By BRYAN CORLISS
SEATTLE — Dozens of reporters, standing around talking and drinking coffee. If it weren’t for the picket signs in their hands, you’d think it was simply intermission at a journalism convention.
Tuesday, the first day of the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild strike in a half-century, seemed mostly quiet.
The Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporters, editors and circulation and advertising employees walking outside the newspapers’ main offices in downtown Seattle reported feeling tired after a late-night union meeting, and more than a little surprised to being making news rather than reporting it.
"It’s a whole lot different because now it’s me with the sign in my hand," said Dave Tishendorf, a P-I copy editor. "It’s kind of surreal."
Picket lines were in place at the Times’ North Creek production facility in Bothell, one of the two places where the paper is printed. No pickets were seen anywhere else in Snohomish County. The Times’ news, advertising and circulation office in Lynnwood was empty.
The mood at strike headquarters and on the picket lines around The Times was "solemn," said Eli Sanders, a reporter who was a picket line captain. "People are talking about how they feel. Parts of yesterday felt like a funeral."
Members of Teamsters Local 174, the drivers who deliver papers to distribution centers, joined Guild members picketing The Times.
"We back them up 100 percent," said driver Renee Blackwood of Mountlake Terrace. "These people make the newspapers what they are. It’s time the Times and P-I pay attention to these people."
She seemed almost as insulted by management’s final offer to the Guild — raises of $3.30 an hour over six years — as Guild negotiators.
"For Pulitzer Prize winners, it’s a little sad," she said.
The mood at the Post-Intelligencer was lighter. Strikers put fresh batteries into their portable stereos and munched on pizza brought over by a neighboring business. Some thought up marching songs calling for better wages — which the others sang as they marched down the sidewalk.
Unlike at The Times, where guards patrolled newly installed steel fences dressed in military police-style uniforms, security at the P-I was friendly and talkative.
"It’s reflective of our general relationship with the people inside," said Tiffany Smith, a page designer.
All said that if they had to picket, the sunny Tuesday afternoon was a nice time to do it. Flossie Pennington, a Times advertising sales representative, waved enthusiastically at passing drivers who honked at her in support.
"We’ve got to wave now while we’ve got energy," she said. "Next week, we’ll be freezing."
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