Starting this September, Greg Shaw will succeed me as publisher and CEO of Crosscut Public Media, the nonprofit organization that publishes Crosscut.com. I'm very pleased to be passing the baton of leadership to such an accomplished, well-suited person. The changing of the guard will leave me free to do more regular reporting and writing here, to work on projects, and to continue on the board.
Greg, whom I have known for about eight years, would often talk about how to improve journalism, where his career had started before his high-level jobs at Microsoft and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. We got together about two months ago to talk about Crosscut's search for a new leader. This time, his desire to work in journalism and to help create the new, online models for quality local news had got the best of him. Bingo!
Let me tell you a bit about what I, the board, and the staff were looking for in a new leader. We wanted someone who would devote all energies to the venture, who had deep connections with the community, who deeply valued probing and thoughtful and constructive journalism, who had strong business and strategic skills, who knew online technology, who could be a strong public advocate for our enterprise, and who partnered well with all kinds of advisers, donors, and other organizations. This person also had to be willing to take a risk, since Crosscut (along with similar sites in a half-dozen other cities) is still inventing the sustainable financial model for a reborn local journalism. Greg also brings a penchant for fresh thinking and originality. The fact that he started two blogs (on baseball and flyfishing) attests to his passions and entrepreneurialism.
Another factor was to find a younger person who was truly plugged into the Seattle of today, with its tech-based economy, swarms of very smart newcomers, and a "change-the-world" mentality about work and social change. Obviously, you don't work at places such as Microsoft and the Gates Foundation without picking up this orientation. My hope would be a reinvigorated, much more impactful Crosscut that marries the civic generation that I grew up reporting about, and the Next Seattle readers, movers, and shakers. Who better than Greg to pull this off?
Shaw moved to the Seattle area in 1994, taking a job in corporate communications for Microsoft (a brief biography is here). He especially worked on the company's corporate social responsibility programs. One of his brainstorms, Libraries Online, turned out to be a very early project by the Gates Foundation, which Greg joined in 2004. At the Foundation he currently works on grantee and partner engagement. Earlier jobs involved public policy advocacy and working on programs focused on early childhood education and housing for the homeless.
I'm very proud of Crosscut, its staff, its writers, and its board. It's been an invigorating task in getting it through its first five years, just as it will be a wonderful organization to be part of for the next five. I am also very grateful for all you readers and donors and members and scores of writers who have kept us going and kept us to high standards.
When I retired from Seattle Weekly in 1997, upon its sale to New York's Village Voice, I sought out Paul Brainerd for advice on my next activities. Brainerd, also a former journalist, had enjoyed financial success at Aldus and was now busy creating worthy ventures to save the Northwest's environment and to coax young tech world-beaters into doing good works and social entrepreneurship. He does good guru.
His advice to me was not to start enterprises I might like to run for two decades or so (as was the case with Seattle Weekly), but to help start several worthy ventures in the field of "building intellectual infrastructure" that I announced as my post-Weekly goal. Brainerd advised that this meant arranging matters so that the leadership was passed fairly early to a carefully selected person who would run things for years. One other bit of advice: be clear about what your role will be after the transition, and avoid "founder's syndrome"; that means being helpful where needed (and when asked) and not nervously hovering.
That pattern worked out very well at Town Hall Seattle, where my estimable successor, Wier Harman, has vaulted the organization into being one of the best (and best-loved) multi-disciplinary civic and arts centers in the nation, taking it far beyond what I could have accomplished.
I fully expect that I and all our Crosscut readers and well-wishers will get to enjoy this "Act II" again. A gratifying aspect of this new kind of community-led nonprofit journalism is that it takes many of us, working together, to make it happen. Count me in, Greg!