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Crosscut’s new publisher talks of his plans

Greg Shaw, Crosscut's new publisher/CEO

I am delighted to add my fresh hands to the more weathered ones on the Crosscut saw. What David Brewster and others started five years ago aspires to accomplish two things in the face of great odds. First, to think and write about a region of the world that has captured the imagination of business, government, and cultural leaders everywhere.  Second, as one of the few nonprofit, high-quality journalism organizations in the country, it is helping to define a new business model that gives hope to readers, editors, journalists, advertisers, and (dare I say it) democracies everywhere.

Journalism, news reporting really, was all I ever wanted to do as kid growing up in Oklahoma. I worked as a stringer while still in high school for my hometown newspaper, the Tulsa World. I paid for college working for the local daily, and my first job was as a writer and editor of the Cherokee Advocate, the tribal newspaper for the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.  I went on to write speeches for the U.S. Department of the Interior and eventually found my way out West to help lead communications at Microsoft. For the past nearly nine years I have been a leader at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Going back to journalism is a dream come true, and my enthusiasm for building a place where some of the West’s best writers, thinkers and artists publish will not be sufficient.  We need to look no further than New Orleans or the thinning of newspapers everywhere to see just how trying these times are. While many are fleeing journalism I find myself returning to it.

Crosscut has made no secret of its struggles to raise money in order to survive, much less to become the sustainable news organization this region needs and deserves.  I am committed to doing all that I can. Our situation is not desperate, but it is urgent.  Recent financial commitments to Crosscut are encouraging but not yet sufficient.

As the incoming publisher, I have several immediate priorities.

•To engage our community — members, advertisers, and donors — in developing a strategic vision and plan for Crosscut.

•To shape and help guide the editorial vision, including working with our talented stable of editors and writers as well new editors, writers, and artists we hope to attract. 

•To demonstrate later this Fall our commitment to greater editorial depth and focus, and to  the technology and social media that are expected of any Pacific Northwest product.

Wherever I go in the world, people are genuinely interested to learn that I come from Seattle.  They want to know what is in the water here that produces Pearl Jam, Amazon, the Hutch, software, coffee, notable authors, and hipster trends. I believe a competitive journalistic environment has been and is central to this success.  But our region can do better, and excellent journalism is a critical ingredient in a better community.  When citizens have more facts and context they make better decisions.

There is a one-two punch that journalism can and must provide. To be an active and aware Manhattanite you read The New York Times and The New Yorker.  Austin reads its daily as well as a nonprofit website The Texas Tribune (and of course the celebrated Texas Monthly).  As a devoted reader of The Seattle Times myself I hope that Crosscut can continue to augment and complement our region’s news landscape.

Over the past several weeks I have been ask by friends and supporters, “What can I do to help?” Since I have your attention, here are a few requests:

Readers: Please use your voice, Facebook, Twitter and email to share Crosscut with others. Please become an annual member by contributing what you can.

Advertisers: Participate in our strategic planning and give us a chance. Our readership, both intelligent and engaged, will continue to grow particularly in demographics that can be hard to reach.

Foundations and Sponsors: I hope you can agree that a more informed community is one where the issues, ideas, and results you care about can take hold and scale. We need your engagement in our planning, and we need your support.

Writers and artists:  I want established as well as new contributors.  We need and want your ideas. Think of Crosscut as a platform for your work to reach an appreciative audience.

Community leaders: Think of Crosscut as a constructive place for public discourse on the issues and policies you care about. Read us, write for us, and think of us as a place, either online or through public gatherings, where we can convene different perspectives to work toward solutions.

Send your questions, ideas, and feedback to greg.shaw@crosscut.com or through Facebook and Twitter. Crosscut thanks you.

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