Staff changes at The Stranger continue ahead of 2016 move from 11th/Pine

The Stranger needs new office space -- because new office space is coming to 11th and Pine

The Stranger needs new office space — because new office space is coming to 11th and Pine

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Keck, at the mic, and his right hand man, Stranger editor in chief Christopher Frizelle, clutching the mic, at the 2014 Stranger Genius Awards (Image: Beth Crook via The Stranger)

Last week, arts editor and food writer Bethany Jean Clement announced she was leaving Capitol Hill’s only newspaper to pick up the food and drink beat at the Seattle Times. It was the latest in a year of big editorial change-ups for The Stranger, which occupies 2.5 floors above Value Village and the Rhino Room at 11th and Pine and is — perhaps — the most well known of all Capitol Hill businesses.

Publisher Tim Keck told CHS the staff changes don’t represent much more than the steady turnovers now commonplace in many newsrooms. Without tying it to specific staff changes, Keck did say The Stranger is trying to chart a course that better balances deeply reported stories with the impassioned and uncompromising voices the paper and its blog, the Slog, are known for.

“Loud, brash opinions are a dime a dozen,” he said. “It’s really important for publications to distinguish ourselves from that.”

Stranger.com rolled out a spare, clean-cut redesign over the weekend

Stranger.com also rolled out a spare, clean-cut redesign over the weekend

Significant editorial changes began at the end of 2013 with the departure of Cienna Madrid. In May, horseass.org writer David Goldstein (aka Goldy) made an abrupt exit. In July, Keck brought in Kathleen Richards from Oakland’s East Bay Express, who vowed a more “earnest” approach to covering the city. A couple months later, Dominic Holden announced he would pursue national reporting opportunities in New York City.

Keck, who didn’t go into specifics on any current or former staff, said more masthead changes could be coming in 2015.

One change that is definitely in the works is The Stranger’s address. Keck said the newspaper and its 53 employees will be moving out by February 2016 after 15 years in its current space. The auto row-era Bocker and Brown Buildings are slated to be redeveloped as a preservation incentive-boosted office project. As The Stranger crew would have to vacate for more than a year, Keck said he’s currently seeking a permanent home elsewhere.

“We’re looking around the market, Pioneer Square and Capitol Hill. We want to be where the action is,” he said. “We’ve been on the Hill forever, but if we can’t be on the Hill, we can’t be on the Hill.”

Staying on Capitol Hill would hinge on finding 10,000 square feet of office space on a single floor. Keck said he’s open to suggestions.

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24 thoughts on “Staff changes at The Stranger continue ahead of 2016 move from 11th/Pine

  1. Thanks for covering this! I’ve been curious about what’s happening [going wrong?] with the Stranger and they haven’t been willing to cover themselves. She didn’t make much of an impression, but Danielle Henderson also left in short order earlier this year.

    The Stranger needs to hire a couple respectable journalists again to get their content back. While I’ve been a devoted Stranger reader, I picked up the Seattle Weekly earlier this month and found better content and writing than the Stranger has to offer these days. Bummertown. There is always turnover, but this suggests more significant problems under the hood. For out sake and theirs, I hope they can right the ship.

    A good first step would be assigning city news to someone with half a clue. City news used to be a strength of their reporting – now it’s been turned over primarily to someone without reporting skills and “loud, brash opinions [that are] are a dime a dozen.”

    • I agree with your suggestions to The Stranger, but disagree that The Weekly is any better. It is really a shadow of its former self, when David Brewster was in charge. Now, there is really only one major article each week, and not much else. Sad.

  2. you couldn’t possibly mean Ansel Hersh, could you?

    And I liked Danielle Henderson – your post made me realize I hadn’t seen anything from her in a while.

  3. Logical fallacy: A Stranger that “better balances deeply reported stories with the impassioned and uncompromising voices” implies that those things are opposed. They are not opposed, and the Stranger used to do both at the same time very well. The brashness -encouraged- the deep reporting and good investigation. Being aggressive in calling public officials on their BS meant the Stranger’s facts had to be very straight and very deep.

    Failing to call attention to problems in a noticeable, characterful, and perhaps brash way will remove a much-needed voice from Seattle’s public life. If the Stranger goes milquetoast either to avoid ruffling (advertiser) feathers or just because their editors are tired of having writers who require occasional use of the editorial leash, they will fail us as a city.

    Maybe they’re just tired of really reporting and would like to go back to writing about the arts while someone else handles the heavy lifting of public life?

    Stranger, please don’t leave your balls behind. We Seattleites admired them, and you are our ears and our voice when the Seattle Times sells us out or lies to us (frequently).

  4. So depressing. First they fire Goldy because he supported a $15 minimum wage (angering the Stranger’s regressive advertisers) and then they push Dominic out because they’d rather have the anti-progressive Eli Sanders write bland articles that don’t challenge the political status quo. At least Anna Minard and Ansel Herz are still there, for now, but who knows if they have a place in this wannabe Crosscut that Keck is trying to turn his once-great paper into. Sad.

    • Minnard has already accepted a job elsewhere. Just not announced yet. So they have the really uninformed, intern level Ansel Herz left covering the City, no one left to cover food, arts and culture. At least they still have the Comedy section written by Mudede.

