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    Updated: Crosscut's new approach

    Crosscut has completed its migration to a new, nonprofit model. Here are recent developments and a case for this new media structure. And now's the time for you to become an annual member.
    David Brewster.

    David Brewster.

    There are a lot of exciting developments here at Crosscut, so I'm happy to bring you up to date. And I'd like you to think about becoming a part of this interesting venture in community-based, member-supported journalism.

    Crosscut Public Media, the publisher of Crosscut.com, recently received its tax-exempt status from the IRS, so we are now a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation. (Earlier, Crosscut was published by a for-profit company, Crosscut LLC, which has gone out of business after donating all its assets to the new nonprofit.) Also recently, we received some major early support in the form of a $100,000 gift for this project to the Seattle Foundation, serving as our fiscal sponsor at the time, from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This key lead gift, along with $50,000 of funding from generous individuals, is meant to launch Crosscut's new mission of providing online local journalism in the public interest, and to build Crosscut's capacity and sustainability. The next step is our first Charter Membership Drive, beginning this month, and I hope you will consider becoming an annual member.

    This generous vote of confidence in Crosscut's new nonprofit model has enabled us to take several important steps forward. One is hiring a new deputy editor, Mark Matassa, a respected local political writer and editor who has worked in those capacities at The Seattle Times, The P-I and The Los Angeles Times. Way early in the Web curve, Mark and some others started a local news aggregator in 1999, called PersonalReader.com. He's a real pro, with deep knowledge of this town and its writers. Make sure you include him in your emails to us with story ideas, tips, and comments: mark.matassa@crosscut.com.

    Additionally, we have just hired a new executive director, Jill Mogen, most recently publisher of Seattle Homes & Lifestyles, a quality local magazine, and before that ad director at Eastsideweek and Seattle Weekly, where we were colleagues. Jill will be in charge of the non-editorial sides of Crosscut, including ad sales, membership, marketing, and fundraising. Like Mark, Jill knows this town and local publishing very well. She also has a law degree, and has been very active in local philanthropic causes including serving on ACT's board. She's at jill.mogen@crosscut.com.

    We have also hired a new office and operations manager, Marilyn Hoe, who was my colleague for many years at Town Hall and in other civic ventures. At Town Hall, Marilyn coordinated civic and arts events and was in charge of volunteers as well as community outreach to the nearby First Hill neighborhood. She'll bring that welcoming spirit to Crosscut. You reach her at marilyn.hoe@crosscut.com.

    In late September we relocated from downtown to our very own little building on Cedar Street at the north end of Belltown. We've tripled our space, and find ourselves happily in the midst of a media neighborhood, close to KPLU, KIRO, KOMO, and KCTS. The new space gives us room to staff up and to accommodate more volunteers and interns. Drop me an email if you want to volunteer or otherwise help the cause.

    All these new developments represent a kind of relaunch of Crosscut.com, a news site that began in April 2007. For the first year and some, we tried to build a business based on advertising income alone, plus investment capital to get us going. We soon found lots of good writers out there, as well as helpful models in other cities to emulate. Crosscut owes its early success to its founding editor, Chuck Taylor, our first business and marketing manager, Yazmin Mehdi, and our technology whiz, Trevor Smith, who built the site.

    In the summer of 2008, I began to suspect that an advertising-only model for revenue was not going to support high-quality journalism. The migration of advertising to the Web had slowed and the rates were staying low. The board weighed further investment against other models, notably the public-broadcast, member-supported model. We engaged Mike Crystal, my longtime colleague as publisher of Seattle Weekly, to look into the nonprofit model, noting encouraging examples in other cities (notably Minneapolis, San Diego, St. Louis, Chicago, Texas, and New Haven, Conn. and soon to be in Chicago and the Bay Area). Late last year, the board and owners voted to shift to this new model, and the owners of Crosscut LLC generously donated all assets of the company to the newly formed Washington state nonprofit corporation, Crosscut Public Media.

    Like what you just read? Support high quality local journalism. Become a member of Crosscut today!


    Posted Wed, Oct 21, 10:42 a.m. Inappropriate

    Congratulations on Crosscut's re-launch.

    It must feel good to know the Gates Foundation and some wealthy individuals are looking forward to what Crosscut will be saying.

    You might want to consider identifying your big donors (say, a link off the home page to a list showing contribution size). That'd go a ways to dispel notions about the site’s content being less than journalistic.


    Posted Wed, Oct 21, 11:30 a.m. Inappropriate

    Just signed up - I'm still using my Slate.com umbrella when it rains, so naturally I'm in. Good luck with the new format.


    Posted Thu, Oct 22, 2:22 p.m. Inappropriate

    . . . You could identify the big donors and how much they are paying Crosscut on the page that the "About Crosscut" tab links to. Just a suggestion.


