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    PubliCola writers Josh Feit, Erica Barnett join Crosscut

    PubliCola.com, a valued website covering Olympia and city hall, is closing down. Crosscut is hoping to keep these two energetic reporters working their beats.
    Erica Barnett and Josh Feit in a Pioneer Square alley.

    Erica Barnett and Josh Feit in a Pioneer Square alley. Crosscut

    Josh Feit

    Josh Feit

    Erica Barnett

    Erica Barnett

    Publicola.com, a Seattle-based website specializing in reporting on government and public affairs, is suspending publication. Its two major writers, Josh Feit and Erica C. Barnett, have found a temporary home at Crosscut, continuing to work their respective beats of state politics and Seattle and local politics. Their reporting will begin to appear on Crosscut on Monday. Efforts are being made to secure funding for making their positions permanent.

    PubliCola began three and a half years ago. It was conceived by two former Stranger political writers and editors, Feit and Sandeep Kaushik, now a political-campaign consultant. Funding for the venture came largely from Greg Smith, the prominent Seattle developer and owner of Urban Visions, and Rajeev Singh, a software entrepreneur and founder of the hugely successful Concur Technologies. Its mission was to provide detailed coverage of Olympia and Seattle City Hall, often with a progressive orientation. Barnett, also a former Stranger political and news writer, joined PubliCola shortly after it began. It quickly developed a dedicated following and broke many stories. Before joining the Stranger, Feit had been a reporter for Portland's Willamette Week and Barnett had worked for papers in Texas and for Seattle Weekly.

    PubliCola's advertising-based revenue model proved to be unstable, and several months ago the funders withdrew further support. About that time I approached Feit to talk about possible mutual goals, such as sharing advertising sales and swapping some content. The conversations ripened into a kind of lifeboat strategy for the two reporters. Here's Feit's account of the decision to shutter PubliCola.

    Feit and Barnett now have moved into Crosscut's newsroom in Pioneer Square. Starting next week, each will work half time for Crosscut, filing stories and keeping many of the popular features, such as the Morning Fizz, going on the Crosscut site. Since Crosscut does not have budgeted funds for these two new positions for the current year, we will be easing into a more robust relationship, assuming funding is raised. A bunch of us are working on that effort, and Crosscut has plans to add more beat reporters as funding is raised in certain topic areas, from individuals, foundations, and sponsors.

    Crosscut also began as a for-profit, advertising-based model, but shifted in 2009 to a nonprofit model, which has the advantage of additional revenue streams (memberships, grants, sponsorships) just as public broadcast does. Generous grant support in the past two years has given Crosscut some essential infrastructure in technology, revenue generation, editing, and archives that might be of use to other sites in the current period of consolidation. Such synergies could be most helpful as some of the smaller startups in media that sprang up in the wake of the closing of the print Post-Intelligencer and the dramatic downsizing of local journalism explore sharing services as a way to gain greater efficiency and staying power.

    It was in that spirit that the conversations began with PubliCola. I hope it proves a long-term fix, a way for Barnett and Feit to reach a wider audience, and for Crosscut readers to have more news and a wider range of  interpretive commentary. 

    Still, it is sad to lose a feisty and independent publication like PubliCola. As Feit wrote in announcing the shift, it's "a big loss right now. And a hard one for us personally. PubliCola, an idea I hatched back in 2008, has been a wonderful obsession."

    This state and community owe a lot of gratitude to the founders and reporters who have kept it going at considerable expense and generated a trove of solid reporting and scoops. The region can ill afford to lose reporters with this much energy, so well sourced, and so well versed in local issues. I'm glad we could row our little lifeboat out to them. And I tip my hat to Greg Smith and Rajeev Singh for their major contribution to our civic life and civic understanding. May what they started long live on!

    David Brewster is founder of Crosscut and editor-at-large. You can e-mail him at david.brewster@crosscut.com.

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


    Posted Thu, May 10, 5:31 a.m. Inappropriate

    Nothing like adding more far left voices to the pages of Crosscut, how long before Sandeep gets a slot?


