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Originally published December 16, 2009 at 10:53 AM | Page modified March 17, 2009 at 7:52 AM

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"It hasn't really sunk in yet," P-I reporter says

Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter Kery Murakami's last assignment, on his last day on the job, was a story about the historic-preservation drive in that saved the oldest grocery in Seattle.

Seattle Times staff reporters

Seattle P-I:
Farewell to the P-I

Inside the pressroom as the final edition is printed

Reactions from P-I staff, publisher

Managing Editor David McCumber, Publisher Roger Oglesby, and staff comment on Hearst's announcement.

Oglesby:
"Tonight, we'll be putting the paper to bed for the last time."

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Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter Kery Murakami's last assignment, on his last day on the job, was a story about the historic-preservation drive that saved the oldest grocery in Seattle.

"It seemed pretty fitting," he said. "As we go out, someone is working to preserve another piece of Seattle's history."

Murakami and several other P-I staffers ended the workday Monday attending a solidarity rally at an outdoor plaza next to the newspaper's offices. A crowd of about 50, including employees from The Seattle Times and other local media, saluted the work of P-I journalists and lamented the demise of the paper's 146-year-old print version.

"I'm still trying to get my head around this whole thing," said Murakami, a P-I reporter for nine years. "It hasn't really sunk in yet."

For more than two months, employees of the P-I knew this day could come. But in the end, it was still painful.

Managing Editor David McCumber called the past two months "purgatory."

"It's a sad day, obviously, but it's good to have the word finally and have this process come to an end," he said.

With today's final edition, and its 20-page special commemorative section, the P-I is putting three times its usual number of weekday papers on the street, McCumber said.

P-I staffers received word Monday that today would be the last print edition. Lytton Smith, the P-I's head librarian, and on the paper's staff for 35 years, said staffers were given only a few minutes' notice of the 10 a.m. announcement. It was no surprise, though: Hearst executives had said last week that word on the paper's future would come this week.

The staff's reaction, Smith said, was more reserved than in January, when Hearst first announced the paper would either be sold or closed.

Gene Achziger, a P-I page designer, spent Monday putting together the paper's last Life & Arts section. "When you sign off for the last time, you realize you're really signing off for the last time," he said. "Unfortunately, we're living through transition."

Inside the P-I's offices, empty pizza boxes were scattered among cardboard moving boxes. Staffers said some were drinking whiskey from disposable cups as they assembled their moving boxes.

About 145 P-I employees will lose their jobs.

The newspaper will continue as an online-only news site, with an editorial staff of about 25 employees along with "a substantial advertising staff," according to P-I publisher Roger Oglesby. "The online world is the future of journalism, and there's a lot to be figured out," Oglesby said. "... The P-I will be right in the middle of it, trying to figure it out."

The P-I, which occupies about two floors of its building on Elliott Avenue, will shrink to about one-quarter of its size, moving operations into one-half of a floor.

The landmark globe will remain on the roof.

Reporter Tracy Johnson said the lead-up to the closure "has been excruciatingly painful," but it was tough to get the final news that the print edition will cease.

"I think we feel we've lost not only our dream jobs but our entire careers," she said. "We worry that the decline of the newspaper industry will let all kinds of things happen when no one is watching."

Rebekah Denn, a food writer who's been at the P-I 11 years, arrived at work two hours after Monday's announcement. By then, most of the staff was concentrating on the tasks in front of them, including finishing up stories for the final edition.

"It wasn't as emotional as I thought it would be — maybe because we've been hanging on so long and it's been so drawn out," said Denn, who won't be on the online staff.

Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist David Horsey will continue working for Hearst with his drawings appearing in Hearst's other daily papers and on seattlepi.com. "We've had weeks to prepare for this, but still, it's awful to have this day come," he said. Moving solely to an online paper is "like we're starting over," he said.

"No one knows if it will work. It's like a whole new frontier in journalism. I imagine we'll be making it up as we go along."

But online won't be quite the same, he lamented. "I'm going to miss being in print in my own hometown."

Times reporters Jack Broom and Emily Heffter contributed to this report.

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