Monday, April 15th. Two bombs explode near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, a big news day.  More than two hundred are injured, three are killed and the Boston Globe’s pay wall comes down. In the world of Internet news content that’s almost news by itself.

Pay walls prevent Internet readers from using webpage content (mainly news and scholarly readings) without paying. They’ve been controversial because for years, online newsreaders have taken free content for granted. Not anymore and not on Monday. News about the Marathon Bombing was free for all.  And not just in Boston.

Executive Editor Seattle Times

Executive Editor
Seattle Times

“Boston forced us to come up with a (pay-wall) policy when breaking news happens,” says Seattle Times, Executive Editor David Boardman.  “When public safety and welfare are concerned,” says Boardman, “we’ll put those stories (and only those) outside the pay-wall.” “When the coast is clear,” he adds, “we’ll put it back.” The Times briefly took down their pay wall for Boston Bombing stories.

The Seattle Times started their pay-wall three weeks ago. For $3.99 a week you get digital content and in some cases a paper copy of the Sunday edition. Boardman says there was some initial pushback but now the pay wall is beginning to pay off. “We’ve been really encouraged,” says Boardman. “They’re well above the numbers that we were expecting.”  The Seattle Times gets 7 million unique page views a month. “Today, there are 450 dailies with a pay wall,” Boardman says. “It’ll become the norm one day.”

David Domke  Communications Dept. University of Washington

David Domke
Communications Dept.
University of Washington

This week, the New York Times has taken down its pay wall for video. Professor David Domke at the University of Washington pay walls are here to stay. “They’re showing up more and more,” he says.  At first he says, they were more experimental but now, “Enough of the traditional print audience has gone online so we’re entering the era of the pay wall.” The Times says it’s no longer restricting non-subscribers access to video as part of its plan to “expand its brand in the video space.”

But it’s not just big dailies.

The Chinook Observer charges its readers $33 a year for digital news content. The Observer serves the Long Beach area in Pacific County in Southwest Washington. Editor and publisher Matt Winters says, “Some of it is arbitrary. “We’re still trying to decide what to charge.” They’re planning to publish an on-line business publication, which he says they’ll charge for as well. “It’s all about re-purposing content,” he says. “It’ll be experimental.” “In essence,” he says, “we are an information society. At some point you have to assign real value,” he says. “Otherwise the paradigm falls apart.”

But the UW’s David Domke wonders how much online news content we really read because of pay walls. “People are now able to ‘a la carte’ the paper. Picking and choosing what they read now more than when readers open a traditional ‘ink on your hands’ hard copy. “It’s unfortunate,” Domke says. “When I read the paper I encounter so much more.”  “Part of it is when I actually do ‘read’ the newspaper, I’ve said to myself, “I’ve got time to read the paper. It’s really a loss for our culture. We’re so busy now. We’ve taught ourselves to just quickly glance at the news. Reading a twitter update is not the same as engaging with the news,” says Domke. “It’s fundamentally different to read at a stoplight than to sit down and actually read the newspaper at home.”

At The Seattle Times, David Boardman says the pay wall has to make sense. “It has to have news content they can’t get anywhere else,” he says. “The main point”, Boardman says, “is if they (the readers) don’t perceive that it won’t work.” Still, Boardman says, “The pay wall doesn’t provide enough money.” But what it does, he adds, “is to get people conditioned to get used to paying for content.”

A former colleague, KIRO FM’s Ursula Reutin did a compelling story about Seattle’s Penny LeGate and Penny’s effort to keep her daughter’s legacy alive. Good stuff.

Scott Heidler 
Al Jazeera - English 

Scott Heidler
Al Jazeera – English

Recently, I posed this question on my Facebook page: “What defines a journalist? Can you sum it up in one word? The first few responses were what you would expect. “Unbiased, inquisitive, independent. A former colleague at KIRO TV (CBS Seattle) told me, “inquisitor.” Then the blood started flowing from the vein I’d opened up. “Interrupted dinner”, wrote another KIRO TV alum. “Curious, (crime) scene tape.” Then more insight, “Turning off the phone isn’t an option.” “Accessible”, didn’t begin to cover it.

By this time my one word request had been blown to shreds. There’s no way to define a journalist in just one word. But they kept coming.

“Partisan”, wrote an old radio colleague from WIBA FM in Madison, Wisconsin. He went on to elaborate that unfortunately, “people consume news to be affirmed more than informed.” “Honest, empathetic, compassionate, large bladder, inquisitive, witness, truth”, were the next few responses. And then this nugget of wisdom from a former KCPQ (Fox Seattle) colleague, “Anyone can be a ‘storyteller.’ “Pursuer of truth” touched off a debate. Then another former news colleague stressed that a story can be told based on “the smallest of details.”

