Seattle Times Executive Editor Don Shelton, in his first monthly column, invites readers' feedback and solicits questions he can address in the future.
Someone asked me recently what has changed about The Seattle Times.
My answer: Everything and nothing.
For my first monthly column, I want to explain why I said that.
As executive editor of the largest newsroom in the Pacific Northwest, I inherited a room full of talented journalists committed to the same mission we’ve always had. It is serving the Northwest with thoughtful, independent journalism that makes a difference in our society.
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It includes holding those in power accountable through great watchdog reporting, informing readers with engaging journalism, and documenting the transformation – and the lighter side of life – in our region.
That mission hasn’t changed. Neither has our commitment to readers, thanks to the stewardship of the Blethen family, our owners for 122 years.
Yet we work in an industry in turmoil, with newsrooms across the country slashed in recent years by corporate owners looking for short-term profit and by a steep drop in print advertising revenue. It’s an industry searching for a new business model and a new vision in a fast-changing digital world.
That’s what has changed. The Seattle Times has pivoted from a print-first business supported by print advertising to a digital-first model supported by subscriptions. That’s a mind-bending U-turn for someone like me, who started my newspaper career with a typewriter and paper and has worked at The Times for 31 years.
Don’t worry. If you’re a print reader, the paper you depend on every morning isn’t going anywhere. Our company also has had to transform itself quickly to ensure that our digital readers get the content they value and demand throughout the day, 24/7. It means transitioning to a series of new tools to write, illustrate and distribute our story-telling, and developing and understanding analytics that can tell us what you value and are willing to invest in.
Fortunately, those analytics tell us that the stories that motivated you to subscribe are, in most cases, the mission-based journalism we’ve always been good at. Those deeper-dive stories – watchdog investigations, rich profiles and longer explanatory and narrative articles – are in our DNA, and they’ve never been more important. In a climate that includes accusations of fake news and harried social-media whiplash, we remain a fact-based, credible source for 1.8 million readers like you across our region.
Companywide innovation touches nearly everything we do, including a new approach to funding part of our newsroom coverage. We have launched three community-funded journalism projects: Education Lab, Traffic Lab and Project Homeless. All three explore complex topics and search for solutions to intractable problems in our region. But more about this in a future column.
I hope this column, which will appear about once a month, will pull back the curtain on our newsroom, discuss what we do, why we do it and introduce you to some of our journalists. I welcome your feedback, questions and ideas for future columns. Feel free to post an online comment or email me at the address below.
For now, let me thank you, our readers, for supporting our newspaper, our newsroom and our journalism at such a critical point in our country and region’s history.
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