The last time a publisher asked me to try to explain why I write for Crosscut, a single incantatory word seemed to say it all: community. A community of citizens, a community of the curious, a community of neighbors in the Great Nearby.
Now a new Crosscut publisher has asked the same question. And history seems to have repeated itself — in different form but not (I hope) as Marxian farce. Not to gainsay community, but I realize another word also holds a key to the Crosscut experience. That word is trust.
I don't mean that Crosscut readers trust Crosscut writers any more than readers anywhere trust reporters and opinionaters. If anything, to judge by the comments you post, you bring more than the usual quotient of healthy skepticism to the enterprise — as you should. You challenge us, just as we try to challenge you
And that's where the trust comes in. Crosscut trusts its readers to be readers to digest facts and follow complex arguments, to weigh contrary views and unexpected ideas (and, having weighed, to render merciless judgment on them). And to care about important things.
Once this might have been a given at any high-toned publication. Today, it's a rare luxury. We see and hear the results every day, as readers, viewers and listeners — publishers and programmers pandering to us with cotton-candy features, big ideas and thorny challenges reduced to glib spin and packaged personalities. I see them again and again when I write for putatively more prestigious, certainly more lucrative outlets. They strip away the science from science subjects, for fear that tender readers will be affrighted by a word they forgot from high school chemistry. They paste false hope and cheery epigraphs on subjects that really are dire. And they purge allusions to any cultural artifact older than the latest tween heartthrob.
One editor insisted on excising an Animal Farm allusion in a headline on the grounds that Orwell was too obscure — not realizing that the Gen Yers she craved to reach all read Animal Farm in middle school. In the race to go younger and dumber, the anxious Web-shocked, Twitter-tweaked media are at least achieving the latter, and tying themselves in knots of intellectual self-censorship.
I would never promise not to say anything stupid (too late, anyway). But at Crosscut, when I stumble, I do so in full stride, not because I'm trying to stoop to some imagined lowest common denominator. I write as I would wish to be written to. Thank you, dear reader, for giving me the chance, and for fulfilling our trust.
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