Letter from the Publisher

Crosscut is exploring a shift to a nonprofit model. Here's why.
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David Brewster

Crosscut is exploring a shift to a nonprofit model. Here's why.

As they say, these are exciting times in media, including here at Crosscut. We have been exploring a significant shift in our business model, from a for-profit company (as we have been since starting in April, 2007) to a nonprofit model. The goal, if we decide to make the shift, is a Crosscut.com that has the potential of growing bigger and faster, thanks to additional streams of revenue from donors and members.

Shifting tracks in this way is exciting but not easy. First is a period in which all the owners of Crosscut LLC (there are 25 of us) need to consider and vote on the proposal. During this interim, we need to economize rations, for we cannot continue to raise investment in Crosscut if the model is going to change. To conserve cash for the next two to three months, we'ꀙve temporarily cut staff and other expenses. Editor Chuck Taylor as chosen to take this time off, and there'ꀙs a good chance he'ꀙll be back on board after we make the switch. We'ꀙve put site development on hold for now, and made a few changes in the site (such as dropping the Top of the News feature in column 1). All the writers you follow in Crosscut.com will continue. I, deputy editor Lisa Albers, and others will be filling in for Chuck as editor. (Big shoes, I know!)

The nonprofit model, if we decide to adopt it, has much to commend it. Two Crosscut-like sites — MinnPost.com in Minneapolis, and VoiceofSanDiego.org in San Diego — are excellent examples, both combining advertising revenues with grants and annual memberships. There are many interesting experiments on other websites. Chitowndailynews.com in Chicago is one example, a site that trains citizens to report in neighborhoods, with professional editing. ProPublica.com is another new idea, using grants to produce investigative journalism made available to multiple outlets. A good local example is Sightline.org, which produces its own thoughtful research about sustainability in this region and has a daily news-aggregation site. And of course public broadcast is the major illustration of the idea of listener-supported media.

The more we have studied this community-media model the more it looks like an important new way to help local journalism survive many adverse economic trends, and the looming bad economy. It puts the public interest back into journalism, and it helps to reconnect readers/members with the site in ways that the interactive features of the Web make more natural and illuminating. A nonprofit board, dedicated to the longterm mission of public education and more thoughtful approaches to the news, assures that the site remains locally controlled and mission-driven for decades into the future. And, as as this New York Times story points out, these websites can do lots of original and hard-hitting reporting, even with small staffs.

As I say, we have not decided on this course, though we are affirmatively moving in that direction. I thank you for helping us to grow very substantially during the recent months. And I would very much appreciate your thoughts about this idea. Please write me at david.brewster@crosscut.com.


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