Broadsheetless in Seattle?

A major daily paper morphs into an online-only publication; others could follow. How will the changes affect the presence and profile of minority journalists?

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For Tahirih Brown, an editor at the Seattle P-I for more than five years, newspapers have reduced their opportunities for non-white journalists.

““When I started in journalism in the early '90s, the big change was diversity—making the newsroom look more like the community they were covering," she said Tuesday night, at the raucous P-I farewell at Buckley’s, the paper’s unofficial watering hole. "And I feel that in the past couple of years, that’s kind of gone by the wayside. There are some stories that just aren’t going to ever get told because of a lack of diversity in newsrooms in general.”









And while it’s not clear what lies ahead of her, Brown knows she cannot afford to look back. The newspaper she worked for previously, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, is also, she said, “being decimated.”

Gary Washburn, a P-I sports reporter for three and a half years and similarly not invited to the changeover, thinks navigating the media free-for-all is a matter of connections. “Generally, the difference for an African American in this business is, we don’t get the hookup. We don’t get ‘I went to college with your uncle,’ … You just have to deal with the climate. You can’t complain … because it ain’t gonna change any time soon.”

For better or worse, the future of newspapers has less to do with paper and everything to do with news. The broader news media cannot do its job without journalists of color bringing the stories of their communities to the fore. For black and minority journalists hammered by the economy in general and their industry’s changes in particular, survival requires viewing the crisis as an opportunity in disguise. In an online-promotion graphic on its Web site, the National Association of Black Journalists is already calling its planned August gathering in Tampa “the Reinvention Convention.”