David Schmader wrote The Stranger's "Last Days" column for 15 years.
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David Schmader wrote The Stranger's "Last Days" column for 15 years.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Gil Aegerter

Why David Schmader Left The Stranger (It's The Internet's Fault)

For David Schmader the state of U.S. media is summed up by what happened after New York magazine published a cover story about Bill Cosby’s accusers.

Schmader, who recently left The Stranger after 16 years, told KUOW’s Jeannie Yandel that he had been chafing under the changes wrought by the Internet over the past decade. And then came that story and cover.

“This amazing thing, deep dive that they did,” he said. “And then you got to see every other major news organization do '10 Things I Learned From The New York Thing,' that you could read and totally skip over this amazing wealth of work and commitment in the original.”

He lamented “the acceptance that we’re all preying on these same stories and exporting the most delicious treat from it. It sounds creepy, and it is.”

Schmader, who wrote the Seattle alt-weekly's "Last Days" column for 15 years, now is creative director of the Greater Seattle Bureau of Fearless Ideas, a nonprofit creative writing center for kids.

At the beginning with The Stranger, before the Internet onslaught, it was a different media world.

“So it was cutting things out of the P-I morning edition, having a little folder. There were a lot of cityscape stuff, of just like, I saw someone cutting their toenails on the bus and we should discuss this,” he said.

And for a while after the change, things were good.

“Once the Internet media revolution happened and there were all the stories in the world, it became more about curating -- what earns a place in here, what kinds of stories are we sick of?” he said. “And I got to emphasize the parts of the world that I like and make the heroes (those who) maybe wouldn’t have been the heroes in the original report.”

So what’s changed in the past 16 years?

“There was a kind of homogenization of storytelling over the years as there were fewer people doing original content and more people doing what I did, which was taking a story and adding some personality and flair and repurposing it,” he said. “And that’s the name of the game minute to minute on the Internet.”

He said as the Internet altered media, there was a feeling that it was just a phase and alternative media would somehow return to normal.

“And we eventually realize that things have really changed,” he said. “There was just less interesting expressive writing and more keep-the-paper-alive calendar blurbs.”

Schmader said nobody goes into alternative media to get rich, but …

“Part of the pay is freedom and fun,” he said, “and as the freedom and fun diminishes …”

Produced for the Web by Gil Aegerter.