Letter from the Publisher: We rely on members

As a member, you can sustain quality journalism in the public interest, helping Crosscut to thrive and improve. And there's a chance to win a Kindle.

Crosscut archive image.

David Brewster

As a member, you can sustain quality journalism in the public interest, helping Crosscut to thrive and improve. And there's a chance to win a Kindle.

Today is the start of our fall membership campaign, and I urge you to become a contributor to Crosscut or to renew your annual membership. We rely to a very large degree on our individual supporters to sustain the quality journalism in the public interest that is the Crosscut mission. Please consider how much you enjoy and learn from Crosscut over the year, and the importance of funding in-depth, nonpartisan, and thoughtful journalism for our region. Contributions are tax-deductible. As a member you will enjoy benefits and free-to-members events. Annual memberships begin as low as $35 a year, which works out to only 67 cents a week.

As a member, you'll have the satisfaction of helping Crosscut to thrive and improve. We hold frequent free-to-members events (five in the past year), such as an upcoming forum with our political writers and some campaign veterans discussing the current election. We expect to be moving this fall to new quarters in Pioneer Square, where we will have the facilities for many more events, forums, parties, and meet-ups. These events are fun, as well as a good way for us to hear directly from our most attentive readers about issues and ways to improve Crosscut. And we'll be offering discounted tickets and other "backstage" experiences.

During this fall membership drive, we're also giving away one Kindle per week to winners of a drawing from new and renewing members. Each week we will also offer tickets to local performing arts groups available through our website.

Recently, Crosscut has earned significant support from three foundations. One of these entities is the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has awarded Crosscut Public Media, publishers of Crosscut.com, $200,000 in general support funding for each of the next two years. This generous grant requires a match of $200,000 from other donors by next spring, so your contribution as an annual member is very important in meeting this match requirement. Put another way, your donation will be doubled, by being matched by an equal amount from the Gates Foundation.

Just this week, Crosscut has received support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the leading national funder of new media ventures. This grant, part of the Knight Foundation's Community Information Challenge, is for two years and is in the form of a $185,500 challenge grant, to be matched at that amount by the Seattle Foundation. The Knight grant is highly competitive, and we are honored to have earned their confidence in Crosscut. The joint program with The Seattle Foundation, called a Citizen Activation Program, will deepen Crosscut's coverage and range of voices, provide intense and objective coverage of certain urgent topics of public interest, and offer new ways for readers to become "contributors" -- learning more about an issue, discovering ways to help solve these problems, and participating in solutions. I'll be writing more about this new initiative in a later post.

These generous grants are one indication of the growth of Crosscut, which was launched in April, 2007. The growth in readership of Crosscut, from last August to this year, has been 20 percent. We have added two very experienced editors in the past year. Joe Copeland, our new deputy editor, comes from many years on the editorial board of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and before that in senior editorial positions at the Everett Herald. Associate Editor Michele Matassa Flores worked in key editor positions at The Seattle Times after distinguished work as a business reporter. Executive Director Jill Mogen has held senior management positions at several local magazines and has been developing Crosscut's membership strategies as well as creating our advertising and underwriting sponsorship programs, other key parts of our revenue strategy. Our office manager and membership coordinator, Marilyn Hoe, was my former colleague at Town Hall. We have a new website developer, Jon Sayer. And my longtime colleague at Seattle Weekly, where he was publisher, Mike Crystal, serves as associate publisher and chief business strategist. Our stable of writers now numbers about 50, spread across the Northwest.

Another positive indicator is the encouraging spread of the Crosscut business model to many other cities. This is a heartening ratification, as well as the source of inspiration and strategic advice. The key element of this emerging business model for online, local journalism is nonprofit operation, with strong membership support. The nonprofit model is a "public good" version of journalism, free from commercial pressures. Journalism in the public interest means that we do not have to pursue large circulation numbers (for selling ads) or a narrow demographic targeting (to please certain categories of advertisers). Editors can assign the kind of stories that need to be done, that dwindling mainstream media are neglecting. They can cultivate writers and perspectives from a broad spectrum, using the Web to deepen and challenge.

I put our mission this way: to find and produce each day some of the most thoughtful, original, and readable journalism of the region. Note that word "find." That means we scour many other sources for good writing and reporting and new perspectives, and then send our readers to those sites. Our "Clicker" feature does this with up to 30-40 stories a day, each selected by an experienced editor (not a computer). We've just added a new feature, by the way, where you can both send us good stories you spot around the region so we can consider posting them, and a way for you to comment on these stories on our site, thus initiating conversations about them here in Seattle and the Northwest. Serving the public good means being unselfish in this way: spread the good stuff around, start important conversations about critical issues.

There is no shortage of jeremiads about America's declining media. But rather than being defeatist, we think it makes sense to be inventive. Nonprofit, web journalism at a local level is a good way to rebuild a trusting, contributing relationship between media and readers — even activating those readers as our new project with Knight and Seattle Foundation plans to do. There are many positive developments amid the "creative destruction" of old models: the rise of National Public Radio, the spreading of quality national dailies like The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, and the way web models of interactivity are rejuvenating local dailies and broadcast outlets. Seattle is a leading city in generating new media, with strong neighborhood blogs, some valuable niche sites such as Publicola.net and Techflash.com, and the nationally significant experimentation in a "second-daily" model at Seattlepi.com.

Jim Fallows, the distinguished journalist and journalism observer, recently wrote: "Lots of people are talking about how journalism 'should' adapt to the internet age, and how local reporting can survive when newspapers can't. Crosscut is giving valuable lessons every day in how news of the future will, and should look."

So buck up, folks. And please do your bit to support these significant efforts at redefining journalism for a new era and a new readership. Crosscut can't do it without your support. I look forward to meeting you as a new or renewing member at some of our events for members. And I thank you for your invaluable support and confidence in the Crosscut adventure. Onward!


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