Crosscut is a leading pioneer in member-supported, high-quality, nonpartisan, online local journalism. Here at the year's end, as you are sorting through the many requests for charitable causes, I hope you'll include Crosscut. Donations are tax deductible, and they earn you benefits on the tiered Membership levels. Your donations are also critical in helping us to meet the match requirements for the major foundation grants we received this past year.
You can donate easily on the Donate Page, or you can send me an email with a pledge amount (email@example.com) and I'll send you an invoice. You can also pay by check (Crosscut Public Media, 105 S. Main Street, Suite 330, Seattle 98104). You can donate on a monthly installment plan, if you wish. Please be generous. And remember, giving a Membership to a friend makes a nice gift to them and to the cause.
With your support and the hundreds of others who help, we will realize some exciting plans in the coming year. Here's a short preview:
One of our most exciting initiatives for 2011 is what we call the Citizen Activation Project, which will be directed by Deputy Editor Joe Copeland. This project, with national grant support from the Knight Foundation and local match from The Seattle Foundation, will be an important national pilot project to develop what we call "the complete reader." This is a reader who moves along the spectrum from passive consumption of information to being a "contributor" — making comments, sending stories to friends, joining Crosscut as a Member, signing up with related problem-solving organizations for volunteering, for getting a newsletter, and for making a donation.
You'll soon see how this works, thanks to some "activation engines" we are now designing that will let you move from a story to a field of independent data about organizations that are working to solve the problems discussed in the story. We won't adivse you on what action to take, but we'll steer you to data-rich sites that list and often evaluate nonprofits active in that field. You take it from there.
The Activation initiative is consistent with the "constructive journalism" that has been part of the Crosscut mission since we began in April 2007. One sense of the term is that stories on the Web tend to "construct" before your eyes — comments come in, the author modifies the story as more is learned, and the discussion continues and on other sites like Facebook or related blogs.
Another sense is that reporters don't just report that polarized debate but pay a lot of attention to attempts to solve problems and move past impasse. I call this "follow the solutions," often the hardest part of the story to unearth, but one that is true to the actual work of self-government. While this sometimes means an author proposing his or her solution, that is not necessary and it should be just part of the narrative of looking for constructive answers, not the answer. (That preference for multiple answers is one reason we don't have an editorial page and favor writers from a wide spectrum of interpretation.)
And now comes a third aspect of being constructive: Providing channels by which complete readers can activate themselves, help make things better.
The Citizen Activation Project has two other components that I hope you'll like. One is to find and post stories from a wider ideological and geographical basis, including mining our comments for points that deserve wider dissemination. As an editor and writer at papers in the region, Joe did a lot of work soliciting and patting into shape op-eds. Now he has the charge to do this here, using the much greater resources of online journalism.
The other new component is what we call "Spotlight Projects." This idea, borrowed from a successful experiment in Philadelphia, will be to "flood the zone" of a current topic where the public is involved and eager for lots of information, neutrally presented. In the salad days of the legacy media, newspapers could be "papers of record" on many topics — covering all the meetings, posting the news, staying with a beat for years. We want to emulate that on two or three hot topics each year, using the vast archiving resources of the Web to give those following a debate all kinds of data and information. The goal is to build public trust that the ultimate decision is not made behind closed doors and is based on data the public also sees. The Viaduct debate in the past would be an example of that. What ideas might you have for the coming year? Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
As you have perhaps seen, Crosscut will be adding a new publisher in the coming year, as well as a new (our fourth) editor. Here's my explanation of these new positions, and applications close on Jan.1. These are two key leadership positions, made possible by the grants and other support from members and sponsors. In effect, these new hires will allow me to step back from all the day to day work. I will continue as board chair, coach, talent scout, and writer. The new leaders will both honor the Crosscut mission of journalism that serves the public good, and be able to lift the site to greater levels of financial stability and ambition. I hope we have exciting news to report about that soon.
We have grown at an encouraging pace this past year. The count of monthly unique visitors to the site (unduplicated readers for a month) has grown 51 percent in the past year — and is up 78 percent from two years ago. That's a tribute to editors Joe Copeland and Michele Matassa Flores, as well as the many new writers they have brought into our corral.
Here's a partial list of the writers who joined our fine stable of writers just this past year: Jordan Royer (politics), Hugo Kugiya (food and public affairs), Jean Lenihan (dance and theater), Ray Gastil (theater and design), Stuart Silk (architecture), Ronald Holden (food, wine, travel, media), Mark Hinshaw (architecture and urban design), Mark Trahant (Native American topics and health care), C.B. Hall (transportation), Alice Kaderlan (arts and marketing), Collin Tong (politics and culture), Julie Pham (diverse cultures), Peter Ladner (Vancouver, B.C.), Skip Ferderber (technology), and Roger Valdez (politics and density issues).
Lastly, I'm very pleased about our new offices in Pioneer Square. They are large enough to handle the expected growth, and we have nearby a public space that will enable us to put on more public forums, parties, and Member events. It was nice to see many of you at our office-warming party for Members hree weeks ago, on a First Thursday Art Walk night. We're all dressed up and ready to go.
Your donation will make that much more likely to happen, so I hope you'll send in a year-end donation as your vote of confidence in Crosscut and the new directions of local media. James Fallows, the distinguished journalist, Atlantic writer, and media critic, has observed that "Crosscut is giving valuable lessons, every day, in how news of the future will, and should, look."
Thanks for being a reader, thanks for all your helpful criticisms and suggestions, and thanks especially for helping in this critical year-end drive to make our budget for 2010. Please donate today.