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How's Crosscut doing?

A report from the publisher, and the start of summer hours
David Brewster.

David Brewster.

This year, Crosscut marked its fifth anniversary of publishing. Our mission has been to tap informed and original observers of this region, journalists and citizenry alike; to put thoughtful, many-sided commentary on the region before the readers; and to explore ways for the revolution in web media to serve the public good, find solutions, and improve local discourse and understanding. You are the judge as to how well we've done and if this mission and this website are worthy of your support.

Crosscut has spent the past two years, buoyed by foundation support, in building the infrastructure to fulfill this mission. In recent months we have redesigned the site, shifted to a leading-edge content-management system, doubled our advertising and underwriting support, boosted annual membership significantly, held Member events such as "Meet the Writers" parties, and added dozens of new and more diverse writers to the Crosscut family. Thanks for all your support across the years.

Creating a new form of in-depth local journalism is tough going, in this city as in many others, especially during a recession. Crosscut has hit a rough patch, and we ask your patience and continued support as we get through this period, work on some new approaches, and rebuild the House of Crosscut.

For the next few months, Crosscut will be on summer hours, publishing as usual each day but with temporarily reduced staff and hours. We need the period to refuel the venture and to develop a new plan and new leadership for Crosscut.

Several factors have caused us to tap on the brakes over the summer. Three major grants to Crosscut all expire this year, producing our own kind of "fiscal cliff." Crosscut Public Media, the nonprofit institution that publishes Crosscut.com, is in the midst of succession planning that will allow me to scale back my involvement and put the leadership of the venture in dynamic new hands. This new phase of Crosscut will raise significant funds around the new vision and leadership team, but it has taken longer than expected. We concluded that it makes sense to spend more time on forging this new plan right now, diverting some time and effort from just putting out each day's edition. I am very involved in helping this transition and expect to continue to be involved in the organization going forward.

During the summer, Crosscut will look the same and continue to publish the kind of probing and original reporting and commentary we always have. There will be fewer stories during these summer hours. We hope you continue to read us, commenting (some of you!), joining as annual Members, and telling others about this important venture in the local media ecology. We are also working on ways for our readers, our Members, and the community at large to help in shaping and critiquing our plans for new directions. Please send us your suggestions and tell us if you'd like to participate in some community focus groups on the future of Crosscut. Send them to editor@crosscut.com, or use my personal email, david.brewster@crosscut.com.

It's easy to take something like Crosscut for granted.  Readers in other cities such as New Orleans assumed that their valued local papers would be there for them — until they suddenly shrank or evaporated. Crosscut looks robust; it comes out each day; it adds more articles and writers; it engages in experiments (such as having the Publicola team try out Crosscut as a new home); and it scores generous grants from well-heeled foundations. Not to worry?

It's not that simple. This new model of "journalism in the public interest" really does need broad financial support, including some very generous donors, if it is going to live up to its high mission. Crosscut has not enjoyed the kind of significant capitalization that has been the case in some peer cities (notably Minneapolis, San Francisco, Austin, and San Diego). That's why I and the board and the staff have been working hard to find a new model and new leadership that can attract that kind of significant, multi-year donations and the stability and ability to execute they will bring.


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Comments:

Posted Fri, Jun 15, 2:56 p.m. Inappropriate

The staus quo, and Masters of the NW Serfdom, appreciate your dedicated guardianship of the castle gates. We know we can count on you.
Thanks Dave.
Jsa
PS. you ever find a writer capable of understanding dissent ?
I understand that Robin Hood might be willing to be interviewed if you could find one.

Jamesa

Posted Fri, Jun 15, 4:15 p.m. Inappropriate

As a founding contributor to Crosscut, I was thrilled to help launch a showcase of original reporting and a forum for civil, civic discussion. Since then, the P-I has shrunk, Publicola went poof and even the Seattle Times deals with resource limitations.

Having covered technology for the Times and written a book on the mobile phone industry, I look positively on change brought by technology. There are more ways for people to speak to communities and be heard. We've gained, but we've lost certain things.

In Seattle, our soggy town of readers, innovators, thinkers and talkers, how many places, print or online, can we see ideas introduced and discussed? Where conventional wisdom can be challenged?

Hang in there, Crosscut.

--Casey Corr

Posted Fri, Jun 15, 5 p.m. Inappropriate

Frankly, no great loss. The only time I check in here is to see Crosscut's latest muckraking of the duly-elected leadership of the Seattle School District, the School Board. And NO, that is not just Michael DeBell, as much as he, Frank Greer, Jon Bridge, Sara Morris, Chris Korsmo etc would like to think so.

These obnoxious emails illustrate how these folks attempt to work around that pesky subject of democracy and transparency to run our public schools into the ground for Bill Gates' (and his investor friends') benefit.

http://www.scribd.com/doc/96437845/Insider-Emails

http://www.scribd.com/doc/97221690/More-Powerbroker-Emails

These are who you work for, right Brewster? That's why you called the newly-elected board members "insurgents". Can you blame people for not subscribing to your "yellow journalism"?

Barney

Posted Fri, Jun 15, 5:31 p.m. Inappropriate

In the midst of "Too Big to Know, a fascinating bore of a read, Crosscut came first to mind when I came across ~"no matter how many echo chambers the Internet enables, doing so excludes more differences than ever before" and ~ "the Internet forces one to face the tensions in our strategy of knowing, seeing for the first time now diverse and divergent the ideas around us are and now they are affected by and effect events," making many more things "too big to ever know."