    Posted Thu, May 10, 5:27 p.m. Inappropriate

    "far left voices"? I don't think so. "Far left" would not include support for the new urbanist agenda to the detriment of neighborhood power over what happens "in their back yard." My sense is that Josh and Erica haven't thought this issue through very well. Hopefully, in the future they'll give more consideration to the 'hoods in the perpetual fight with the 1%ers who run things from downtown.


    Posted Thu, May 10, 6:22 p.m. Inappropriate

    "Far left" would not include support for the new urbanist agenda to the detriment of neighborhood power over what happens "in their back yard."

    I suppose that since I'm not a Seattleite I can be forgiven for not understanding what the heck this means.


    Posted Mon, May 14, 9:06 p.m. Inappropriate

    Lots of short hand there. The "New Urbanists" are an avant-garde group of city planners who want everything to be within a 10-minute walk.

    This is impossible anywhere, but especially in any city West of the Mississippi River, so the practical reality in a place like Seattle is that any developer who says the right words to the right people will get a good old-fashioned financial favor, part of which will be kicked back to the politician who granted it. Believe me, that is actually the way the West was won.

    The allies of those politicians, some of whom are in on the bribes and others of whom are useful idiots, will then shout to the high heavens that anyone who opposes the sweetheart deal isn't a "progressive" by local standards. This includes those in the affected neighborhoods. See, the "New Urbanist" theory loves neighborhoods, but only after they've been cleared of their former inhabitants. In Seattle-speak, those inhabitants are "old people" or "NIMBYs" or "white people." Whatever it takes.

    This is the "progressive" game in Seattle, where no one -- and I do mean no one -- with any juice will EVER talk about old-school financial corruption, even when they are surrounded by it.

    Bottom line: There is "New Urbanism" in the architectural colleges, and then there is "New Urbanism" as it actually plays out in the cities. It takes a while to explain how it really works, and how cynical, corrupt, and hyopocritical the "progressives" who push it actually are. That explains the shorthand, but now you have the long division.


    Posted Thu, May 10, 6:14 a.m. Inappropriate

    I view the addition to Crosscut with mixed emotions. Both Josh and Erica bring substantial baggage with them on issues, along with commentors that have strong opinions about some of the biases both bring to their respective writing.
    I've always respected Crosscut writers for their civility and ability to present the facts in ways for me to weigh and decide how I feel about an issue. I hope some of that baggage is checked at the door.
    David has a fine line to walk between broadening the scope of Crosscut readers, while keeping journalistic standards at their current high level - something he is used to doing.
    I'll caulk up Erica's latest rant against Keven Wallace as 'written under duress'. It certainly didn't meet my test of good writing.


    Posted Thu, May 10, 6:31 a.m. Inappropriate

    I'll miss Publicola. Josh is pretty darned good. In the articles I read lately, Erica seems to be a dedicated and passionate blogger, not a reporter. I hope she becomes one if she's going to write for Crosscut.

    Posted Thu, May 10, 6:13 p.m. Inappropriate

    Please do closely monitor the comments. Several commenters became especially vicious on Publicola in recent days and they will be here soon.


    Posted Thu, May 10, 7 a.m. Inappropriate

    Feit and Barnett are left leaning scribes obviously wanting to be Seattle's answer to Burns and Allen, Lewis and Martin, Ricky and Lucy, Tracy and Hepburn, Ozzie and Harriet, and Carville and Matlin. Are they asking for cameras, sound, and a 'reality tv show atmosphere' for their space in the Crosscut newsroom? Local journalism is an Obama style 'evolving' situation that once had the Seattle Times get rid of Michelle Malkin and John Carlson because they were too conservative! Let's hope that they launch a full series of articles decrying the lack of diversity, tolerance, and acceptance within the left's ranks.


    Posted Thu, May 10, 7:38 a.m. Inappropriate

    I see. Stuffy, pontificating old bores like Van Dyk and Berger weren't connecting, so Crosscut went out and scraped up two self-absorbed, rumor-mongering hipster wannabes who wouldn't know what a fact was if one jumped up and bit them.

    Well, have fun with it, David. I guess no one ever would have heard of Casey Jones if there hadn't been a train wreck.


