Two Seattle-based non-profits are joining forces in an effort to create a new media entity that the organizations say will spark an “exciting new chapter” for regional news in the Pacific Northwest.
Crosscut, the digital news site started eight years ago by Seattle luminary David Brewster, and KCTS 9 Public Television, which started in 1954 on the University of Washington campus, are merging.
No layoffs are planned, but Crosscut’s status as a non-profit entity will be phased out as it gets folded under a new umbrella organization to be called Cascade Public Media. Crosscut.com will continue as a news site, with editors Tamara Power-Drutis and Greg Hanscom writing in a story on the site that “you’ll continue to read our special brand of feisty, civic-minded journalism.”
“You’ll see the same lively debates over where our region is headed,” write Power-Drutis and Hanscom, adding that the merger will allow them to boost coverage of the Seattle metro region, state government and Washington state.
“The merger allows us to combine the best of traditional public media with the best of the new — KCTS’s organizational expertise, broad reach, and trusted role in the community, and Crosscut’s entrepreneurial spirit, digital media savvy, and lively community presence,” they wrote. “The resulting whole will be much greater than the sum of its parts.”
Hanscom previously worked as a senior writer at Seattle online environmental news site Grist, and before that served as editor-in-chief of Colorado non-profit magazine High Country News. Power-Drutis is the former communications coordinator at the University of Washington’s Center on Reinventing Public Education.
The merger comes amid a changing media landscape in the Pacific Northwest. Just last month, Seattle-based KUOW 94.9 FM — a University of Washington service and NPR member station — agreed to purchase Pacific Lutheran University’s KPLU for $8 million. As part of the deal, KUOW plans to shift KPLU to an all-music format, a move that has angered some who value KPLU’s news programming.
Meanwhile, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer shut down its print operations in 2009, shifting to a scaled-down online news operation.
Crosscut attempted to fill some of the void left in the news environment in Seattle, funding investigative and thoughtful reports on the region. It originally started as a for-profit business, backed by Madrona Venture Group’s Tom Alberg and others. It shifted to a non-profit model in 2008, with founder David Brewster saying at the time that it was critical for local journalism to find funding beyond traditional advertising.
Here’s the letter to readers that was posted on Crosscut today:
We’re writing today with thrilling news. Yesterday, Crosscut formally agreed to join with KCTS 9 Public Television under the umbrella of a larger, multi-platform nonprofit organization that will be called Cascade Public Media. This merger represents an exciting new chapter for Crosscut, for KCTS, and for regional, nonprofit news in the Pacific Northwest.
We’ll get to the details in a moment. First, we want to assure you that Crosscut isn’t going anywhere. You’ll continue to read our special brand of feisty, civic-minded journalism. You’ll see the same lively debates over where our region is headed. It will all be brought to you at Crosscut.com by the same staff of hardworking writers and editors who will operate with strict editorial independence under the new organization.
There will be no layoffs. In fact, the merger allows us to bring several part-time staffers up to full-time and offer everyone improved employee benefits.
In addition to enhancing the work we already do, the Crosscut-KCTS 9 merger gives us access to resources and expertise to do more in-depth journalism, as well as cutting-edge video and multimedia production. We’ll reach a broader audience, build Crosscut’s membership and create a more robust and sustainable business model. We’ll provide a platform for more journalists with a greater variety of voices and opinions and with broader coverage of the Seattle metro region, state government and Washington state.
The merger allows us to combine the best of traditional public media with the best of the new — KCTS’s organizational expertise, broad reach, and trusted role in the community, and Crosscut’s entrepreneurial spirit, digital media savvy, and lively community presence. The resulting whole will be much greater than the sum of its parts.
Crosscut’s previous publishers have voiced their support for the new venture.
“I’m delighted to see this eminently sensible combo,” says Crosscut’s founder, David Brewster. “The bigger, broader, energized team will bring stability and a new sense of excitement to both organizations and their smart and demanding audiences.”
Greg Shaw, former Crosscut Publisher adds:
“Crosscut, like ProPublica nationally and the Texas Tribune regionally, has become a beacon for nonprofit journalism. Now, by joining forces with Cascade Public Media, Crosscut gains needed infrastructure and reach, while public broadcasting gains a lively, steady digital stream of independent news and analysis. In a world where quality journalism is shrinking all around us, this is exciting news and reason for hope.”
It’s important to note that the two entities will retain their own voices and editorial independence — and that supporters will be free to choose where their contributions are spent. If you want your donation to support Crosscut, it will support Crosscut. The same for KCTS donors. Or support may be earmarked for the combined organization.
Whatever you choose, your investment will continue to advance Crosscut’s and KCTS’s shared mission of fostering an informed, engaged public. It will also help ensure that the Puget Sound region will continue to enjoy multiple, independent news sources that will speak to people of all ages. For younger audiences, KCTS also announced today that it has acquired the website What’s Good 206, an online magazine highlighting “locally inspired digital media for and by millennials.”
“This combination is exactly the kind of powerful coordination of talent, content and multi-platform channel strategy that is needed to bring the Seattle Region world-class progressive content at such a critical time,” says Seattle Foundation President and CEO Tony Mestres. “With KCTS 9, Crosscut and What’s Good 206, Cascade Public Media will be a unique and powerful voice for what matters and why.”
The merger involves some change behind the scenes. The board of directors of Crosscut Public Media voted to dissolve the organization as a stand-alone 501(c)(3) and merge with KCTS 9. At the same time, KCTS 9 has filed to change its name to Cascade Public Media. The board of directors of the combined organization will oversee KCTS, Crosscut, and What’s Good 206. Robert Dunlop, chief executive officer of KCTS 9, will head the combined operation. Crosscut’s current board will continue to serve in an advisory capacity.
To Crosscut’s loyal supporters: We look forward to working with you to build a bright future for public media in the Pacific Northwest. If you have thoughts or questions about the new agreement, please post them in the comments below or send one or both of us an email. We’ll do our best to respond in a timely manner.
The staff and board of Crosscut see this as an exciting development for Crosscut and for the future of independent journalism. We hope you agree.
All the best,
Tamara Power-Drutis, Executive Director
Greg Hanscom, Editor-in-Chief