The changes we reported here involving a transfer in operations and overhaul of the Capitol Hill Times have hit the street — or at least the Web. So far, the typical stacks of copies of the free paper aren’t showing up around the Hill but the new WordPress-based Web site is live and a new sortie of articles has been posted including a look back at the recent snow. Meanwhile, Pacific Northwest journalists are taking their cracks at trying to tell the peculiar story of RIM Publications, a company built on the back of our region’s manifestations of the mortgage crisis.
The inaugural note from editor Stephen Miller sums the new effort up:
It’s a hell of an undertaking for a new publication, but The Capitol Hill Times has been around for a while. Editors before me have been dropping copy on Broadway since 1926. Unfortunately, the industry has taken a dive as of late, and this paper was a casualty. It lost touch with all of you as a result. I aim to change that.
The goal for this paper is not to re-create the Weekly and the Stranger or to eclipse the Capitol Hill Seattle Blog. Rather, we plan to bring a new voice to the discussion, to give you information you can use and to tell your story in a way it hasn’t been told before.
Last week, The Oregonian examined RIM parent company Northwest Trustee Service and owner Stephen Routh’s entry into newspaper ownership — complete with the hand wringing expected from a company with skin in the game:
Routh and his partners have built Northwest Trustee Services into a vertically integrated foreclosure machine.
Need a law firm? Check. Northwest Trustee has its affiliate, Routh, Crabtree & Olsen, which has 51 lawyers and offices in seven Western states. Need an escrow officer to help with documents? Check. Northwest Trustee has a title company. Need a process server to post a foreclosure notice at a specific property? A property manager to maintain vacant homes? An auctioneer to conduct foreclosure sales? Check, check and check. Northwest Trustee has it all in-house.
Until recently, one of the few elements of foreclosure that the 1,000-employee firm couldn’t offer its clients was a venue in which to advertise pending auctions.
Oregon law could be shifting to make RIM’s gambit less effective, the Oregonia hopefully speculates.
Seattle’s own Crosscut also took a crack at RIM with a new post this morning documenting the company’s businesses and lamenting its approach to journalism:
Routh’s seemingly single-minded focus worries longtime community journalists; what happens, they ask, when the housing market returns and foreclosures decline? Most believe that the small RIM papers will be sold or simply closed when their need is gone. “I question the wisdom of a long-term business plan that depends on something as cyclical as the foreclosures market,” observes Bill Will, executive director of Washington Newspaper Publishers Association.
Surprisingly, perhaps, Routh told me he could be in newspapers for the long haul. He expects “three years, maybe beyond” of heavy foreclosure activity. The economy “is not working so well,” and the value of under-water home mortgages”makes the national debt look trivial.” So, those pages of foreclosure ads are not going away any time soon.
As for CHS, we can’t say how this is all going to play out and we’re happy to not have to depend on the foreclosure market to keep our servers turned on. But we can say one thing — this kind of shit will not stand:
When asked what the co-op has coming up, Charmaine answered, “We’ll be organizing our chick sales for the early spring, and looking for more ways to get urban farming in the spotlight on Capital Hill!”