Digging deeper with Crosscut

Working on last year's commercial fishing series reminded me how much I value Crosscut.
Crosscut writer and supporter Steve Dunphy

Crosscut writer and supporter Steve Dunphy

I was looking at the Crosscut web site the other day and spotted one of the gifts for people who contribute to the organization. It was a t-shirt that said “when we dig deeper it goes somewhere.” That rang true to me as a reporter and writer for Crosscut, especially after my experience last summer with the series on the commercial fishing industry.

It all started when former publisher Greg Shaw attended a conference on the Bering Sea fishery and concluded that “it must be the largest industry in our region that gets little or no coverage.”

Before long, four Crosscut writers had been assigned to address various aspects of the industry. The resulting series, Thanks for All the Fish, looked into the billion-dollar commercial fishing business which "has defined and sustained our fair city since its founding.” It was a classic Crosscut deep dig, delving into the vital, sprawling, oft-forgotten heart of Seattle's economy and character.

Knute Berger took his iconic Mossback viewpoint, explaining that today’s fishing industry actually grew out of the Alaska Purchase and the prodding of our state legislature by one feisty fisherman. Eric Scigliano asked, and answered, the question: "What, you didn’t know Seattle was built on cod?" Dan Chasan explored the environmental and sustainability side of the industry. Seattle's fishing fleet provides a rich catch of pollock for a hungry world, but is the fishery as secure as it seems?

I handled the business side of commercial fishing: the dollars, the jobs, the economic impact. Despite all the changes the Seattle economy has been through in the past century, fishing has endured.  As one fisher put it: “The salmon still swim the same way.”

Like many Crosscut ventures, the series spawned other stories. Rick Wood, a fisherman for 40 years, told his personal story about making a living fishing in Alaska. Despite the hazards and the hardships, he couldn't imagine doing anything else. The series spawned several pure news stories as people began to realize how important the fishery — and overall maritime industry — is to our regional economy.

I know of no other on-line media that would, or could, devote those kinds of resources, expertise and deep regional knowledge to a topic like commercial fishing. I was honored to be part of that project that looked so deeply into one of the region’s signature industries, one that has defined the region for more than 100 years.

Truly, when Crosscut digs, it goes somewhere. It is why I am not only a Crosscut writer, but a supporter too.   

Stephen H. Dunphy writes on business and economic issues for Crosscut. He was a business editor and columnist for a number of years at The Seattle Times.


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