A Journalism Teacher Reflects On The Seattle P-I, Part 4

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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.

This four-part Sunday series, which concludes today, began with Miss Moo recalling taking her students to the P-I building on Sixth and Wall Street in the mid 1970s.

“In the lobby were the words of Thomas Jefferson which continue to imply what the role of the newspaper should be in a free society:

‘If it were left to me to decide whether to have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.’”]

Part Four:
by Dorothea Mootafes

When Kennedy was nominated, the Thursday July 14, 1960, P-I read “It’s Kennedy” and the front page included one of Jim Bishop’s stories in his traditional writing format, “The Day Kennedy Was Nominated.”

Westbrook Pegler was still writing his opinion column but better balanced by “On The Line” with Bob Considine, one of Drew Pearson’s “Washington Merry Go Round” columns and David Sentner of the Hearst Headline Service with “Convention Window.”

The November 10, 1960 election issue had a full-page photo of the young president-elect whose election margin was described as the “Tightest in Nearly Half A Century.” Frank Conniff of the Hearst Headline Services gave his observations on Kennedy.

Kennedy’s inauguration was the Hearst Headline Service story on January 21, 1961. His now famous words were at the top the page:

“Let every nation know, whether it wish us good or ill, that we will pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend or oppose any foe in order to assure the survival of liberty.”

The P-I of November 8, 1980 proclaimed the “Reagan Landslide.” Editorial columnists that day included Jack Anderson and Flora Lewis. OP Ed writers were Russell Baker, William Safire, and T. D. Allman of The New York Times. A David Horsey cartoon appeared, a congratulations to the new President.

Many Horsey cartoons followed including two Pulitzer Prize winners in 1999 and 2003. I recall when Horsey was an outstanding staff member of the excellent Ingraham High School Cascade.

These reflections of The Seattle Post-Intelligencer are becoming longer than the final edition of the P-I a few weeks ago. In conclusion I’ll borrow some words of the P-I headline on Wednesday, October 18, 1995, referring to the “Refuse to Lose” season of the Seattle Mariners. Etched in the minds of every Seattle fan was a front page photo of a compassionate Alex Rodriguez consoling a weeping Joey Cora. “Thanks for the Ride, M’s,” the banner headline read. We have been provided with a lifetime of P-I editorials, news stories, and features, not to mention comic strips which live In our memories, at least one of which fortunately has moved on to The Seattle Times (Blondie). There are those hoping Dennis the Menace also will find a home there. For all of the years of information, entertainment, and thought, to The P-I -“thanks for the ride.”

Even more important than the pleasure and thought The P-I and other vanishing newspapers have brought us are these facts:

  • Up to the present, even other media tell us, newspapers are still responsible for 65 per cent of the news.
  • A free press is a constraint on those who would impose their will on an uninformed public.
  • When The P-I folded, it was said that Tim Eyman, the perennial initiative writer, would dance on The P-I’s grave. There would be one less critic of his over-zealous initiatives.
  • Just before he died, Peter Jennings reported on a survey of young people which showed a large number thought a newspaper should send its stories to the government for approval before printing them. Every high school journalist would cringe at that idea of prior review!

Although history tells us that Thomas Jefferson read few newspapers himself after eight years of being criticized by them, in the end the saddest part about losing The P-I and all the other newspapers which have folded already or will soon stop publication is we may soon be left with the society the third president rejected: a government without newspapers.

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