Saturday, August 29, 2009

Catty, borderline tacky, that is the “charm” of

Sometimes the news is just the news, sometimes it is an editorial, and sometimes it is both. In the case of Publicola sometimes just the facts might not be enough.

So, last night from the "Publicla: Seattle's News Elixir" there was a report on another online publication, For the most part this is a report of news, with some historical background information, and then it looks to me that there is some editorializing. I have set in bold where I think the news reporting stopped, and the characterization drifted into editorializing clouded in an unidentified source called "some". I don't know, maybe a Journalist can explain this to me, and correct me where I am wrong. Help, please, oh great and wise Journalists. Is this Journalism, a mycterismus, or both?

In the home page of Sandeep Kaushik has the title of "Spiritual Adviser, Guitars". Inserted into his "Spiritual" advising Mr. Kaushik drifts into an assertion attributed to "some". Is this the "Elixir" part of Publicola's motto?
How refreshing it is to have "some" as a source of derisive comments, uh, news (I don't know).

Now, we do not know who "some" are, maybe "some" had their work get poor reviews at, or maybe "some" are writers at that do not have the heart to tell Publisher David Brewster that what they are writing is "overly dry and self-consciously upper-middlebrow to the point of borderline snobbery, though the site’s worship of intellectual detachment and penchant for discursive musings", or maybe some other nameless, faceless, "some in the local journalism". Who knows?

Gates Foundation Rides to the Rescue: Crosscut Gets $100,000 Gift.
BY SANDEEP, 08/28/2009, 6:53 PM

Back in March of this year PubliCola reported that people close to, a bastion of high-minded civic commentary, were saying privately that the site might be on its last legs. Founded by David Brewster, who founded the Seattle Weekly in the 1970s and more recently Town Hall, Crosscut was conceived in 2006 in Brewster’s own image as a haven for "independent, bipartisan, ’solutionist’ politics" and analysis, as an FAQ provided on the site puts it. The site quickly emerged as a home base for Brewster’s circle of friends and acquaintances in the old school Seattle commentariat, including former Weekly editor and self-described "Mossback" Knute Berger, former Hubert Humphrey aide Ted Van Dyk, and former King Broadcasting CEO Steve Clifford. Former P-I columnist Jean Godden (now on the City Council) has contributed occasionally, as has former WSDOT director Doug MacDonald.

Initially intended as a for-profit venture, the site is privately criticized by some in the local journalism world as overly dry and self-consciously upper-middlebrow to the point of borderline snobbery, though the site’s worship of intellectual detachment and penchant for discursive musings—heavy on context, relatively light on news—has also won it a core of dedicated readers, mostly among the over-50 set.

In any event, Brewster’s solutionist politics turned out to be something of a buzzkill when it came to advertising sales, and the site rapidly burned through several hundred thousand dollars in seed capital drawn from monied Old Seattle benefactors.

By this May the Seattle Weekly (long since sold by Brewster, and currently owned by the nation’s largest alt-weekly chain, Village Voice Media) was also picking up indications of trouble, reporting that Crosscut was having difficulties paying its freelance writers. Brewster, however, was undeterred, hinting at the possibility of better days to come in an e-mail to his contributors. "I’m waiting for a decision on a lead gift that would really launch us, so I hope I can send good news and catch up with past-dues. Thank you very much for staking me and Crosscut," Brewster wrote.

He is waiting no longer. Indeed, happy days are here again for Crosscut; solutionist politics may not have won over many advertisers, but it apparently strokes the intellectual erogenous zones of program officers at major philanthropic foundations. According to two knowledgeable sources, Crosscut, now refashioned as a non-profit venture, is about to receive a $100,000 grant from the Gates Foundation (the Seattle Foundation is also involved) that will ensure the stie’s continued survival for some time to come.

Though the grant is still being finalized, new signs of life at Crosscut are already apparent. As Josh reported a few days ago, Mark Matassa, a talented former Seattle Times , P-I , and Los Angeles Times editor, will be joining Crosscut on September 15 as deputy editor, a half-time position. (Matassa has been a member of PubliCola’s advisory board—not a paid gig—but is now stepping down to take the Crosscut gig; he was not a source for this post).

