A Journalism Teacher Reflects On The Seattle P-I, Part 2

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: On March 17, 2009, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer published its final print edition, completing a more than 145-year run. Its online presence continues. We at The B-Town Blog, while excited about the future of neighborhood blogs such as ours, lament the folding of great US newspapers, particularly those with such rich histories and stellar legacies as the P-I.

Scott Schaefer and Mark Neuman, of the B-Town Blog, worked together on their high school newspaper, The West Seattle High Chinook, a few decades back. They were fortunate enough to have as their advisor and journalism teacher a lady who truly is one of the very best in the state of Washington, Miss Dorothea Mootafes, known a little better as Dorothy, and affectionately as Miss Moo. Miss Moo has been retired from the Seattle School District for over twenty-five years, lives in the Roosevelt area of Seattle and is quite active in her church and various teacher organizations.

We recently asked her to reflect on the passing of the P-I, and let us in on her P-I memories. Today we continue a four-part Sunday series by Miss Moo.]

by Dorothea Mootafes

Just as the other P-I departments had something for everyone, sports had a fishing expert, Ken McLeod; a hunting specialist, Cliff Harrison; a bowling enthusiast, Blaine Freer, who also covered skiing at times. The P-I sports also provided public services for young people with fishing derbies, ski schools, and swimming lessons.

John Owen also wrote sports and succeeded Royal Brougham as sports editor. The item I most remember pre-Mariners, was when he wrote that Seattle would never have a major league team until it had a major league hot dog. In his view the hot dogs either were served with a hot dog on a cold bun or a hot bun with a cold dog. A major league hot dog, he wrote, consisted of a hot dog on a hot bun. When he came as a visitor to one of West Seattle’s journalism classes, I told him how much I had enjoyed that. He was not happy with my commentary, preferring that readers remember articles in which he had taken greater pride. I hope the Safeco cuisine suited his taste.

In the 1940s, Leo Lassen, the radio voice of the Seattle Rainiers, covered the team for The P-I. Among the many other P-I sportswriters through the years have been—Angelo Bruscas, Jim Street. Laura Vecsey, Steve Rudman, Jack Smith, Mike Donohoe, Los Angeles columnist Melvin Durslag, Jim Moore, John Levesque, John Hickey, Bill Knight, Joe Mooney, J. Michael Kenyon, Bud Withers, Jack Jarvis, Ellis Conklin, Boyd Smith, Robert Browning, and Art Thiel.

Special features included columns by Emmett Watson under various names including “This Our City.” “Lesser Seattle” was his unofficial campaign to discourage people from migrating to Seattle in order to keep it a more comfortably sized community without the problems of a large city. Douglass Welch with his “Squirrel Cage” provided laughs particularly with his humorous coverage of Park Board meetings. Referring to his wife as “Green Eyes” also evoked a few smiles. Jon Hahn wrote a column on a variety of subjects. “Action,” edited for a time by Maribeth (Bunker) Morris and later Dick Young, gave readers the opportunity to solve problems and frustrations they might have. It was similar to today’s television problem solvers.

Ann Landers not only provided advice for those who asked but also occasionally gave readers more to think about. The Mike Mailway column spanned the years. It consisted of questions and answers, along with interesting facts (Example: Firefighters have the greatest incidence of heart attacks.) Billy Graham provided spiritual advice in answers to questions sent to him by readers. By now bridge enthusiasts must be great players. The lessons were interminable.

The Post-Intelligencer’s “Living Textbook,” as did The Seattle Times’ “Newspaper in the Classroom,” assisted students and teachers in improving their knowledge of newspapers, the English language, history, and geography.

The P-I conducted Christmas Fund Drives for the needy. Articles through the years showing the special needs of the handicapped and the poor touched everyone’s humanity.

Critics helped readers in determining what movies were of value (William Arnold), plays and other events (John Voorhees), the theatre (Joe Adcock)., music (R. M. Campbell).

E. J. Mitchell edited a Saturday religion page and wrote a weekly column covering churches and religious matters. Maggie Hawthorn edited Arts and Entertainment. For some years Louella Parsons provided a column of movie gossip.

Investigative reporters have included Eric Nalder, Hilda Bryant, Steve Militich and Shelby Scates among others. Stub Nelson, Charles Dunsire, Mike Layton, and Maribeth Morris covered politics. Fergus Hoffman wrote business and financial news.

The opinion pages (editorial and Op Ed), have through the years provoked thought and sometimes aroused anger over an editorial or column they carried, but they always provided the opportunity to disagree in letters to the editor. I couldn’t bear Westbrook Pegler and through the years have taken issue with other columnists and with P-I editorials.

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