Seattle Weekly founder to start Web newspaper

By Eric Pryne, Seattle Times

The Seattle Weekly's founding editor plans to launch an online Northwest "newspaper" next month.

David Brewster said the site, Crosscut, is tentatively scheduled to make its public debut March 12.

Brewster said he has lined up hundreds of thousands of dollars in startup financing from more than a dozen "civic-minded" Seattle-area investors.

He has enlisted two other Seattle Weekly veterans to work on the venture.

Former Weekly Managing Editor Chuck Taylor will be Crosscut's editor. Knute "Skip" Berger, the Weekly's former editor-in-chief, will write for the publication.

Brewster, who will be publisher, said Crosscut's content will be a mix of original journalism, blogs, material derived from the mainstream media and other sources, and forums and other interactive features.

The site, at crosscut.com, will cover Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and parts of British Columbia.

"Ideas are pouring in," Brewster said. "It's a very creative time."

While online outlets for national news and commentary, such as Slate and The Huffington Post, are becoming increasingly well-established, similar experiments at a regional level have been rare.

Brewster said one of his models for Crosscut is New West (newwest.net), a two-year-old network of Rocky Mountain news sites that stretches from Missoula, Mont., to Albuquerque, N.M.

Content ranges from politics and the environment to books and brew pubs. Entries include fairly conventional news stories, columns, blogs and offerings from "citizen journalists."

Founder Jonathan Weber said revenue from advertising and other sources, including New West-sponsored conferences and custom publishing, nearly covers the publication's costs.

Brewster declined to identify Crosscut's backers, but said 13 had provided several hundred thousand dollars so far, and four more had agreed to put up money.

He said potential advertisers have been approached, but that Crosscut would need to start attracting viewers before it could make a serious run at ad dollars.

Crosscut marks a return to journalism for Brewster, who sold his interest in the Weekly in 1997, then wrote a twice-monthly column for The Seattle Times until 2000.

He led the campaign to establish Town Hall, a venue for concerts, lectures and other civic gatherings, and served as its executive director until 2005.

Brewster said he started working on Crosscut about 18 months ago, in part to counteract the drop in the number of local news outlets and what he calls "the growing fatalism of Seattle journalism."

The Internet's potential to engage people in dialogue — especially those who don't read newspapers — also appealed, he added.

Crosscut won't have a political point-of-view, Brewster said, but it will have what he called "a political disposition."

It will aim to give readers the information they need to make their own decisions about public-policy questions, he said, and will practice "constructive journalism " — looking for solutions, not just exposing problems.

article originally published at http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2003570953_crosscut14.h....

The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey