How’s Crosscut doing?
David Brewster, founder of Crosscut.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or use my personal email, email@example.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.
We could lose Crosscut, just as the region has lost the print Post-Intelligencer and the Eastside Journal and numerous other websites that have tried to partially fill these voids. Newspaper industry revenues are half what they were in 2005. In the Seattle market it is estimated that about half the working journalists have lost their jobs, hugely diminishing our local media market in the past five years.
Crosscut is one powerful way to counter these trends. It is also one of the few locally-owned, community-directed media companies left in Seattle. Very few have a high-minded public mission at their core, as Crosscut does. We need to bounce back stronger than ever, and I hope you agree on the importance of Crosscut for our civic community and for informed democracy, and will help.
So please keep reading us, advertising with us, and supporting us as annual Members. Obviously, this is a very good time for you to send us a vote of confidence by joining or chipping in some more if you are already a Member. The quicker you help the sooner we can bring our devoted staffers back to full hours. Donations are tax-deductible and start at $35 for an Annual Member; Sustaining Members are $100, and Patron level is $500, with tiered benefits such as free events and discounted tickets. It's easy to join online.
Thanks for listening and for all your support. Special thanks, too, to our Crosscut staffers and writers who are staying loyal while struggling with pay cuts in a tough time.