One day over lunch, a few of us from Crosscut were describing our website to some out-of-town visitors. It's a little tricky:
Crosscut covers current affairs, but it isn't a breaking-news site. Our writers report, they dig, and they hold people accountable, but most of them aren't journalists by training. Some are experts in subjects like transportation, education, and urban planning, but this isn't a niche site the way Sightline is for environmentalists, or TechFlash for high-tech business followers.
So what do we add to the mix of Northwest journalism published on the Web? Knute Berger (Mossback, as regular readers might know him) came up with the best tagline I've heard: "breaking insight." By which he meant the site offers articles that often straddle the border between reporting and opinion — written essay-style and in a way that might lead readers to consider an issue from a perspective just a few degrees, or more, away from where they started.
I'll explain by offering a few of my favorite examples:
Berger himself wrote in May about the move by Real Change, the newspaper written by homeless people, from Belltown to Pioneer Square. He chastised the neighborhood for giving a poor reception to the newspaper, but he also aimed constructive criticism at Timothy Harris, explaining how the man who runs Real Change can be his own worst enemy.
Also last May, Dick Lilly, an ex-Seattle School Board member and a former education reporter for The Seattle Times, made the case for evaluating teachers not by their students' test scores — an argument in the news at the time — but by a rigorous set of tests they'd have to take themselves.
Anthony Robinson wrote in August about the decline of University Baptist Church, an old-style Seattle institution, and the rise of youth-oriented Mars Hill Church, which recently bought the Baptists' building.
It may be that relatively comfortable liberals, so long dominant in Seattle, simply feel little need for religion. Meanwhile, the people Mars Hill is reaching may have experienced more of the rough edges of contemporary society and are receptive to a different direction.
And Judy Lightfoot, who writes periodically about her work volunteering to help homeless and mentally ill people, described in one particularly poignant article the insecurities she felt early on:
Like most Americans I’d learned to fear people with mental illnesses. This was mainly because our society stigmatizes their symptoms and suffering. But mental illness also makes a person unpredictable, and we're wired to feel anxious and guarded around anyone who behaves erratically.
The article described how Lightfoot confronted and overcame her internal conflicts. How genuine it was, and what a compelling testament to the power of community service. Lightfoot's work was among the strongest draws for me as a Crosscut reader, before I began working here. Her insights, and those of many Crosscut writers, provoke thought and introspection, and they add a richness to Web-based journalism that is, sadly, hard to find.
Crosscut aims to be even more breaking with our breaking insight — that is, more timely. We also plan to take on select issues with "spotlight" coverage that is more deeply reported, illuminating and informative. We are growing, and we are part of a nationwide — actually, a worldwide — experiment to see what forms of journalism can survive on the Web.
We need membership support to continue that experiment, to pursue our goals, and to continue sharing insight with readers who are hungry for it.
Please help by joining or renewing your membership here.