I believe that an informed public is essential if we are to find good solutions to the civic and political challenges of our time. Conveniently for me, that’s our mission here at Crosscut.
I also believe that we cannot possible achieve an informed public on our own. Crosscut needs KUOW. We need the Seattle Times and the Stranger. We need KCTS, KPLU, and the Seattle Weekly. We need the New York Times and The Colbert Report (RIP) and local neighborhood newspapers like the Rainier Valley Post as well. Well-informed citizens and civic engagement are critical to a healthy society, and it takes more than one news source to achieve that.
The American Press Institute found that the average American gets their news from between four and five of eight different types of news sources within a week. And yet even one news agency closure, or one site scaling back their coverage, has immediate and negative impacts on civic engagement in our communities.
KUOW just announced that its Spring Member Drive didn’t reach its fundraising goal, and Wednesday morning you’ll likely hear from me that we didn’t reach our Spring Member Drive goal either. (Click here to change that.) Aside from not getting to show you the killer “We made it!” mime that our team designed, it also means that we’ll potentially have tens of thousands less in our editorial budget this year. That’s hundreds of in-depth stories that we’re not going to be able to publish.
A study by Routledge on major metropolitan areas found that the level of civic engagement in Seattle and Denver had dropped “significantly” from 2008 to 2009. That year, both cities lost major daily newspapers. Researchers concluded that the decline “may plausibly be attributed to the newspaper closures.”
I’m not just concerned about voter turnout or the demographics of those running for office, but also the number of residents providing public comment on policy, joining the debate, volunteering for a neighborhood cleanup day, or even going on Twitter and starting civic dialogue.
The Northwest that I want to live in is one in which a person encounters an issue in their community — civic or otherwise — and tries to solve it rather than waiting for someone else to do so. But in order to live in that society, residents need the tools necessary to take action.
And that’s where Crosscut comes in.
As the Pacific Northwest’s reader-supported, independent, non-profit electronic journal, Crosscut strives to provide you with the facts and analysis you need to intelligently participate in civic discourse on politics, culture and technology.
Whether you’re trying to get a sidewalk on your neighborhood or run for City Council, we aim to inform and fuel that action. However I don’t see this as the only role that Crosscut plays.
We want to go beyond informing the engaged, to building an onramp for those that aren’t yet engaged. We want to go beyond what people are talking about to what people should be talking about.
That’s why we’re launching the Crosscut Civic Ambassador program, to engage volunteer representatives from communities around the Northwest who will gather necessary insight, new and different perspectives, and raise the questions that their neighborhood most wants Crosscut to explore.
Beyond this, we want to hear from you directly through whatever medium you chose. Comment on our articles. Join the discussion on Twitter or Facebook. Take a photo of it and share it on Instagram. Call or email. Show up at the next Civic Cocktail and ask a question of the panelists.
Tell us your opinion. Tell us where we need to improve. Pitch a story idea you’d like to write. Tell us about someone who should be writing for us. Present an opinion that hasn’t gotten airtime. Tell us an idea you have to solve a vexing civic issue.
Any. Way. You. Can. Be part of the gateway to an informed and civically active region.
And support news. Not just Crosscut (though now would be a good time to do so since tomorrow is the last day of our Spring Member Drive).
Because an informed public is essential if we are to find good solutions to the civic and political challenges of our time.