    • I never got the impression that the Stranger/Slog ever backed away from supporting the $15 minimum wage. Did I miss something?

  5. I’m not surprised they are cleaning house, but for me, as a reader, it’s too little, too late. When foul language started riddling posts and articles and their ‘drunk of the week’ feature was the most popular thing going, I stopped reading. I completely used to rely on The Stranger for arts, what’s happening, music, etc. But in the last few years, the style of journalism and the quality of writing just didn’t appeal to me any longer. If I wanted to read the work of a writer putting on paper the equivalent of a two year olds tantrum, well, then I guess I’d still be reading The Stranger. But I’m not.

  6. ” “Loud, brash opinions are a dime a dozen,” he said. “It’s really important for publications to distinguish ourselves from that.” ”

    Translation IMHO: we were about to lose advertisers.

    Honestly, I don’t know if this will make the paper better or worse. It’s too early to predict/judge/etc… I remember The Stranger being shrill and terrible in 2001, as a first impression… then it became shrill and better later on, and until the beginning of this year.

    It will be hard to imagine a Stranger that’s “earnest” in that Pacific Northwest way, instead of something that — annoying or not — challenges conventional Seattle thought… it seems it would just quietly fade out to faint praise then die. But who really knows?

    I’m not sure a relocation to Pioneer Square (if that were to happen) would change the paper either way. Capitol Hill may not be worth defending by the time that would happen anyway.

  7. I and my friends don’t read The Stranger for it’s well written journalism or for it’s newsworthy coverage of politics. We read it because it speaks to the average citizen and is almost like a voice for those of us who would rather see the facts and the truth rather than the sugar coated MSM content being put out by the Seattle Times, Seattle Weekly and Seattle PI. I enjoy reading coverage of local topics that aren’t deemed newsworthy by the MSM but have significant meaning to those of us who actually live around here.

    The brash language, the quirky writers, the over the top graphics and all the underground news make The Stranger what it is. The Stranger publishes that which the MSM doesn’t or won’t. Take away all of that, and all you have is yet another piece of editorial junk aimed at pleasing corporate advertisers and sponsors.

  8. People still read this rag? Do they still read the Seattle Gay News too? I haven’t picked up either for at least 10 years. Totally irrelevant. The only thing worthwhile in the Stranger are all of the escort and massage ads in the back.

    • Well, evidently you don’t I guess. I guess that gives you license to be snarky. Or maybe you figure there’s a market for *your* kind of alternative weekly. Who knows when all you can do is deal snark.

    • “The only thing worthwhile in the Stranger are all of the escort and massage ads in the back.”

      Why, because your parents blocked your computer from being able to view free Internet porn?

  9. To all those who haven’t read the Stranger seriously for a while, like iluvcaphill:

    If you haven’t read the Stranger for the last 10 years (or even the last 5), you missed a period where the Stranger wrote the best local politics coverage in the city (often the -only- voice on important issues). From their totally-called-it coverage of why Bertha was a bad, bad idea to their holding the City Council’s feet to the fire for not doing tabling important issues as a means of killing things developers don’t like (bike master plan, housing equity), the Stranger has been the voice that Seattle Times and other outlets have not. For a few years, the Stranger was awesome… if you actually read articles over a page in length.

    If you missed that period, you really missed out. Sadly it looks like it’s gone now.

    readernomore: Rarely did “foul language” enter the important articles. F-bombs and the like were mainly saved for the arts & culture section, or anytime they’re just pounding on an issue that deserves obscenity for emphasis (like why the WSLCB has f_cked up the marijuana legalization process, or why cops threatening to come harass you at work is totally f_cked). Please unbunch your granny panties and begin investigating the real issues in your community, even if there are a few naughty words amidst the account.

    Oh, and one very clear thing: the Capitol Hill Seattle Blog is becoming a much better source for news concerning this ‘hood and indeed the whole city than the Stranger is these days. Viva la blogroll, and way to do it up guys!

    • Yeah, this. From about 2008-2012 The Stranger was a beacon of public-service journalism and advocacy with a local (and state) focus. Since then they’ve fired or failed to retain basically everyone who could be called a news reporter (or who even attempts to be a serious person) except for Paul Constant and the ex-intern Ansel Herz, who if he ever pupates and loses some self-regard might become a real journalist. The fix was in when The Stranger folded “Line Out”, presumably hoping that its constant stream of unreadable music posts would fill out a SLOG suddenly denuded of substance.

      Oh, and I guess Eli Sanders is still employed there. He was a reporter, before the estate of Joseph Pulitzer gave him a piece of paper saying he doesn’t have to write any more.

  10. I think some people are confusing the Slog with the Stranger…lots of cussing and firebrand on the Slog, but the Stranger is tempered. Plus, if a news outlet doesn’t ever question your assumptions (and make you angry), it’s probably doing something wrong. I love and hate the Slog everyday.

    One huge improvement I’ve seen over the past 5-7 years is that they’ve lost their reluctant Seattleite schtick (everything is crappy here and awesome in NYC!, for example). As a diehard, 3rd generation Seattle guy, I always found that attitude a little weird for a hometown paper.

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