Along with my recent column updating readers on The Seattle Times’ “Save the Free Press” initiative, we asked readers “What do you want to know about the local journalism crisis?”

If this discussion triggers new questions, you’ll find the “Ask the Free Press Editor” link at the bottom of this post, and we’ll add your ideas to the list. Pay attention to the choice you make about anonymity, as I’d like to include names whenever I can.

Q. What are your local solutions? Why not work to rebuild trust? Can you at least try to run conservative commentators? New editorial board?

Free Press Editor: The most important local solution to the local journalism crisis is a strong newsroom in every town. Research by the Knight Foundation suggests people have less trust in national news than in local outlets, which can be more responsive to local stories and to local readers.

Seattle offers a stark contrast to what has happened at the nation’s chain- and hedge-fund-owned newspapers, many of which face intense pressure to cut costs to increase dividends and share prices. To understand the difference, consider The Times’ 155-person newsroom in comparison to the 68 journalists currently working for the Portland Oregonian or the 33 at the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Adjusting for population, that’s one Times news staffer for every 4,800 people in Seattle, one Oregonian staffer for every 14,500 in Portland and one Plain dealer journalist for every 11,700 in Cleveland. Bigger isn’t always better, but there’s such a thing as too little news staff.

The Times, like any business, can always increase trust, but the Times’ strong growth in digital subscriptions, which has accelerated during the pandemic, indicates we’re improving on that score. As for the makeup of the editorial board and the slate of commentators, I am just one of several, and I don’t decide who is in or out.

Q.“Starbucks’ recent decision to stop selling newspapers has denied rural America national news. No reason given for this policy. We need this.”


Free Press Editor: When the change was announced last July, Starbucks said removing The New York Times shelf was part of a decluttering project, also removing lobby fixtures for whole-bean coffee and some snacks at the same time.

On Oct. 1, Starbucks announced a limited-time experiment through which it offers in-store Wi-Fi users free access to national papers like the Wall Street Journal and USA Today, plus local papers like The Seattle Times that usually charge for access. Asked about usage statistics and the cost of Starbucks’ access to the papers, a Starbucks spokesperson declined to provide specifics nor say when the online news experiment will expire. A Seattle Times spokesperson also declined to provide traffic and revenue statistics about the Starbucks online program.

If you’d like to add to the list, please use this Ask the Free Press Editor link instead of my email.