Context the P-I Missed - Or Ignored

"I Guess The P-I Missed This, Too," says Ed Morrissey at the invaluable Captain's Quarters blog, referring to information in an ABC News that a number of suspicious incidents have been reported on ferries in the state of Washington, according to the FBI, and the FBI has issued warnings to local law enforcement and alerted the Coast Guard to heighten their awareness in the area.

ABC reported:

There have been a number of suspicious incidents this summer aboard Washington state ferries, which prompted the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Coast Guard to increase security along the ferry lines and to issue a warning to law enforcement.

"On several occasions since May 2007, members of the public and employees of the Washington State Ferry (WSF) have reported a number of suspicious activities aboard state ferries," said the note, sent out Wednesday to state and local law enforcement by the chief intelligence officer at DHS.

The warning was issued as the hunt continues for two potential suspects that were observed on multiple Washington state ferries. The individuals "exhibited unusual behavior and undue interest in the layout and workings of the ferries and ferry terminals," said the note.

Writes Morrissey, "This gives more context to the flap that arose in Seattle, when the Post-Intelligencer refused to run a photo of two men who "exhibited unusual behavior and undue interest". ... It turns out that ferry employees have reported a number of incidents. In fact, all of the incidents reported appear to involve the same two men, which really has the FBI curious about their identities and their intentions. That's why the FBI felt strongly enought to ask Seattle media to run the picture."

Morrissey paints a chilling scenario in which terrorists could use the ferries to launch a large attack.

Meanwhile, according to this brief report in the Seattle Times - which DID run the photos - FBI analysts believe the mystery men traveled on four to six different ferries.

In the past two years, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's circulation has dropped precipitously - down 10 percent from 141,744 daily as of March 31, 2005, to 128,012 daily as of March 31, 2007. Sunday circulation for the P-I is down almost 8 percent in just two years, dropping from 457,010 copies Sundays in 2005 to 423,635 in 2007.

(The figures come from BurrellesLuce and are based on paid circulation figures filed with the Audit Bureau of Circulation for the six months ending on March 31, 2005, and also March 31, 2007.)

In April 2007, the Associated Press reported that overall circulation for American newspapers fell 2.6 percent in the six-month period ending in March 2007 "as more people turned to the Internet and other media outlets for news and information."<blockquote>This week in Seattle, readers of the Post-Intelligencer learned that, for the complete story about the suspiciously-acting men on the ferries, they had to turn to the P-I's print rival, or to broadcast media or the web and blogs. Other outlets gave Seattle residents the whole story. The P-I gave them stories about why the P-I wasn't covering the whole story, lathered in political correctness that the P-I gave a higher priority to than the safety of the thousands of Seattle-area residents who use the ferry system each day.

Expect to see the P-I's numbers to nosedive again the next time the Audit Bureau of Circulation releases the data early next year.