    Posted Thu, Oct 22, 4:06 p.m. Inappropriate

    Congratulations and good luck, David. You always seem to be more or less at the cutting edge of journalism. This may be the only way we'll get decent local news coverage in the future. Hope it works out.


    Posted Thu, Oct 22, 8:27 p.m. Inappropriate

    Good luck! We need new models. But I'd also like to chime in on the requests for transparency. Also, I'd love to see more actual, you know, journalism and less oldtimey opinonating by the likes of Ted and Knute. Right now, Publicola eats your lunch on a daily basis.


    Posted Fri, Oct 23, 10:10 a.m. Inappropriate

    I have just donated to your organization even though I have never lived in Seattle nor do I know anyone who does. I have found the articles to be insightful and to be applicable to human conduct in many varied circumstances and places. Your content has continued to provide useful information which assists me in my personal development and in my role as Mayor Pro Tem in Saline, Michigan. I wish you all the best and keep up the good coverage.


    Posted Fri, Oct 23, 10:49 a.m. Inappropriate

    Having worked with most of you at Seattle Weekly (1994-2000) and also spent a few years on Bainbridge at YES! Magazine, its comforting to see that all of you (David, Mike, Jill, Skip) have found your way into new media, and are embracing the 'public option' model of support as well.

    Its terrific that you can still accept straight-up advertising as one of your 3 revenue streams and still be a 501-c3. I love ads! (that was my line of business with you).

    As far as transparency goes my 2 cents is; the choice on whether or not to be revealed in your publication should be left to the donors. A list of who gave and how much can be a real buzz kill for many potential contributors. Donor's choice is the typical model in non-profits from my experience.

    Being 'independent and non-partisan' is bit of a game anyway, don't you think? I'll never forget the "Bummer, Hummer" cover story in EastsideWeek that ran in the same edition as a big classified advert for - you guessed it - Hummers! We all secretly love to bite the hand that feeds us every now and then.

    Posted Fri, Oct 23, 4:40 p.m. Inappropriate

    As a non-profit community new provider, you might want to think about whether Crosscut should be providing political endorsements. With a for-profit paper, it is the owner that by his right has the discretion to provide political endorsements. As a non-profit and a web based news provider, it would seem that one needs to walk a finer line. By its nature, it is difficult in web based journalism to discern objective reporting from the editorial. Refraining from endorsements should increase Crosscut's credibility since the reader would know that the straight news reporting wasn't being biased by the site's editorial bias.

    Posted Fri, Oct 23, 6:17 p.m. Inappropriate

    As Pythagoras just accurately pointed out, your 501(c)3 should dramatically change the way you provide political endorsements and coverage. It's nice that there is a home for Republican strategists gone to seed, anti-urbanist hacks, and out-of-touch NIMBY-ist curmudgeons, but I'm not sure this format is appropriate to receive a tax exemption. Perhaps you should just register as a (c)4 or political organization and seek funding from the movement conservatives groups. You might have to jettison a few of the actual journalists that write for you, but they are few and far between.


    Posted Fri, Oct 23, 6:28 p.m. Inappropriate

    Just to be clear, Crosscut does not make political endorsements, but individual writers can (thus Ted Van Dyk's recent column).

    Posted Fri, Oct 23, 10:31 p.m. Inappropriate

    But Crosscut does have a very different slant to their articles about political stories and issues. Fox News can slant/distort the political debate without making an endorsement too, but that doesn't make them worthy of (c)3 status. Let's take the Mallahan campaign propaganda piece that you published as news the other day, for instance: http://crosscut.com/2009/10/14/2009-election/19298/ or pretty much anything but Republican political strategist Chris Vance.

    Publishing a single viewpoint without providing background, context or counterpoint is pretty much the same as providing and endorsement.


    Posted Sat, Oct 24, 11:16 a.m. Inappropriate

    Mmm, yes, best of luck and I welcome your efforts.

    "Publicola eats your lunch on a daily basis"
    The antithesis of good journalism, Publicola. What they do do is report everyday, and maybe that news roundup, and minor reporting can come back to Crosscut. The ham-handed editorializing these they are calling journinalism is self-limiting in that new ideas are not fairly considered.
    Hopefully you will not MorningFizz or Slog whatever talking points a favored politician feeds you. I know that is sometimes referred to as "new" journalism, it fails the public good, everyday. Hopefully you will provide a daily roundup of "reporting", beyond the "Clicker" box of liked stories.

