes to finish off the old man laid up with a broken hip.

For those of us still with a sentimental attachment to the printed product, it doesn't seem fair. But what is?

Of course, it's all-too-easy to wail about what will be lost when newspapers are relegated to a strictly digital medium.

The P-I continue to operate with a skeleton crew (about 20 of the staff of 170 remain) as its parent Hearst Corporation tries to reinvent it as a new model of online journalism.

Monica Guzman, a 26-year-old P-I reporter who's staying on, offered this hopeful assessment to the Voice of America:

"If a story's better told through video, tell it through video... If a story's better told through audio, tell it through audio... If a story's better told through text, if it's better told through a slideshow, a photo gallery."

She added that "It seems a great medium, as long as we can make the business work."

Indeed.

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