The Seattle Post-Intelligencer ran a extremely fine story comparing the two local weeklies today. Stunning reporting on a subject that every reader of both publications seems to have an opinion on. The reporter got it right, too: the Weekly doth protest a bit too much that they aren't aping the Stranger's more popular features, down to the inside back page comics, and other details. It started a couple years ago with the Weekly running covers that were trying to be as provocative as the Stranger's (which can be so provocative that you can't bring them into a workplace).
My favorite Weekly cover story was Amazon.cult, a sour grapes story by a guy who had worked there for three weeks and was fired out of customer service for not being up to snuff. Then he whined about it in press months after it had happened. Much of what he said was true, but he was merely pointing out the obvious: in a high-pressure, cutting-edge company, the crucible is pretty damn hot and you either meet the cut or get cut. What insight. (You can read my sour grapes letter (2nd from top), too.)
Where the Stranger beats the Weekly currently, in my opinion, is by running balls-out journalism. The Stranger sometimes overstates, sometimes gets it wrong, sometimes provides more opinion and analysis than solid fact. But, hell's bells, they're telling the real story of this city, and I believe changing the culture by exposing it to light and by involving more younger people in learning about the politic machinations of this town, which (as in every town) effect huge chunks of your life. How much you get paid; whether you're evicted; what rent costs; property tax; civil rights (from sitting on curbs to freedom to protest a la WTO). This is an exceptional service, and not every paper can meet the challenge. I know Josh Feit through one of my officemates, and I had the chance to profusely compliment him the other day; he appreciated it, it was clear, because he gets piles of abuse for reporting without a filter.
The Weekly's strongest point was providing that long-view, long-form news approach that the dailies can only handle occasionally, and that the Stranger isn't constitutionally inclined to for reasons of attitude, staff, and the paper's heritage. I hope the Weekly keeps moving back towards that solid news center, where they can have a unique spot in the town's journalism. (And, selfishly, I hope they start running more technology reporting again; I wrote two pieces for them last spring before the Music/Tech editor moved to New York.)