If you didn’t notice, 2009 was a coming out year for The Seattle Times’ web presence, capped off by their outstanding—and Pulitzer Prize-winning—coverage of the Lakewood police shootings and subsequent manhunt. If you’ve got $50 to spare, you can hear them talk about it on June 22 at the Seattle Chamber of Commerce’s Executive Speaker Series.
(Full disclosure: My wife works for the Seattle Chamber and helps put on events like these, including this one specifically.)
I can’t make it to the event, but I would be interested to hear what the speakers—Executive Editor David Boardman, Managing Editor Kathy Best and Managing Editor Suki Dardarian—have to say about the Times’ evolution during the course of 2009. At times they seemed predictably curmudgeonly; other times it seemed as though they were poised to make The Leap into a true 21st Century news org. Here’s what I mean:
- In February, at the first No News Is Bad News, we were treated to Times Executive Editor David Boardman correcting a roomful of Twitterers (jump to about the 26-minute mark) who had improperly identified another man as him (the “other guy” in question didn’t know what LOLcats were and people started “attacking” Boardman on Twitter for his ignorance). “In traditional media, somebody would have said, ‘hey, what’s your name?'” he chided. What he didn’t seem to get was that as soon as his correction was made, it, too, spread immediately across Twitter, unlike his 24-hours-later, buried-on-the-bottom-left-of-page-B-19-of-the-newspaper corrections section.
- Throughout the rest of the year, I wondered where the Times’ video section was. While seattlepi.com had made video a pretty regular offering, the Times was lagging, to say the least. One of the only videos I recall involved Grays Harbor County Library’s cats.
- All of a sudden, in late August, we get word that the Times has forged a partnership with a handful of Seattle’s neighborhood blogs, a proposition that seemed unlikely in 2008, when David Boardman took a potshot at bloggers in one of his editorials. (Note: I actually championed this column at the time, but I mostly disagree with the sentiment now, that newspapers are more reliable than blogs, and have repeatedly reinforced my current stance on this blog.)
- Flash forward to October and we have Frank Blethen, keynoting at a “future of news” conference at Seattle University, talking up his print circulation numbers and referring to SeattleTimes.com as “a nice little add-on” (I’m quoting from memory—it’s too far back in my Twitter stream and Twitter search is apparently broken right now).
- Then, of course, the Lakewood coverage. The Times went all-out in their effort, employing (among others) Twitter and Google Wave, in one of the early journalistic adoptions of the app. They’d later win the aforementioned Pulitzer for their work. Even Boardman was Tweeting like hell.
The Times’ site since then hasn’t exactly been blog-ish or what I’d call completely up to speed with web standards, but not many news sites are anyway and the Times has at least proven its willingness to think outside the print box (they even linked out to one of the sites I help run today). Talk with them on Twitter sometimes—they’re usually really good about responding and getting into conversations.
I, for one, am really excited to see the site and the brand evolve and I’m extremely optimistic about what that evolution will look like.
(One last disclaimer: I know/am friends with people at the Times, so I guess you could argue I’m biased there, too.)