Crosscut Focus

Crosscut's Focus series seeks to elevate and examine some of the most significant issues facing the people and places of the Pacific Northwest through in-depth reporting and inventive multimedia storytelling.


The Spooky PNW

Did you know Washington state has bigfoots, serpents and flying saucers, oh my? To celebrate Halloween, we've compiled some of our weirdest, wackiest and wildest Washington lore. Read if you dare. 

Layers of Smoke

A birds eye view of Lake Union from the Seattle Needle
Lake Union from the Space Needle observation deck in 2018 in Seattle. Haze from wildfires caused a decrease in air quality in the area. (Sarah Hoffman/Crosscut)

On the afternoon of Wednesday, Oct. 19, Seattle was ranked as the worst city worldwide for air quality and pollution, according to IQAir. Western Washington has been under an air-quality alert since Friday, which was extended until 5 p.m. Thursday. 

The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency issued a wildfire smoke alert for the region on Tuesday, saying smoke will cause the air quality to reach unhealthy levels near active fires and reach the unhealthy-for-sensitive-groups level or worse in other areas.

If the smoke is making you concerned about yourself and your surroundings, you're not alone. Revisit these Crosscut articles to learn how wildfire smoke intersects with climate change, public health and the environment. 


Making Seattle Home

Crosscut explores the question: Do you have to be rich to buy a home in Seattle? In this series of stories and videos, you will meet people who found a way to buy a home in one of the most expensive real estate markets in the country, without the benefit of wealth behind them. We also offer a primer on the resources available to middle class buyers. And you'll meet some folks who have given up entirely on buying in Seattle.

Fall Arts Preview 2022

dancer from above

As Seattle’s theaters, museums and music venues gear up for a busy art season full of new shows, exhibits and festivals, Crosscut’s arts and culture desk brings you a curated selection of must-see fall art events and continues our coverage of the pandemic's effects on the cultural sector.

Open for Visitors

an orange-topped space needle peeks from behind a hotel building

As Washington prepares for a summer of visitors, the Crosscut news desk is exploring the economic and cultural effects of tourism in the Evergreen state.

Cops and Credibility

three images of police merged in a triptych

After the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, Crosscut decided to find out how many officers in Washington state had landed on prosecutors’ lists of cops with credibility issues. These lists, commonly known as Brady lists, flag officers for issues such as lying, filing inaccurate reports, showing racial bias or using excessive force – anything that could cause an officer’s word to be questioned in court.

By examining prosecutors’ files across 39 Washington counties, Crosscut identified 183 cops who had been flagged by prosecutors as having credibility issues, yet who continued to work in law enforcement. Additional reporting revealed some of these officers had initially been fired for their actions, but were later reinstated through arbitration. Others had changed departments even after prosecutors labeled them as having credibility issues. One such officer was later elected as a city council member in the same town that had once pushed him out of its police department.

Cops, drugs and civil forfeiture

Composite image of man in chair, jewelry, cash and a house

Seattle-based journalist Eric Scigliano spent months digging into a legal process that allows police to seize and sell homes, money and other property they contend are connected to crimes, even when no charges are filed. Washington's civil forfeiture laws are among the nation's most favorable to police, and powerful police lobbies have knocked down legislative efforts to restrain them. Cities and counties in the state increasingly rely on forfeiture to underwrite policing, taking in $11.9 million in 2020, more than in any other year since 2005, even as the drug war winds down.

On Native Ground

Clockwise: a person stands in front of a lake, a view of snow mountains, a backyard reflected on glass, a woman stands in a forest.

Native communities everywhere have always led the charge to reclaim ancestral lands taken through settlement, treaties and outright theft. Sometimes called the “Landback” movement, these efforts have seen recent major gains in mainstream momentum: Under that term and the accompanying hashtag, activists have fought all across the world for the return of sacred spaces to their original stewards and for the reclamation of cultural practices that come with them. (NDN Collective’s demonstrations at the base of Mount Rushmore demanding the return of both that land and the surrounding Black Hills is one high-profile example.) 

This year’s confirmation of Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo) as Secretary of the Interior anoints her as the first Indigenous person to serve in the U.S. cabinet. She has pledged to make protecting public lands and restoring Indigenous sovereignty top priorities, setting the stage for the Landback movement to shape America’s future.

In Washington, these efforts are thriving, from Indigenous farming projects within cities to fundraisers meant to buy back ancestral homelands. We spoke to Indigenous leaders throughout the state, examining the history of Native reclamation in Washington and how recent efforts to regain sovereignty will make space for generations of Indigenous people to come.

Remaking Seattle

wildfire urban gardens pandemic streets pedestrians

In a year of immense upheaval, three major crises — the COVID-19 pandemic, a racial reckoning and catastrophic wildfires — rise above the rest as transformative events that rocked our region. The impacts will echo in our city long beyond their inception, perhaps for generations. But with crisis comes opportunity. Planners, politicians, activists and ordinary citizens are already seizing the chance to reimagine how Seattle and Washington could become greener, healthier, more resilient and equitable places to live. In this series, Crosscut reporters explore how our streets, neighborhoods, buildings and backyards are adapting — and how the very psyche and culture of the city might, too.

Smoky Skies, Altered Lives

Four images in a grid: A man wearing a mask in smoky Seattle; A smoky, burned forest; A burned up neighborhood; scientists working with testing equipment

Wildfires are growing in frequency and intensity, threatening our landscape, our lifestyle and our health. This series probes how the upsurge in fire and smoke fueled by climate change puts us at risk, and how restoring the health of our forests could make a difference.

We're collecting readers' questions about human health and the wildfire smoke. Have a question? Ask us now. 

Facing the Fallout

Facing the Fallout: economic hardship in the time of coronavirus

For many, 2020 has been the most stressful year in memory. Worries about health, relationships, school, politics, jobs and financial security are just the start of a very long list. Some have a financial cushion and a support system that is helping them weather whatever the universe sends their way. But for others, COVID-19 has been the last straw, pushing them off the edge of a cliff that was looming before 2020. For this series of stories, Crosscut reporters share the Washington experiences of people staring over the COVID cliff, at work and at home. 

Prison's Other Death Sentence

An empty room with a puddle on the floor at a Washington corrections facility.

Journalist Levi Pulkkinen spent the past year digging into a subject many Americans have never given more than a passing thought to: healthcare for people in prison. His three-part investigative series reveals a system where delays in health care may mean life or death for the men and women behind bars in Washington state but also has an outsized impact on the state budget.

The New Normal

3 images, 1 of a grocery store, a woman, and a doctor.

"The New Normal" takes a look at life during a pandemic. On the surface, our communities are slumbering as the vast majority of Washington’s citizens are homebound. Empty roadways and businesses offer a daily reminder of the risks the coronavirus presents. How we work, live, play and interact have all shifted. From the front lines to those in isolation, COVID-19 has affected everyone and behind every door, stories unfold.

Resetting the Table

Resetting the table

Washington is an agricultural powerhouse, producing some of the highest yields of fruit, vegetables and grains in the country — yet despite this bounty, plenty of people can’t access it. Entire communities can’t get to the food they need, and while many are in urban centers, rural and suburban communities deal with the issue in entirely unique ways. While visiting diverse communities throughout western Washington — immigrants, farmworkers, grocery shoppers in rural and urban areas alike — we found examples of what fixing Washington’s food system might look like from the ground up.