For big city newspapers, local news sites, symbiosis cuts costs

The Seattle Times, the city’s only surviving newspaper since the March collapse of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, announced today they are joining a heap of neighborhood news sites in a project designed “”to explore new ways to broaden newsgathering capabilities and further connections within the community.”

The Times will partner with four local news providers, exchanging news with six blogs and online news platforms including the West Seattle Blog, Capitol Hill Seattle Blog and the Rainier Valley Post.

Four other big city papers — the Miami Herald, the Charlotte Observer, the Asheville Citizen-Times and the TusconCitizen.com, the online-only news site of the now-extinct Tuscon print edition — are following similar paths as part of a venture initiated by American University’s J-Lab.

Last spring, Seattle’s other major paper, the Post-Intelligencer, shut down their presses, leaving the Times in the precarious position as the only paper in a city that had seemingly abandoned print. Yet, an article in the New York Times earlier this month revealed the Seattle paper was actually turning a profit. It’s circulation had increased 30 percent to more than 260,000.

Said Bob Payne, editor of the Times’ online site:

We realized there are ways we can help each other meet our readers’ needs, building off the strengths of The Times and the Web sites to provide more complete neighborhood news coverage.

With an eye towards the future, the five major papers will meet at the yet-undecided end of American University’s project to discuss their collaborative efforts.

And though the whole deal is framed as a community building exercise in fraternization, don’t let the papers sugar-coat the undertaking. The positively spun model is really just a veiled cost-cutting measure meaning these big-city newspapers won’t have to support hyperlocal reporters once unpaid bloggers begin supplying their news.

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