What other changes the new funding will bring remain to be seen. In response to an inquiry about the new Gates Foundation funding and its implications for the site, Brewster politely declined comment. “I have nothing to announce at this point,” he wrote in an e-mail.

Ok, that must be Journalism. I read Publicola, Crosscut, most of the other stuff I have feeding my little blog. Sure, I give my opinion on my personal blog, here, and I am not passing it off as News or Journalism. I am writing to remember, and refine my fleeting thoughts, and give my opinion. I am not qualified by training or experience as a Journalist. I have been writin' 'n stuff, for a couple years, n' such (and have a BA in Communication). So, forgive me if I do not always recognize Journalism when I see it.

Hey, did Sandeep Kaushik mention that was not much more than a spin-off of until a private investor dumped a pile of money into it?
Huh, that's weird.

So, "some" readers of the story took issue with the manor of characterization of, Lucky for "some" the writer responded with an explanation of his views of

10. Sandeep says:
To be clear about a couple of things:

I do think David Brewster is a talented guy, who has done a lot to add to the civic discourse in Seattle. I come from a pretty upper-middlebrow background myself — spent a lot of time in graduate school working on a history Ph.D. I never finished — so I am sympathetic to efforts to elevate (and intellectualize) the discourse. And I like him personally.

Second, I think the Gates grant is great news. I’m glad to see that Crosscut will survive. We need more media choices in this town, not fewer. Also, there has been a lot of talk in the journalism world about how the old advertising based model is irreparably broken, and great hope has been pinned non-profit public interest journalism filling the void. But aside from a handful of much-hyped examples, I haven’t seen much evidence that such a model is viable. So David’s success in finding foundation support is notwworthy — and a feather in his cap.

The criticisms expressed in the post above is stuff that one hears pretty commonly in local journalism and civic circles about Crosscut. Not to say that those perceptions are anything close to universal — Crosscut has its share of fans as well. Perhaps not surprisingly, the public radio/public tv crowd appear to be big supporters. Steve Scher, the host of KUOW’s “Weekday” comes to mind — he’s even written several pieces for the site.

And I like Crosscut better than some of its critics do. Brewster’s work is often insightful, though I think marred at times by his reliance on the off the record conversations with a relatively narrow range of older Seattle voices. I don’t agree with Skip Berger on much — I don’t mourn the loss of some ugly-ass building Ballard that housed a Denny’s, so much as I mourn the loss of a Denny’s in Ballard — but I also think he’s smart, prolific, informed, full of ideas and a talented writer. Some of the coverage on Crosscut has been excellent; for instance, former Wall Street Journal reporter Bill Richards’ reporting on the Seattle Times’ finances. Austin Jenkins, the Olympia correspondent for public radio, has contributed some solid work as well.

But in my estimation there hasn’t been enough news content on the site. I do think Crosscut would benefit greatly from more original reporting, and less bloviating from the Friends of David. The hiring of Matassa may be an indication that David agrees.

One final criticism of Crosscut: the site would benefit from being more transparent about its funders and other benefactors. So far as I know, David has never revealed who sits on his board, for instance. Here at PubliCola we’ve tried to be transparent about how we operate, where we get our money and how we deal with conflicts. I’m not at all concerned to see that a foundation is funding a media site, so long as that is openly disclosed. Every media site is open to criticism about its revenue sources abd its potential conflicts — its not like all of the Seattle Times’ rules and protestations of ethical rigor protects the paper from widespread public suspicions of the Blethens’ influence over the thrust of their news coverage. Now that Crosscut has moved to non-profit status, I think we’ll see more transparency — I suspect David will have more to say about the changes to his site once the Gates grant is finalized.

Sandeep says: To be clear about a couple of things:

Gosh, thanks for clearing that all up. I thought for a second "some" were random media people milling about outside of your house. Turns out, "some" might just might include Sandeep Kaushik.

I guess the answer to my question: Is this Journalism, a mycterismus, or both? might be both.

Don't get me wrong, I am happy for both online publications, that they have funding to keep doing that. They have to make a living somehow. I do not know, I am no Journalist.