The News Tribune & Stimson Bullitt passes

The News Tribune unveiled another new look today and I think it’s just dandy. Karen Peterson previewed the change in her column on Monday, and nowhere in her writing did I detect a hint that the paper considers the re-design a “solution” to the issues surrounding the survival of newspapers. This deserves some kudos. StimsonBullitt

Why? Because it says The Tribune is still serious about addressing the fundamental questions about the business model and the paper’s role in the lives of today’s potential readership. Those are the hard questions, and re-designs have little to do with it.

Television news has suffered for years from just the opposite: Thinking that new packaging was going to solve fundamental problems with content.

The consultants and flash-in-the-pan managers who spent the 80’s and 90’s breaking TV news now decry the medium’s demise, and can’t understand why new logos, new colors, new sets, a new music package and another round of new anchors didn’t fix things.

This is one of the reasons Seattle TV news viewers have been so lucky over the years.

I’ve alluded to this in previous blogs without getting into the details about why Seattle was always sort of a bellwether market when it came to quality. Yes, the Seattle stations have had their share of anchor musical chairs, “outside the box” experiments and packaging pooh-pooh, but quality content was the standard here for a lot of the glory years in the TV news industry – the echoes of which are still apparent, although less so than in the past. People who write and deliver like Bryan Johnson are fewer and farther between –  a lot fewer and farther between.

I got to thinking about all this with the passing of Stimson Bullitt. The Bullitt family and what they stood for is one of the primary reasons Seattle TV stayed as good as it did for as long as it did, and it was sad to see him pass. Old school family owners around the U.S. weren’t perfect: They were often cranky, arbitrary, unpredictable and ripe with conflicts of interest. But for the most part they cared about the properties they owned – and they cared about the role they played in the community. Ego was involved too – which was a good thing for the newsroom – nobody wanted to own the dog of the market.

All these thoughts have been swirling around in my head with the demise of the P-I, the re-design of the News Tribune, and the passing of Stimson Bullitt.

I always wanted to work at KING, but could never maneuver my way back. Frankly, in reality, what I really wanted to do was maneuver my way back in time – which just wasn’t, and isn’t, possible.