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Why critical thinking is critical for journalism and our region, and how Crosscut is renewing its commitment. Please renew your financial support as well.
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David Brewster

Why critical thinking is critical for journalism and our region, and how Crosscut is renewing its commitment. Please renew your financial support as well.

Many years ago, touring the American Southwest, I picked up a small local daily and admired its terse and monosyllabic tagline: “The truth. Well told.” I later learned this was the founding motto of the McCann Erickson advertising agency, dating back to 1912. Regardless, my variation of that for Crosscut has been: “Hard truths. Well told.”

A hard truth is an uncomfortable revelation or argument, one that cuts against the grain of conventional understanding, a “crosscut” if you will. Another way of saying it is that a hard truth shakes one from complacency and advances the argument. Journalism, an inexact craft, is always advancing the argument. That means today’s hard truth needs to be pushed aside by a new hard truth.

But one truth holds firm for this adventure in thoughtful, fair-minded, and community-supported public journalism: we need your support as an Annual Member. Now, during the fall pledge drive, our biggest of the year, is a good time to join or renew. Memberships have tiered privileges, and start as low as $35 a year.

One of the things that I admire about Crosscut is how many writers it has who know how to tack against the winds of prevailing and tired outlooks. Some examples: Jordan Royer’s case for a balanced economy in Seattle, not just a research-based workforce. Doug MacDonald’s uncomfortable discovery that our growth management strategy is not working, since people are moving to where they are not supposed to go. Knute Berger’s crusade to extend our sentimental attachment to historic preservation to all kinds of much more difficult opportunities. Judy Lightfoot’s discovery, in helping homeless and mentally ill people, that they can be very helpful to her. Mark Hinshaw’s tough-minded critique of the preliminary designs for Seattle’s waterfront park, making the point that our penchant for satisfying all possible players is producing a mish-mash.

I also like that these stories are "well told" by writers with voice and personality and a feeling for vivid detail.

We are all trained in school to use “critical thinking.” It’s a way of eluding the emotional and illogical traps of many arguments, thinking things through critically and with independent sources of information. Seattle, which tends toward niceness and complacency, very much needs more critical thinking. It’s coming, for our educated workforce thrives on this kind of rigor in its highly competitive businesses. (Microsoft workers, it’s said, never met an idea that they couldn’t critique.) Those of us who practice it need moral and financial support, for we are habitually brushed off as reflexive “contrarians” or grouches.

So I might suggest a new tagline for this kind of journalism. “Critical. Thinking.”

Crosscut is a critical, meaning essential, aspect of our local civic culture. I’m thrilled that our new publisher, Greg Shaw, is deeply committed to this kind of probing, fresh, challenging journalism. Under him and the new jolt of energy and funding he is bringing to Crosscut, this institution will long last, stay true to its mission of smart journalism, and add all sorts of new dimensions to the online medium we practice. Please join me by becoming an annual member and giving a boost to the new directions, new leadership, and the fine old cause of journalism in the public interest.

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