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Friday, November 24, 2000 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Pinched papers plan to get bigger

Seattle Times staff

The Seattle Times and Post-Intelligencer, hoping to stem ``significant" advertising-revenue losses from a 4-day-old strike, began expanding the size of their much-shrunken papers today.

Meanwhile, the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild planned today to publish for the first time a print version of the Seattle Union Record, its online paper produced by striking journalists.

The Guild, which represents about 1,000 newsroom, circulation and advertising workers at the two papers, walked out early Tuesday in a dispute over pay and other issues. Two smaller unions representing truck drivers and the composing room are holding sympathy strikes, while the press-operators union voted not to support the Guild strike.

No new talks are scheduled.

Both The Times and P-I have begun boosting their daily papers from 24 to 32 pages.

H. Mason Sizemore, president of the Seattle Times Co., which manages production and business operations for both papers, said all the additional pages in The Times will be devoted to advertisements. The P-I hadn't decided how to use its extra pages.

Within a few weeks, Sizemore said, The Times, which like the P-I is distributing the reduced-size paper for free, hopes to expand its news and advertising content enough to charge for the paper.

Sizemore said the paper has lost "significant" ad revenues so far during the key holiday shopping season.

"Our biggest problem is finding space for all the advertisers who want space," he said. "Our goal is to accommodate everyone who wants ad space."

Guild spokesman Art Thiel, a P-I sports columnist, said that 30,000 copies of the 20-page Guild paper, including advertisements, were scheduled to be distributed in downtown Seattle. The union says it plans to print future editions next week, but is uncertain how frequently it will publish.

The Guild has contracted with the commercial printing shop of The Eastside Journal in Bellevue to print its paper.

The paper, said Thiel, "is a symbol of (Guild members') efforts to re-create what we had, and what we were all proud of producing, at both papers."

In other strike news, a picket's claim that he had suffered a shoulder injury from being struck by a Seattle Times truck was unfounded, Bothell police said yesterday. Police say a review of the security videotape of the incident outside the Times' Bothell printing plant showed the truck had actually come to a near full stop when the man bumped the trailer, pushed himself backward and fell over a dirt berm.

"There's no question in our mind this was staged," said Sgt. Jeff Ansbaugh.

Reaction to the strike among area residents was mixed. Several readers said the two newspapers were small enough now that they could get through both in a sitting, a common reaction.

"I feel a little sheepish reading them though," said Ed Laquerre of Seattle, as he talked Wednesday while having coffee in the Central Area. He says that he is still "hooked on news," even though he is sympathetic to the striking workers. "But I figure in the end they'll work it out."

The missed ritual of morning coffee and a newspaper would bother Angela Morgan of Kirkland if the papers didn't publish.

But she talked about what many who were interviewed spoke of--the economics of the area, the expense of living here and the ability to make a good wage. "Information is important to all of us," Morgan said, "but what, we're not supposed to pay for that?"

Lynn Beck, marketing manager of the Pacific Place retail center in downtown Seattle, said family and friends have commented about the size of The Times and P-I.

"There obviously is a reaction to the paper being so thin. That definitely sends a message, not so much about the credibility, but about the content and exactly what is being covered," she said. "You tend to wonder what is not being covered."

At Steve's Broadway News on Capitol Hill, owner Steve Dunnington, whose wife is a striking Times' journalist, said his store is continuing to offer the free dailies because unions have not called for a boycott.

But he worries the strike--and the strike-shrunken newspapers--will turn some longtime readers away for good, particularly when they can find plenty of news on the Internet. "No doubt, we've already lost readers," he said. "Some of them--they don't care about the reporters, they don't care about the management--their habits will be changed by the time this is over."

Copyright (c) 2000 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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