My Grandfather’s Axe

Today is the official last deadline for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The oldest continually operating business in Seattle, the P.I. was a victim of the new Internet-based news economy.

Seattle P.I.’s sad last few months are nearly always describes in this way. “Continuous operation” is why it is important. “Internet-based news economy” (or something similar) is why it went under. But I wonder about the phrase “continually operating”. The very name of the paper implies a history of turn-over, mergers, and buyouts (P.I. was part of the Hearst family)

That phrase makes me think of a story from Terry Pratchett’s The Fifth Elephant, told to Samuel Vimes by the Dwarf Dwarf King Rhys Rhysson:

This, milord, is my family’s axe. We have owned it for almost nine hundred years, see. Of course, sometimes it needed a new blade. And sometimes it has required a new handle, new designs on the metalwork, a little refreshing of the ornamentation . . . but is this not the nine hundred-year-old axe of my family? And because it has changed gently over time, it is still a pretty good axe, y’know. Pretty good.

P.I. will be moving onto a new online format; this could be seen as just a new handle, or new ornamentation. But it seems from the Stranger’s coverage, it is a much sadder occasion than that. Perhaps the old axe-head is being melted down, to be used as a shovel or belt-buckles. It will still be in use, but it will no longer be my grandfather’s axe.

Goodbye P.I. See you in your next incarnation.

Inspirational Quote:

If you try to please audiences, uncritically accepting their tastes, it can only mean that you have no respect for them: that you simply want to collect their money.–Andrei Tarkovsky

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