    I really do not have a problem with Chris Vance writing a story, or Ted V. I do find that the very thoughtful and informative responses by some of your contributors extend that conversation to be a broader view of a story.
    I think it would be interesting, and solve some uneasiness people have expressed above, if some of your your contributors distributed their stories for a very brief period of time, to give one of your contributors a chance to provide a brief rebuttal statement to be included with the original story. Kind of like peer review, only . . . not. I have seen where you have published one story, and a few days later a counter argument appears. Depending on the time sensitivity of the story, this could be published together, or note that a planned response will be coming from another writer on a give day.

    Just a thought I had this morning while voting. I see this in my voter pamphlet. It would not be completely alien for people to see.

    Lastly, I am happy to see the likes of C. R. Douglas, and Austin Jenkins, provided a forum for reporting and journalism. I think they are thoughtful in their questions of others, and fair in reporting their observations of what they are seeing.

    Mr Baker

    Posted Thu, Oct 29, 6:53 p.m. Inappropriate

    It would be great if you could advise Kery Murakami or bring him on board.


    Posted Wed, Nov 4, 9:24 a.m. Inappropriate

    Has the decision been made to not identify who the wealthy individuals backing Crosscut are?

    Both of the comparables identified (“Minneapolis (MinnPost) and San Diego (Voice of San Diego)”) list the people and foundations behind them:



    “MinnPost's initial funding of $850,000 came from four families: John and Sage Cowles, Lee Lynch and Terry Saario, Joel and Laurie Kramer, and David and Vicki Cox. Roy Karon became a fifth founding donor. Major foundation support has come from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Blandin Foundation, the McKnight Foundation, the Minneapolis Foundation, and the Otto Bremer Foundation. As of October 15, 2009, MinnPost had more than 1,500 member-donors contributing amounts ranging from $10 to $20,000 a year.”


    There seem to be some consistent themes in the stories at Crosscut – if the major contributors were identified people could draw reasoned conclusions about whether or not this is a biased information outlet. Keeping that information secret just fosters untoward speculation.

    Did the wealthy benefactors ask to remain anonymous, David?


    Posted Fri, Nov 6, 8:30 a.m. Inappropriate

    I am really curious why there seems to be no dedicated focus on CrossCut to housing/homelessness. In the Seattle Times as it praised new City Attorney Pete Holmes, on the short list of items they try to lead him toward, they list homeless encampments and panhandling. It is small thinking by that paper that keeps folks considerably uninformed. Holmes, in contrast to who that paper thinks he is, spent time visiting homeless encampments and offering direction of the non-necessity of more panhandling legislation. What CrossCut leaves out is the entire effort by the Ten Year Plan Committee to End Homelessness, the efforts that come via Real Change, faith communities, and so on. I appreciate use of Judy Lightfoot's views toward filling that gap, but when I hit the "politics/policy" link above and what drops down excludes this topic, I can only think that you are missing -- and I will provide the benefit of the doubt for now -- a critical social justice and political reality. Politicians running for office avoid the topic entirely. But when 10,000 persons are homeless in King County every night, likely 150%+ of that, and we have one more vehicle like CrossCut act like it's not there, I must wonder about much of what you provide and on whose behalf you provide it.


    Posted Tue, Nov 10, 12:09 p.m. Inappropriate

    "Crosscut's new mission of providing online local journalism in the public interest..."

    Now that you are taking more money from Seattle's wealthy elite I'm sure that we can expect some hard hitting "public interest" reporting on the wealthy elites' never ending efforts to fund their grand schemes at the expense of the public.

    How do you guys do it? I don';t mean how do you get the wealthy to keep giving you money. That's obvious. I mean how do you keep convincing a large number of Seattleites that you are working for their interests?

    Posted Fri, Nov 20, 10:57 p.m. Inappropriate

    I don't think anyone's in any quandry about what kind of stories--either paid or unpaid--will appear in Crosscut. When I see a link to something by or about Michelle Malkin, that is a small clue, as is Mr. Brewster's maundering about the lack of moderate candidates elected. As though we had a crew of wild-eyed socialists come into office this year.

    The claim that Crosscut does not endorse but "contributing" writers do is a dodge. We don't know who you pay but we can tell whose stories consistently appear in Crosscut, and you didn't big money for nothing. Your sociopolitical stance is fine -- yours to pick. But you can't really claim to be impartial, and I don't know why you'd want to (except, of course, to keep your 501(c)(3), if that's what you have.

    I, for one, certainly don't expect any hardhitting articles about homelessness and our community's seeming unwillingness to address its causes and thus its needed solution. That's not what Crosscut is, and I wouldn't expect to find it here. But be honest about what you are, because it's very, very apparent.


    Posted Sun, Nov 22, 9:42 p.m. Inappropriate

    Let's talk economics, transportation and vehicle mobility and I might join the money funding.


    Posted Sun, Nov 22, 9:43 p.m. Inappropriate

    OH, and no ads from Sarah Palin with her face on them.


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