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.

 

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.

 

Equal Play

Equal play

The fervor over the U.S. Women's National Team and its victory in the FIFA Women's World Cup this past summer made two things clear:  Women's sports are ascendant and the fight for equal pay is heating up. The Seattle area currently has a courtside seat to all the action. Professional teams here are seeing continued success and tremendous change as they further knit themselves into the fabric of their communities and the future of American athletics. And the players that will populate that future are being trained here as well, be they college champions or hopeful juniors. Meanwhile the fight for equal pay goes on. In this edition of Crosscut's Focus series, we explore the shifting landscape of women's athletics, explain how it is transforming our region and spotlight the women who play here.

Forged In Fire

Forged in Fire

Washington has always been a landscape shaped by wildfire. And humans have been caught in the middle — as stewards, victims, fighters, bystanders, and more. Now with climate change bringing greater uncertainty to our seasons, wildfire has become a year-round concern, igniting fresh fears and inspiring new, and renewed, forestry practices.

In this weeklong series, we’ll delve into the history and share perspectives and experiences from people on the front lines — explaining why, for them and us, the fire never goes out.