June 5, 2009

Blethen's Blunders

june%20cover.jpgThough we're upset at the demise of the Pee Eye and the loss of all those google hits for "pee porn," there's a deeper and more troubling story in local journalism: Frank Blethen's pissing away about $750 million worth of the Seattle Times. That's what the paper was worth a few years ago, when Blethen refused to sell his family's share to Knight Ridder, which then allowed itself to be bought out by McClatchy, which wrote down the value of its Times stock to zero. Complicated? That's only part of the sordid tale, told in detail over at Seattle Business Monthly. Can't help thinking: whadda jerk.

But this is more than an insider story about Seattle journalism. It's a story with overtones of Greek tragedy (hubris) and Nixonian self-delusion. In a page right out of The Sopranos, Blethen told the whole story to a shrink. Yes, the Blethen family volunteered to be the subject of a case study for the Harvard School of Business, and a clinical psychologist named Cathy Quinn conducted endless interviews with family members. The Harvard report was supplemented, for the Seattle Business Monthly article, with serious research by Bill Richards, the reporter who'd been covering the Times-PI joint operating agreement. The vaunted Times, once worth a billion simoleons or so, is now in a 100-million-dollar hole. You have to wonder: how could anyone entrusted with so valuable a community resource be so arrogant, so stupid? Seattle's a one-newspaper town because of this clown?

Posted by Ronald Holden at June 5, 2009 10:54 AM | TrackBack

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