    Posted Thu, May 10, 8:07 a.m. Inappropriate

    Blue Light,
    I deleted your comment. You've made your point about the Democratic Party's connection to tribal money repeatedly here. It's not adding anything to the discussion anymore. If you've got some updated data or a more concrete point about it, I welcome your comment.
    - Josh


    Crosscut is a blog about Seattle written by journalists who are dedicated to non-partisan, original daily reporting that prioritizes a balanced approach to news.


    Posted Thu, May 10, 8:43 a.m. Inappropriate

    Most of the truth of the matter is covered in the comments above with this one important missing piece:
    Erica is the only one in town dedicated enough to consistently cover the goings on at City Hall (hopefully, I assume her attentiveness there continues). While I agree that it's a stretch to call what she writes reporting, without it this fair city would be down to zip, or less than zip if one counts a lobbyist that Crosscut currently elects to publish because of the attention this brings.

    Here's an exception that proves the ST's rule of ignoring most all. Even though parking was page one "Truth Needle" a day or two earlier, one is lucky to find any mention of a hearing deep inside the print edition (page B4 5/10 in this case), and online? Good Luck. Don't try the index, don't try the newsprint title: "Panel takes heat..." Do try the reporter: Lynn Thompson.


    Posted Thu, May 10, 9:02 a.m. Inappropriate

    Yeah, our one print daily paper is more of a regional paper than a Seattle paper. Sad.

    Posted Fri, May 11, 1:56 a.m. Inappropriate

    That's b/c we have forced our growth out into the Region.

    Posted Mon, May 14, 5:31 p.m. Inappropriate

    No one "forced" anything. Most people don't dream of an apartment on Capitol Hill. Who knew? Apparently not the "New Urbanists" who currently hold the mayor and the city council in thrall.


    Posted Wed, May 16, 9:48 a.m. Inappropriate

    When you restrict growth in one area, you force people who would otherwise live there to live elsewhere. This gets compounded when you subsidize living in the 'elsewhere.'

    Posted Thu, May 10, 8:59 a.m. Inappropriate

    I haven't really come by Crosscut in months, but I'll probably check in daily now that Josh and Erica are here. I find the comment section here almost as grating as Publicola's was, but I'm not sure that's a problem anyone knows how to fix.

    They both deserve more than temporary, half-time work, but I'm sure that's all Crosscut can give right now. Man I wish journalism was profitable. I'll try to chip in some funds here.

    Posted Thu, May 10, 9:27 a.m. Inappropriate

    I welcome the addition to Crosscut of two new writers who aren't shills for some special-interest group, as is the case with nearly all who write for this publicaton.


    Posted Thu, May 10, 10:58 a.m. Inappropriate

    I envy you the view through your rose-colored glasses. But I think you might eventually come to conclude that these two are, in fact, shills for the same developer clique that Roger Valdez shills for -- all in the name of "density" and "new urbanism," of course.

    And, let's not forget, they have been shills -- at least Josh has -- for the same "education reform" effort, funded by Gates, that appears to own Crosscut lock, stock, and barrel.

    Crosscut needs editorial diversity and diversity of outlook, not on the tiresome "left-right" continuum, but rather on the elitist-populist continuum. The new additions are hardly what I call populists, and they add very little "balance" in that regard.


    Posted Thu, May 10, 6:04 p.m. Inappropriate

    Ivan, the curse goes "may you live in interesting times" and that we are! I agree with you that today's left-right is tiresome in the extreme and more to the point, entirely off point. Problem is elitist-populist is not all it's cracked up to be either. Consider this from Glenn Greenwald today:

    "Casting Romney as a plutocrat will be easy enough. But the president’s claim as avenging populist may prove trickier, given his own deeply complicated, even conflicted, relationship with Big Finance."

    "Of all the ignominious actions of the Obama administration, the steadfast, systematic shielding of Wall Street from criminal liability is probably the most corrupt in the traditional sense of that word. In Newsweek this week, Peter Boyer and Peter Schweizer have an excellent examination of what happened and why, tying together crucial threads."...


    If we can keep the Pubilcola carry-over civil, we are in for some interesting conversations.


