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At Crosscut, a new emphasis on our communities coping with hard times

Joe Copeland, Crosscut's new managing editor.

Upon a time, you could count on the local newspaper to cover most of the news in pretty good fashion most of the time. In Seattle, we had two daily papers, with contrasting editorial pages, and strong dailies in the outlying areas. Today, Seattle is, of course, down to one paper, and nearly all have had to pare back editorial coverage significantly.

It’s not like any of the next-media ventures, including Crosscut, are models of financial stability, either. That said, the nonprofit model Crosscut is following, along with several other cities, does have the advantage of multiple sources of revenue, including foundations, underwriting, and Memberships. We’re in our Fall Membership Drive right now, and I hope you’ll take the opportunity to become an Annual Member, making a tax-deductible donation. More details about the campaign in this adjoining article.

On Crosscut today, award-winning journalist and author Eric Scigliano introduces what will be an occasional series on Seattle and its varying communities. As he notes in the story, a long-running rehab project (he spares us the painful details) has given him a closer view of the city’s divisions between north and south. The column is one  aspect of several ways in which, with support from The Seattle Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Crosscut is expanding its coverage of local issues. As we announced last week, the links between the web sites of The Seattle Foundation and Crosscut are being increased, with select Crosscut news available there and many Crosscut stories including a box to get more information about local nonprofits whose work has been reviewed by the Foundation.

Scigliano, Judy Lightfoot, and Pete Jackson are all taking larger roles in reporting local issues. They will take a special interest in the strains on people and neighborhoods as the economy leaves many facing hard times. As we gear up, we will look at ways that solid journalism can combine with digital media to engage wider sections of the community in telling the stories of life in and around Seattle today.

As exciting as new media can be, it’s hard to forget the challenges that we face and that newspapers continue to see. Before working at the old Seattle Post-Intelligencer, I spent many years in the newsroom and on the editorial page of The Herald in Everett working with exemplary leaders like editor Joann Byrd and publishers Larry Hanson and Allen Funk. For quite a while, the paper escaped the financial turmoil created by Craigslist and other changes in advertising and circulation revenues. It has continued to do solid, frequently award-winning coverage of Snohomish County. But The Herald has had to make steady cutbacks in recent years. Last week, Publisher Allen Funk, tired of the regimen of painful cuts, announced he was leaving, and the paper’s owner, the Washington Post Co., has launched a national search for a replacement. 

When the P-I was being euthanized by the Hearst Corp., I couldn’t find any reason to regret having left the relative security of the Everett paper, much as I loved its people, for the excitement of engaging in Seattle’s issues. Now I enjoy those issues (and those of the wider region) along with the challenge of creating a new form of quality, local, online journalism. I’m pleased to have my new teammates on the community beat. I hope you’ll enjoy this increased coverage, send me ideas, and consider supporting Crosscut’s community effort by becoming a Member. It’s easy to donate online.

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