Meet Crosscut's new executive editor

This is M. David Lee III's second move to Seattle. Since his last stay, the city has changed a lot — and so has he.

M. David Lee III

M. David Lee III

The first time I moved to Seattle was in the winter of 1985. An undergraduate from the East Coast with designs to become a filmmaker, I had locked in an internship at a place called Pro Image Film & Video on Dexter Avenue. My job there was to make copies of film and videos, early days of home movies transferred to tape. The business doesn’t exist anymore. Things have changed in this city and so have I.

This is my second visit to Seattle and now I’m doing something different. I’ve been hired as the executive editor for Crosscut and its parent company Cascade Public Media, where I will lead a team of talented journalists in telling the stories of this region.

My path from Dexter Avenue to the CPM offices at Mercer Avenue has been a long and adventurous one.

Early on in my career I found a place for myself in broadcast news. I started in sports and worked my way through major markets like San Francisco, Memphis, Manhattan and Washington, D.C. Then, as my daughter started high school on the other side of the country, I wanted to be closer to her during a critical time in her life and that’s when I discovered something else: that I had a talent for management. I started as an assistant news editor in Santa Maria, California, and then led news coverage at commercial broadcast stations in Tallahassee, Florida, and Green Bay, Wisconsin, as a news director. Now, Seattle is home.

The one thing that is consistent throughout all of my travels has been the desire to embrace wherever I live. Sure, I’ll make all of the “typical” tourist stops along the way as I explore the area, but it will be more than that. I’m going to find out what it truly means to be a local. I’ll check out the music and film scene.  Discover what makes the city tick and find those spots that have great local food you may not be able to tell from the front façade, but the second you dive into a dish … you know it’s Seattle. My Dad calls those “joints.” I have to find mine.

What drew me to the opportunity at Cascade Public Media and Crosscut.com are two things: The first is the talent here. There are really good journalists here whose bylines you are familiar with. There are also very smart and hardworking people here whose names might not be familiar to you, production staff who all have a passion for the work and the community, who make this place go.

The second reason is the commitment here to public nonprofit journalism. It’s something that I, admittedly, haven’t had a lot of experience with. Coming from a commercial broadcast background, I’m accustomed to “chasing the day.” That’s when you’re constantly working on an endless news cycle. You start 3 a.m. to get the show ready for 5 a.m. Then once that show wraps up at 7 a.m., you start worrying  about what the noon show will look like and after that, well – you get the idea. Things are a little different here. CPM and Crosscut reach out into the community to help shed light on stories and issues that need to be told.  

Stories like Seattle Police’s approach to dealing with mental health calls. Or Indigenous families on the epidemic of missing and murdered women. Or, a history lesson on the rise and fall of Seattle’s Kingdome.

These are stories that are not always on the front page of other newspapers or websites. The beauty of Crosscut is that we can go deeper, offer unique insight to a story or issue that other outlets are unable to do, or just choose not to do.

As I said above, this is something new for me. And I expect that Crosscut will change me, and I’m excited about it.

There are of course some things that will stay the same. Movies are still a passion – I’m a lifelong, self-proclaimed Star Wars geek – and I still moonlight as an independent filmmaker. And I will always love to travel. In recent years, I’ve fallen in love with RVing, which has included a gut renovation of a 2005 Winnebago Sightseer. RVing allows me to unplug and I’m able to get away for a few days and explore the great outdoors.  While my rig is currently in storage in Green Bay, I look forward to bringing it out to the Pacific Northwest and exploring as much of the area as possible, starting this spring.

Until then I’ll be exploring the city, getting to know the talented staff here and doing the work for you, our readers, while heeding words of Yoda: “Do or Do Not. There is no Try.”

This story was first published in Crosscut's Weekly newsletter. Want to hear more from journalists like M. David Lee III? Sign up for the newsletter, below.

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