The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that some staffers have gotten “provisional offers” from Hearst Corporation to work on an online-only version of the daily newspaper if the print P-I shuts down. Hearst has said it will set a shutdown date if no buyer is found by tomorrow, March 10th.
P-I reporter Dan Richman was given the uncomfortable assignment of trying to interview fellow staffers about whether or not they’d been offered jobs for the potential online-only news venture. Two confirmed that they had been, but were told by management not to discuss details. Another 18 took the “no comment” route.
One metro reporter, Hector Castro, said he’d turned down an offer and hadn’t been told not to talk about it. Castro told Richman that the offer he rejected increased his health insurance cost, cut his salary by an unspecified amount, offered to match his 401(k) contributions, required him to forgo his P-I severance pay, reduced his vacation accrual to zero and required him to give up overtime.
“I got the definite impression Hearst does plan to go forward with the site, assuming the paper stops publishing,” Castro was quoted as saying in the P-I story.
RBR/TVBR observation: If you’re looking for an Internet-savvy test market, they don’t come much better than Seattle. With the established brand name, an online P-I could be a viable competitor to the Seattle Times. Meanwhile, the San Francisco Examiner, which Hearst used to own, seems to be attracting significant advertising as it soldiers on as a Web-only publication, even as Hearst is now threatening to shut down the money-bleeding San Francisco Chronicle.