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Thursday, July 6, 2006

Skipping Out

Posted by on July 6 at 8:15 AM

As Bradley posted, the PI reports that Seattle Weekly’s editor, Knute “Skip” Berger, is quitting in the wake of the most recent corporate merger to consume his paper. The New Times chain took control of the Seattle Weekly in a merger with the Weekly’s previous owner, Village Voice Media, seven months ago. Berger is the 9th prominent staffer, including the publisher, art director, music editor, ad director, and classifieds director to leave since the merger was completed in January. Berger has been with the paper for 15 years, and has done three stints as the editor: 1993 to 1995; 1997 to 2000; and 2002 to today.

Seattle Times reporter David Postman first posted the news about Berger’s resignation on the Seattle Times blog on Wednesday after Berger himself posted the news on the Seattle Weekly’s own web site Monday. (Sorry we didn’t Slog about it ourselves. We were wrapped up in July 4th deadlines and the story about the Critical Mass arrests.)

Berger’s resignation is hardly surprising. New Times management has told the Seattle Weekly point blank they don’t like the paper and that it needs to change. The New Times frat boy, Libertarian, hard-news formula is certainly at odds with Berger’s utopian, ponderous, hippie vibe. I’m surprised actually that Berger didn’t tell his new & self consciously macho bosses goodbye several months ago.

I don’t have much to say about Berger that I haven’t said before. Erica C. Barnett, Dan Savage, and I (and other Stranger staffers) have published Slog posts and articles over the years criticizing and challenging Berger’s analysis—particularly on growth, density, and transportation issues.

Even though Berger and I have covered many of the same stories over the years, I don’t believe I’ve been in the same room with him or even talked to him more than one or two times during the seven years I’ve been at the Stranger. So, honestly, I don’t have a personal reaction to his news. I don’t know him.

I will say this: About two months ago, based on a premature rumor, Savage Slogged that Berger was leaving for a job in Atlanta. I remember thinking, “That rumor doesn’t ring true. Berger cares too much about the future of Seattle to take a job in Atlanta.ā€¯ I don’t know what he’s going to do now, but I’m certain he won’t abandon the 15 years of work he’s put in at the Weekly by abandoning the Puget Sound. We’ll still be hearing from him on local issues.

As for the Seattle Weekly, this isn’t the last of the staff changes and turmoil there. Seven months on now, New Times is still busy focusing on the Village Voice. (They’ve yet to hire a new editor there, after their initial hire quit.) Eventually, though, New Times will turn its attention to Seattle Weekly and there will be further changes. But after half a year now, I’m bored of waiting for New Times to do something. Maybe Berger was tired of waiting as well.

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Skip is a slow moving guy. I didn't think he was going to leave on his own and he said as much to other staffers. But who knows? This place is like a work fair where everybody talks about jobs at other places (hello metropolitan) or is printing out resumes.
There is already talk that the new publisher guy Ken Stalker (real name!) might not stay or ever really start. Or that the old publisher Terry might be comming back. But the person who was spreading that rumor quit a couple of weeks ago.
I thought that New Times was going to fire everybody and that I would get a little cash and unemployment and enjoy the summer but you need to have someone in charge to fire you and they've all quit.
I would hate to get fired for this post (hint hint hint). Is it 9:30 already? I have some very very very important things to do so the guys from arizona or new york or wherever are pleased with my performance.
Skip: Let's have your going away party right now.

I'll miss him like a tetanus shot.

SRSLY, tho, from some of his pieces I've read of his recent work, he's become hopelessly disconnected from what this city has become and how it needs to adapt. His is a point of view the city doesn't need anymore.

I know you guys hate the weekly, and I never much cared for it myself, but I'm saddened by the fact that this is just another example of a big national company further homogenizing local media outlets. New Times is to alternative weeklies what clear channel is to broadcasting.

do you think the weekly is out of touch now? wait until everyone who works there lives in Arizona. Then you'll see a serously out of touch paper. I lived in the East Bay when this same company took over the Alt weekly there. Same thing the old editor hung on for a few months quit and then the paper was getting edited thousands of miles away. Even if they hire people in Seattle the decision making is from someone who has visited the city twice and it shows.

But the out-of-touch Weekly will be completely IN touch with all the former Arizona residents living in all those new condo units, like the ones going into Qwest Field's parking lot. Times change. The wealth of this city is living in the future, not the past, and grunge is the past. High-end lunching by biotech pioneers is the future.

That's the angle the Weekly is going for, and they might be right.

Berger himself is completely irrelevant to this vision. The new Weekly, like the new Voice, isn't really even going to NEED an editor, just someone to lay out the ads around the lifestyle articles.

Indeed, John, this is nothing new. Every legit city has two weeklies: the benign, disconnected one run by the national conglomerate, and the true alt-weekly that's predominately local and connected to the community. There is no worry in having a conglomerate-run weekly, unless a conglomerate buys the Stranger. Then we're shite out of luck.

josh: hippie, utopian vibe? what are you smoking up there? or are you not out of SMP kool-aid yet? can you name anyone on the staff here who is a hippie? i'd like to know who they are.

oh and the new publisher's name is stocker.

actually lance the old east bay express (for whom i occasionally penned music reviews) was a ponderous piece of shit with 10k word essays on bugs that made sense in 1985 but not 2000. it's a much better paper now.

josh is wrong. while berger isn't frat boy, he is libertarian more than hippie. and while berger may not be all about "hard news", it's chuck taylor who makes a lot of the news decisions, and taylor is far from being a lefty that new times would naturally stomp on. in this context, the significance of berger's leaving isn't all that clear.

The irony of New Times being all stompy and conglomeratey is that the original New Times was started in 1970 as an activist response to the Gummint and Big Media of the day.
Now with 17 papers under their belt, they are becoming one of the 'big media' of today.

Waiting for the inevitable tour through the underbelly of Pike's Place Market, and on what's really going on on Capital Hill.

new seattle weekly publisher is kenny STOCKER, not stalker.

Probably took shit either way.

Artdish broke the news on Tuesday, not the Seattle Times on Wednesday! Check out the URL above and God bless Captain Vroom.

Self-consciously macho is right, as far as New Times management -- but the papers themselves focus on local reporting. In a lot of cities, like Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Phoenix, they've put some crooked officials in jail. The only "homogenized" product is the movie reviewing -- everything else is written locally. Aesthetically, they're pretty homogenous, but the content tends to be pretty good. Does 17 papers really make them Clear Channel?

Seattle Weakly is racist because they won't put local Hip Hop acts on the cover. The Seattle Weakly is anti-semitic because they write positive articles about Rachel Corrie. That is not the direction this city is going. We don't need racist, anti-Isreal hippies covering local news.

The East Bay Express is now locally edited by a guy who has lived in the area for a long time. As for 10K essays on bugs, they just ran one (on farting termites that might be able to produce nitrogen). It's the best of the New Times chain--the rest of the papers are tragic slopbuckets for trend pigs.

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