Crosscut's struggle to row a course between those two insights has been visible and much appreciated. I will keep you as a (more serene) start page and will encourage others to join me. Here's to summer hours leading you to the flow.

afreeman

Posted Fri, Jun 15, 11:19 p.m. Inappropriate

Thanks for this excellent post, David. Like Casey Corr, I'm a founding contributor to Crosscut. It is hugely important. There is no other outlet for intelligent discourse on topics of civic importance.

lazowska

Posted Sun, Jun 17, 8:48 a.m. Inappropriate

So long as you regularly serve as a platform for political advocacy, you will be open to charges of propagandists. See Roger Valdez, et al. The recent fling with those two "journalists who are dedicated to non-partisan, original daily reporting that prioritizes a balanced approach to news" doesn't help in that regard.

Hope you got a lot of money for the "How Tribes Are Saving the World" advertisements.

BlueLight

Posted Sun, Jun 17, 11:15 a.m. Inappropriate

Crosscut is strongest when it presents thoughtful articles on long term local news. The recent diversion towards Morning Fizzes, Midday Scans and afternoon Jolts is in my view a major distraction especially since the new web site format jumbles up substantive articles with these not-so substantive entries. In an age of near-instant communications, Crosscut can play a role by recognizing that only very occasionally does an informed citizenry need to be updated on a thrice-daily basis. My favorite source for national and global news and opinion are the Economist and New Yorker and hopefully Crosscut can become an on-line local equivalent of these weeklies. A leaner Crosscut with fewer better researched and edited stories will be a better read. Good luck

Posted Sun, Jun 17, 10:39 p.m. Inappropriate

Crosscut is an important experiment so I hope it prospers. I'd offer three quick thoughts.

First, I suspect that Crosscut can make the biggest long-term contribution to building public media capacity here in Washington if it sees itself as an umbrella for a variety of experiments rather than as a single media outlet. For example, I'd love to see a South Sound edition of Crosscut with a mixture of locally-generated and shared content. Note that an Olympia-based outlet could significantly boost the depth of Crosscut's capital coverage.

Second, I hope you will experiment with new ways of cultivating web-based dialogue. As a case in point, I'd pay a membership fee to be part of discussion groups that operated much like graduate seminars in their analytical quality and civility.

Third, I suspect that Crosscut is most likely to grow if it experiments with funding models that don't rely so heavily upon advertising. However, in order to generate sufficient readership revenue you may need to develop more specialized content and services. For example, I'd pay for quality state-level news coverage, but it would need to emphasize objective reporting rather than punditry by partisan activists.

Posted Mon, Jun 18, 7:54 a.m. Inappropriate

Summer...time to let the young journalists and interns have thier say? or move the center of interest up to the San Juan Islands, Chelan, boating interests and the like? Your readership spreads out for the summer, plenty of local news in a broader state wide context. And the up and coming reporters and interns, couldn't they fill some shoes? main thing is Crosscut fills a void of intelligent reporting. Like the first version of the Weekly, an essential element to Seattle.

chapala21

Posted Mon, Jun 18, 9:03 a.m. Inappropriate

Crosscut is a membership organization and cannot survive without the financial support of its members. Crosscut helps people open their minds; please encourage more Crosscut by opening your wallets!

Rita

Posted Mon, Jun 18, 12:54 p.m. Inappropriate

Thank you, Mr. Brewster, for the status report. Though I doubt electronic media can ever replace the forcefulness of ink on paper -- the former is toggle-controlled and therefore definitively ephemeral, while the latter is empowered by its own physical substance -- I applaud your efforts to (at least) approach the former relevance of print.

Even were your sole objective merely filling the vacuum created by the One Percent's variously disguised efforts to control and eventually shut off the flow of information vital to the rest of us, I'd rate your success somewhere in the 90th percentile, with the stipulation what Crosscut loses in immediacy it typically adds and often multiplies in reportorial depth.

For this reason I echo Mr. Salmi's suggestion for additional South Sound coverage, not merely of Olympia but especially of Tacoma, a major seaport that is economically significant in other ways as well, for example a food-bank system sustained by its own farm. Tacoma is culturally innovative too: apart from New York City, it has the nation's only high school focused specifically on education in the arts.

Alas, in today's United States, even the best most comprehensive reporting too often tosses metaphorical pearls to proverbial swine. We are so irremediably dumbed down – so opiated by celebrity, so seduced by trinket materialism, so befuddled by deliberately induced ignorance – I doubt even a coast-to-coast publication staffed exclusively by Pulitzer recipients could rescue us from the miasma of Moron Nation.

Nevertheless the one thing electronic media does seem to excel at is providing a public forum that is much more accessible (and therefore certainly much more compelling) than the old letters-to-the-editor columns. Hence it would surely be interesting were some sociologist able to devise a means of tracking the impact the presence such forums might have, say, on voter participation.

In any case, Mr. Brewster, we are fortunate in having you – a person possessed of the now-almost-extinct combination of civic-mindedness with wealth and influence – and the publication you so generously provide. Thanks again.

Posted Mon, Jun 18, 3:33 p.m. Inappropriate

David- We contributors to "Mercer Island Patch" look to you for inspiration. As for me, I write mainly about Residential Architecture- how I've made my living. Jerry-

http://mercerisland.patch.com/

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