Today we're launching our spring Membership drive, hoping for your financial support for our work here at Crosscut. We are a nonprofit and we depend on our annual membership donations for a significant part of our operations. Please consider joining. Memberships start at just $35. You'll be helping to create a whole new and powerful form of local journalism for Seattle and the Northwest, and you will be able to come to member-only events and enjoy other benefits. It's easy to sign up online and donate. Your annual membership is tax-deductible.
One reason to join now is to attend our Third Anniversary Party, which will be on April 7, 2010, a few days away from the third birthday of Crosscut.com's first issue. That's right — three years old! In this very new business of local news websites, Crosscut turns out to be a pioneer. By now we've published thousands of stories (all in the archives and our search, by the way), developed hundreds of writers, and I hope given our readers many hours of pleasure and thoughtful journalism.
Let me also pause to thank the 500-plus members who signed up in our first drive, last fall. That was a very gratifying start, and we've now had two members-only parties (an office-warming party and a holiday gathering) where we've gotten to know many of you and hear your excellent advice and questions. We recently held our first new-members coffee at Street Bean Coffee, just around the corner from our offices, and will offer them regularly for new members.
We take very seriously the idea of being a member-directed media organization, rooted in the community and answerable to our readers and supporters. As it happens, I'm just back from a meeting with seven other Crosscut-like nonprofit local websites, inspired anew at how the interactive aspects of the web and the community-directed nature of a non-profit are combining to make a new kind of media. I learned how the Texas Tribune is going to mobilize its contributors to fill out county-by-county, resource-rich websites, rallying politically passionate readers all across the state to "make a better Texas." Or how another site is going to expand its news service to also be a kind of civic academy, where people can study, young reporters can learn a trade, and a goal of activating citizens toward positive change is built into its reporting.
This new approach is exciting in several ways. It leverages community knowledge, sharing it with others. It makes reporting a way of "activating inquiry," more than a one-way transmission of knowledge from a reporter to the readers. It enriches and complexifies news stories, treating multiple points of view with respect and curiosity. And it tries to turn information into problem solving, not just head-shaking and anger. You get both richer, more nuanced, and interactive information, and we all start things moving toward solutions and trust and finding allies. One big key is an activated membership.
I'l be writing more about this and about Crosscut's history and plans in the coming days. Let me end today's pitch with a bit of news about recent changes. We now have two fine new associate editors, both experienced professionals in Seattle journalism.
One is Joe Copeland, in recent years a member of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer editorial board and before that a reporter, editor, and editorialist at the excellent Everett Herald. One thing Joe will be instituting soon is our "Community Voices" section, seeking out informed commentary from citizens and people in responsible positions, as well as less-heard voices and less-popular points of view. He's particularly well versed in education issues, energy topics, Asian affairs, and social issues. Send him your ideas a firstname.lastname@example.org.
The second new associate editor is Michele Matassa Flores, who worked as a reporter and editor for The Seattle Times, editing business news and features among many other tasks. Michele, who is the sister of our former deputy editor Mark Matassa, grew up in Oregon, knows the region well, and has worked with many of the writers of the region. One new feature she's spearheading is "Crosscut Touts," where expert critics tell you why a coming event is notable — hopefully in time for you to score a ticket for the concert, lecture, or show. Michele is reachable at email@example.com.
Another new employee is Jon Sayer, our technology director, who comes from work at his college paper at Western Washington University, where he developed the paper's website. One new feature Jon engineered for us just last week is the subdivision of the Crosscut Blog into five blogs, easily activated by clicking on one of the tabs in the blog box. The main blog continues, on various subjects by various Crosscut writers; and there is now also a sort by Politics, Arts Beat, Sports, and Food. Got technical ideas for us? firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Food Blog is enriched by some other new writers, Hugo Kugiya, another Seattle Times alum, who discovers a hidden ethnic treasure each Thursday, and Ronald Holden, who has been writing about restaurants, food, and wine for many years and who was once my colleague at KING-TV. Ron is starting a new feature, "One Dish," which attempts to do a restaurant review by close attention to one menu item, telling readers how this delicious plate is prepared and what it tells you about the restaurant.
Lot's happening, and much of it due to generous support by our members. Do join today, and help us to keep improving Crosscut. More than that, help tell us how to do it better, tip us to stories, and join in the comment threads so others know your thoughts and additional insights. Don't put it off. Please join today. (If you're already a member, you might get swept away so far as to upgrade your membership level!) We can't do it without you. Thanks.
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