A former colleague at KXLY (ABC TV Spokane) brought the debate back to that one word definition again. “Accurate”, he wrote. “Credible”, wrote another. “Curiosity”, wrote another. Then another entry about how a journalist could be a an author, a documentarian and a common reporter as long as there was an “effort to create a history record.” “Persistent”, wrote another. Another followed, “NEWS – north, east, west and south”, written by one of the most passionate weather casters in the nation, a gifted storyteller in his own right. “Open minded”, wrote another. “Truth seeker”, wrote an award-winning former KIRO TV colleague. And finally, “interpreter”, wrote an architect friend.

A journalist can be all of those things, don’t you agree? And as screenwriter Aaron Sorkin once said through fictional White House reporter Will Sawyer on The West Wing, “There’s never been a time when it’s more important to be good at what I do.”

Regardless your beat, your deadline, your topic or your purpose, journalism remains literature “in a hurry” as it remains an open, honest window to a fast-changing world. What would I tell journalism wanna-be’s? Simple: Attribute your sources and keep your eyes open. Look for surprises in the smallest of details because theres a big world of stories to tell. Let’s pray enough journalists remain … to tell them.

Chicago Pastor to Run Five Marathons a Week for Five Months

 Quits Job to Help Kids in Africa Get Clean Water with international Christian Relief Group World Vision 


49 year-old Steve Spear is training for the run of his life. The Chicago-area pastor recently quit his job as a Willow Creek pastor after 15 years, to focus on raising $1.5 million to provide clean water for 30,000 people living in Kenya. Spear, who only took up long-distance running five years ago, has completed numerous marathons and ultra-marathons but none like this. He plans to start a coast-to-coast run on April 8th, 2013 in Southern California, and finish five months later in New York City. Steve Spear says his former senior pastor at Willow Creek Church, Bill Hybels plans to run with Steve on the final leg of the cross-country odyssey into New York in August.




M2Last year, Spear traveled to Kenya to see how World Vision’s water projects are literally saving lives.

Right now, Spear is now training extensively in Chicago, building his tolerance. He’s also fundraising. Currently he’s raised more than $75,000, some checks coming in as large as $10,000 but the majority come in $10 and under. Once the run begins, he’ll petition churches along the way for funds. Steve Spear says, “I’ve never done anything like this before in my life.”

For donations:

Twitter: @stevespear30

Rare Feat: Since 1909 when it was first attempted, only 260 people have tried to cross the continental United States, from coast to coast on foot. How rare is that? Imagine The Empire State Building. Now take a grain of sand and lay it at the base of the New York City landmark. Now lay another grain on top of that. Eventually, you’ll have enough of them stacked up to equal the height to that skyscraper. Now take one grain away. Notice how small it is. That’s how rare it is for someone to succeed at what Steve Spears is trying to do. He plans to average more than 170 miles a week or a marathon a day for five months.

January training schedule: Steve runs Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays taking Thursdays and Sundays off.

Important Dates: January 14th, 2013 (next training sequence) April 8th, 2013 (start date)

Multi-media content:

Extra Notes:

• Spear will run 3200 miles, averaging a marathon a day for 5 months

• Spear will consume 6100 calories/day & go through 10 pairs of running shoes

• 900 million people lack access to safe water

• 6000 children die each day from diarrheal diseases caused by unsafe water

Repurposed Reimer

Posted: December 23, 2012 in employment

Seattle Times columnist Nicole Brodeur on What’s Next for The Mountain’s Marty Reimer.


Since last Friday, more than 1,900 of you have watched The Marah Project video. If everyone who’s watched would give just $2.00 (that’s it … 2 bucks) we’d have enough for two full internships with Teens for Public Service. Since this summer when the internship program was set up, more than $22,000 has been raised for The Marah Project.

As many of you know in June, Seattle TV personality Penny LeGate’s daughter, Marah Williams, lost a long battle with drug addiction and depression. From loss comes new outreach and this short documentary aimed at raising awareness and funds for an internship in Marah’s name. Take a few minutes and watch this video I produced with Penny and Mike Williams’s gracious help. They were remarkably open and willing to share in the hopes that something good might one day come from Marah’s passing. Perhaps it will. Perhaps you’ll contribute. We hope so.

On Monday, watch KING 5’s Evening Magazine for their feature about The Marah Project. Penny LeGate co-hosted the show with Brian Tracy for nine years in the 90’s. “Evening Magazine” airs at 7:00pm Monday on KING 5 (NBC in Seattle). Don’t miss it.