    Posted Thu, May 10, 9:28 a.m. Inappropriate

    Recruiting a couple of feisty and energetic writers under the age of 50 can't possibly do any harm. But, as noted by the earlier responders, the right-wing curmudgeon faction will surely regard this as a betrayal. Personally, I'm interested in quality writing backed by good research whatever the political perspective. For example, I may not always agree with Chris Vance, but I appreciate that he does his homework. The ideology filter is a device for the intellectually lazy.


    Posted Thu, May 10, 10:23 a.m. Inappropriate

    Very excited to have Josh and Erica on the scene! (Point of clarification: "Barnett, also a former Stranger political and news writer.." Erica was also the News Editor at the Stranger.)

    As a member of Crosscut, I support this new addition and look forward to more document-parsing, scoops, and general nerdiness.

    Posted Thu, May 10, 10:44 a.m. Inappropriate

    I will definitely be reading Crosscut now that Josh and Erica have joined.

    However, a word of warning. Lack of moderation in the comments section really dragged down Publicola. The comments section used to be one of the highlights of the site. They were informative, well written, and brought different perspectives to the story. Over time though the trolls took over and they devolved into little more than name calling and feces slinging.

    You guys will need to be on your toes. As you can see already, some examples of the trolls have already come over. Don't let them derail every discussion through overly lax moderation.

    Posted Thu, May 10, 11:17 a.m. Inappropriate

    While I dont agree with everything Erica writes, I think she and Josh will be a welcome addition to Crosscut, which has been sliding more and more to the right lately.
    As long as everybody complains, from both the right and the left, then you know you are getting a reasonable mix of opinions published.

    I would agree that the trolls will probably come as well, and comment moderation may need to be more aggressive.


    Posted Thu, May 10, 12:08 p.m. Inappropriate

    Thrilled to see Josh and Erica land here.

    Posted Thu, May 10, 2:16 p.m. Inappropriate

    Wow, you have to love the enthusiasim for enforcing echo chamber rules for comments. Cursing and other profane declarations should be removed but civil disagreements should be allowed.


    Posted Sun, May 13, 9:04 p.m. Inappropriate

    Cameron, the "progressives" of Seattle are absolutely no different than the far right wingers of FreeRepublic. They utterly detest being argued with, especially when their opponent is a) effective and b) laughs at their many and sundry implicit and sometimes explicit claims of moral and/or intellectual superiority.

    If you really want to rile a "progressive" here in Seattle, tell them that, in your eyes, they are siblings under the skin with Sarah Palin. You'll be telling the solid truth, which always hurts the most.


    Posted Thu, May 10, 2:29 p.m. Inappropriate

    Here's a reaction to lots of the comments this story is generating, sent in by Crosscut writer Doug MacDonald:

    As this is written, there are already 90 comments posted on Feit’s departure piece at Publicola. It’s the predictable Mulligan stew and it sure illustrates some of the challenges of visioning the community that journalists are trying to find ways of writing for today. My feelings are best summarized by this excerpt, short and sweet, and even printable for what used to be called polite company:

    "Very sad news. Glad Crosscut stepped up."

    But, as always when you browse the commenters’ posts anywhere today, you’d better have a thick skin for sharp jabs and 360-degree invective:

    "Crosscut? Will they pay with Geritol?"

    And no one is spared:

    "Sad to hear, but the ridiculous level of abuse and trolling in the comments here drove me away from regular reading months ago.

    "Crosscut is the biggest bunch of whiny, paternalistic, anti-transit, anti-development, anti-everything losers the world has ever seen. They embody everything that is embarrassing and terrible about Seattle journalism. I will not be following the remains of Publicola over there."

    Anyone who tries to write anything to publish sometimes has to drop back to this rejoinder to commenters like that: “If you think this is so easy, you try it.”

    "Don't people have to pay Crosscut to publish their stuff? I would bet that Roger Valdez pays Crosscut to put his crap on their site. So, is Erika going to pay Crosscut to put her stuff on their site?"

    There was a time when a revered alternative to the newspapers was Speakers’ Corner in London’s Hyde Park. Today, more than ever, we need contemporary forums on-line and in print that can package polychromatic assemblages of news, views and opinion. Neither Crosscut nor Publicola (nor a host of other examples) have wholly succeeded in generating the new media vehicle we desperately need.

