The Seattle Post-Intelligencer was founded in 1863, distinguishing the venerable lady as Seattle's oldest newspaper. When she went online-only in 2009, lots of Seattle folk were worried the PI would become a withering liberal counterpoint to the conservative Seattle Times, but we held out hope when corporate owners vowed to retain its integrity as an online publication.
Hearst CEO Frank Bennack Jr. said at the time, "Our goal now is to turn Seattlepi.com into the leading news and information portal in the region." To back him up, publisher Roger Oglesby insisted, "The editorial voice is still going to be here."
Five years later, that editorial voice is still here: selling breakfast tacos.
Seattlepi.com promotes the "Waffle Taco."
A new article on Seattlepi.com is simply titled "Here's Taco Bell's Entire Breakfast Menu," written by Business Insider's Ashley Lutz. Without commentary or context, the article is: a brief introduction to the new breakfast items for sale at the roughly 6,500 stores from the Yum! Brands subsidiary that reports annual revenues of more than $1.9 billion, a list of menu-item descriptions that are entirely quotes from Taco Bell, and, finally, a video of people sitting around eating the items and talking about how delicious they are. There's no commentary or news. It's literally just an ad for Taco Bell. Over the past few years at Seattlepi.com, columnist Joel Connelly has been the backbone of much solid reporting, while the site has used typical clickbait of "insufferable celebrity couples" and "Snooki's wedding," but a Taco Bell ad disguised as news? It looks like the "leading news and information portal in the region" is leading us into a morning coronary.
I called Seattlepi.com executive producer Sarah Rupp to ask why her publication was passing off an advertisement as an article, but she hasn't called back. So I'll leave you with the words of Steven Swartz, president of Hearst Newspapers, who said in 2009: "Our goal is to just let the quality of the Web site speak for itself."