The 2009 demise of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer along with the considerable downsizing of the surviving Seattle Times is helping to make Seattle a hot house for local blogs seeking to fill the void. I’m aware of at least three dozen in town that try to provide some kind of news on a regularly updated basis.
And why not? Seattle has a literate, information-hungry population, people here do seem interested in what’s going on, and everyone is wired. Television news by design is only going to hit the high points (especially if it involves a gruesome death). Aside, perhaps, from San Francisco, it’s hard to imagine a place in the country more conducive right now to development of solid Internet-based news sources.
I’m not counting any blog that is an arm of more traditional print and electronic news media, or, in the case of Seattle PI, was once the traditional news media itself before owner Hearst Corp. ran it straight into the Puget Sound outside its windows. Nor am I including the blog you’re reading right now, NewToSeattle.com. Modesty aside, it does not purport to convey anything beyond the warped musings of its proprietor (me) and in any event is updated barely once a week.
But like all hot houses, the Seattle blog firmament to me contains a lot of weeds. At best, it is a wildly untrimmed scene with occasional bursts of color.
As I write this, the lead item in My Wallingford is about a back-to-school party thrown by Trophy Cupcakes. This is news? Magnolia Voice, which serves the neighborhood where I live, is leading with a picture of a scary-looking dog available for adoption. Across Elliott Bay, it must be a really slow news day: West Seattle Blog is topped by–and I quote–“Three views of tonight’s sunset.”
For my money, the best blog in Seattle by far is Seattle Bubble. As its name implies, the blog, run by Tim Ellis, is dedicated to the proposition that Seattle real estate, although considerably down in price, is still
wildly pretty overvalued. The site serves up sophisticated data and charts while entertainingly and witheringly playing piñata with the boosterish monthly press releases of the Northwest Multiple Listing Service. Sure, the blog operates in a niche. But real estate is a pretty big niche. When you chat up anyone at a party in Seattle, it’s like the Loch Ness monster; the topic of real estate keeps coming up.
This blog is truly a joy to behold.
Another blog with its moments is PubliCola, which modestly calls itself “Seattle’s News Elixir.” It mixes some original reporting, especially about crime, and opinion with links to other sources while tossing in a certain amount of attitude. I regularly see material there I don’t see elsewhere. PubliCola doesn’t have online the clout of, say, LAObserved, perhaps the country’s most successful local blog, but I do hear people talk about it.
For me, the biggest disappointment are many of the blogs focusing on particular Seattle neighborhoods. Don’t get me wrong. I very much love very local media. One of my earliest gigs in journalism was working for a chain of weekly newspapers in New Jersey covering towns with populations smaller than some Seattle neighborhoods. Even today, when traveling through rural places, I try to grab a copy of the local weekly and see what passes for big doings.
Clearly, the Seattle blog scene is not totally without its moments of display. The top report in Central District News is about an elementary school teacher trying to raise funds to buy CD players that will play audio books to to students whose families are unable to read to them at home. And until a few hours ago, Maple Leaf Life was leading with a story about a giant sunflower–nearly 15 feet tall–grown organically in someone’s backyard.
Now that’s a weed-whacker if I ever saw one.