August marked the 127th year of the Blethen family’s Seattle Times stewardship.

Four family generations. The second-longest run for a major metro family newspaper in the country, tied with The New York Times.

We are very proud to have served our beloved Seattle and Washington state through all these years. Since Alden Blethen founded The Seattle Times in 1896, we have persevered through many tough times, including the Great Depression; several world wars; the ill-fated Vietnam War; 9/11; the 2007-2009 recession; and the overlapping 2007-2014 financial system meltdown when hundreds of U.S. banks, including Seattle’s Washington Mutual, went out of business.

Today we are facing our most serious threat yet – Google’s monopolization of digital advertising, which has destroyed newspapers’ primary source of revenue and is one of two primary reasons the U.S. is becoming a nation of news deserts and ghost newspapers (newspapers with very minimal staff and content).

The other reason the local newspaper system is in free fall is that hedge funds and absentee financial opportunists now control the majority of what is left. These entities are primarily responsible for the fast-growing number of ghost newspapers.

In the past, our country’s local newspapers have adapted and progressed through tough times. Sadly, that system of local stewardship is dying as absentee owners gut newsrooms, leaving our democracy vulnerable.


Academic studies indicate that 80% of original local news is created by the local newspaper, and that local newspapers, where they still exist, are still the most trusted source of news and information. Community news fosters local civility and community engagement. Where quality news no longer exists, community engagement and civility suffer.

Lack of Congressional action to prevent hedge funds and other financial mercenaries from acquiring and gutting local newspaper stewardships is a travesty, as is the failure of Congress and the Justice Department to end the Google ad monopoly and pass pending legislation to require Google to negotiate with newspapers for the significant amount of content it currently steals and profits handsomely from.

Washington state is fortunate to have the most free press-friendly and knowledgeable delegation in the country. They are a free press role model for other states.


Timing for the beginning of The Seattle Times’ fourth-generation stewardship in 1985 was propitious. Financially, the golden era for newspapers, both in profits and journalism, was the 1990s. During this period we significantly expanded the newsroom, growing to one of the largest in the Northwest. The Seattle Times has won 11 Pulitzer Prizes. Nine of them were on our fourth-generation watch.

Beginning in the 2000s, the record financial “good times” for local newspapers began to erode. New technology enabled Craigslist and Google to begin the erosion of newspaper advertising revenue.

Newspaper ad revenue peaked at $49.4 billion in 2005. By 2020, it had dropped to $9.6 billion. Newsroom employment peaked at 74,410 in 2006. By 2020, it had dropped to 30,820 (source: Pew Research Center).


Through this ongoing perilous period for newspapers, The Seattle Times became the largest print and digital newspaper north of Los Angeles and west of Minneapolis.

There are 12 reasons The Seattle Times has survived and is preparing for the next generation of family stewardship:

  • Relentless commitment to high-quality, independent journalism and community connection
  • Community support
  • Subscriptions
  • Community investment in public-service journalism
  • Continuous innovation
  • Digital news development
  • Digital news alerts
  • Digital newsletters
  • Great local content mix
  • An enlightened free press congressional delegation

An enlightened free press state Legislature and attorney general

Most unique is our national innovation of community investment in public-service journalism, now 10 years old and the only program like it of this scale in the country.

It began with a 2011 Seattle Times editorial campaign to end the 10 years of annual defunding of Washington state’s higher education system. To help finance it, we sought out individuals and companies who also valued our higher education system and wanted to stop the defunding. The campaign was a huge success and higher education funding has gone up every year since.

That success led us to experiment with developing public support for new public-service journalism programs. We now have seven community-funded programs, which has enabled us to add 27 news positions:

Education Lab, supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Traffic Lab, supported by Pemco Insurance

Project Homeless, supported by Campion Advocacy Fund and the Raikes Foundation


The Investigative Journalism Fund, supported by 1,350 individual investors

Expanded Local News Coverage, supported by Microsoft Philanthropies

The Mental Health Project, supported by Ballmer Group

Enhanced arts coverage, supported by M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust and Ruben Institute for Music Criticism

Our family thanks every individual, company and foundation who has invested in our public-service journalism this past decade, as well all of our valued subscribers. Your collective support makes it possible for us to continue to serve our region with the breadth and depth of content you deserve and expect.

America’s founders were prescient in their vison of a free press: a dispersed system that enabled local community engagement and built trust.

Our democracy is in peril today. Unless we can get Congress to pass legislation to save and rebuild what is left of our local newspaper stewardships, we will continue to see civic unrest and strife build. The horrible attack on our nation’s Capitol in January 2021 was a realization of just how fragile our democracy has become. Without restoring the civility local newspaper stewardships create, we may be coming to the end of our founders’ great experiment in self-government and democracy.

Thank you for your support and trust,

Frank, Will and John Blethen,
Fourth-generation family stewards of The Seattle Times


  • The Seattle Times reaches 1.9 million adults in the 17-county area in print and digitally.
  • Strong reach within all age groups in the King and Snohomish counties, with the strongest reach among millennials.
  • Over 88,000 digital-only subscribers to
  • We have 13 newsletters to serve our digital and print audiences with a total of over 1.9 million newsletter recipients.
  • While print circulation is declining, we remain the largest print newspaper north of Los Angeles and west of Minneapolis.
    [Sources: Google Analytics, Scarborough, release 1, 2023 and AAM, 2023.]