    "Crosscut needs help. I like the people over there but sometimes (and I even wrote a little for them) I have no idea what their purpose is. To educate? To discuss? They are all over the place and I don't quite get it."

    Well, with Josh and Erica on board – friends, sort of, of mine with whom I see eye-to-eye about 40 percent of the time and whose occasional shrill or sloppy copy drives me crazier than my own – look for Crosscut to be all over the place even more and to have a shot at building broader readership that deserves to be challenged, not comforted, by the content. On Crosscut, that’s going to always enliven things (many of their regular commenters will probably come with them), irritate at times, wonderfully illuminate at times, and that’s how it ought to be and has to be. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, and the right path is striving for the new journalism. It will be great if it can work.

    So, in closing, this:

    "PubliCola was always a wild ride, but then again it never pretended to be anything more than what it was - and for that I respected you guys. R.I.P."

    --Doug MacDonald

    Posted Thu, May 10, 6:19 p.m. Inappropriate

    There have been several especially vicious commenters quite active on Publicola lately. I agree with the hopes above that Crosscut will monitor comments very closely.


    Posted Sun, May 13, 9 p.m. Inappropriate

    Sarah hopes that you'll be censoring anyone who vigorously disputes the junk that emanates from Seattle's so-called "progressives." You see, the "progressives" just love dialogue, as long as no one disputes them. They also love to launch insults, as long as they're not returned.


    Posted Thu, May 10, 7:13 p.m. Inappropriate

    Whoooozat on my bridge? Whoozat? You think you know bridges?
    You don't know bridges. Whooozat on my bridge cuttin' corners?
    Whoozat? Get off my bridge!


    Posted Fri, May 11, 1:58 a.m. Inappropriate

    Isn't Erica from E. Texas? A little Who Dat? might be more up her alley.

    Posted Fri, May 11, 12:51 p.m. Inappropriate

    These two promote the conventional wisdom of the establishment, which is why their Publicola has been subsidized by developers. Please, Please do not hire more shills for Seattle's 1% and seek more funding from that corner. "New Urbanism" is already the official ideology of our local government, propounded at taxpayer expense. We don't need more of it!


    Posted Fri, May 11, 11:12 p.m. Inappropriate

    I think the problem was that Publicola was not subsidized by anyone, and they certainly didn't promote the 1%'s conventional wisdom, unless you consider bike-riding young people the 1%.


    Posted Sun, May 13, 12:43 p.m. Inappropriate

    The facts are otherwise.


    Posted Sun, May 13, 8:57 p.m. Inappropriate

    Ivan is correct. Publicola was owned by Greg Smith, a developer who currently sits on McGinn's phony citizens committee to examine (which is to say, rubber stamp and shill for) a $200 million taxpayer subsidy for the California's billionaire's basketball palace.

    Publicola always shilled for real estate interests here. Kind of reminded me of some of the ads in the back of Seattle Weekly in that regard.


    Posted Fri, May 11, 5:13 p.m. Inappropriate

    I suppose BlueLight does repeat himself (herself?) and, since you deleted the comment there's nothing left to defend but I have to say that I see a lot of regurgitation in the comments and I can just about write Harris Meyer's comments before I see them. That's OK, I just skip over them (but you could skip over BlueLight's too, right?)


    Posted Sun, May 13, 11:56 a.m. Inappropriate

    Welcome to Crosscut, Publicola!

    Those of us who value what you have to offer have followed you here. Along, I suppose with those who don't. . .

    Posted Sun, May 13, 8:52 p.m. Inappropriate

    Whatever you do, Crosscut, please keep a tight leash on Erica. Not for her opinions, which are the standard Seattle "progressive" folderol, but for her inability to get facts right.

    You need to rigorously check everything under her name. At least half of everything she published at Publicola contained glaring factual errors. They embarrassed even her fellow "progressives," and, unless Crosscut pays careful attention, they will wind up embarrassing you.

    Forewarned in forearmed.


    Posted Sun, May 13, 8:54 p.m. Inappropriate

    Not only "in," but forewarned IS forearmed. Which brings up something else: It would take Erica and Josh far, far too long to make corrections. Often, they wouldn't even bother.


    Posted Mon, May 14, 9:31 a.m. Inappropriate

    They're Here.


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