Seattle’s oldest newspaper going online only

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, owned by Hearst, announced today that it would go to an online only format, officially cutting its print version. According to the Associated Press, Hearst announced that it would put the paper up for sale in January and either close it completely or go to an online-only publication if it couldn’t find a buyer by March 10. The news group has offered some employees opportunities to stick around and work for the Web site.

However, according to the Seattle Times, the offers are provisional as the site must still be approved by the big wigs in New York. The Seattle Times quoted one staffer, anonymously, who said they were cutting the 150-person staff to 20. Seattlepi.com reported that one reporter who rebuffed Hearst’s tentative offer said the new job would have paid less and offered fewer benefits.

Founded in 1863 as the Seattle Gazette, the Seattle P-I has a weekday circulation of 117,000 and reported an operating loss of $14 million last year.

The Seattle Times isn’t doing much better. According to the Post-Intelligencer, McClatchy, which owns 49.5 percent of the Times, has said it is selling its share.

Meanwhile, The Seattle Times is trying to cut costs wherever it can. The newspaper has asked its unions to cut wages and benefits by 12 percent over the next two years to stave off having to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, according to the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild.

In keeping with the falling value of newspapers nationwide, McClatchy’s estimated value of its share of The Times has been eroding steadily. McClatchy acquired the Times share when it bought Knight Ridder in June 2006. In 2006, McClatchy valued its Times investment at $102.2 million. At the end of 2007, the value had fallen to $19.3 million.

Hearst also owns the San Francisco Chronicle, which announced on Feb. 24 that it may sell or close the paper if it can’t work something out with the unions. The San Francisco Chronicle is now planning to cut at least 150 employees, local TV station KTVU reported on Thursday.

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