A platform for diverse Seattle voices is in trouble

It’s not been an easy few years for Seattle media, or even an easy week. The Seattle Times announced on Wednesday that buyouts, and possibly layoffs, are coming soon, which will reduce the staff of our city’s largest newsroom, reports Heidi Groover of The Stranger. (Been thinking of subscribing? This $30/year discount is still going.)

Today, we want to tell you about a much smaller media organizationyou’ve seen us link to from time to time. The Seattle Globalist has done a lot to elevate new and different voices in the city.

And it, too, is in trouble.

‘They are what make our publication great’

The room got quiet when Jessica Partnow, executive director of The Seattle Globalist, brought up what everyone there was thinking.

“Our country feels divided, the world is in turmoil, the city is growing, and while that is happening, a lot of voices are not being heard,” Jessica said from the podium at the Georgetown Ballroom, where the Globalist was hosting its 4th annual Globies Awards. It was October 14, three weeks before a world-changing presidential election.

“This is a time we really need to listen to each other,” Jessica said at the event. “And I’m so proud the Globalist has become a place to do that.”

The Seattle Globalist is a daily nonprofit news site that covers international connections in the Pacific Northwest. In the age of #JournalismSoWhite, the Globalist isn’t. About 67 percent of its more than 600 contributors are people of color. Seventy-three percent are women. And 45 percent are immigrants or first-generation Americans.

But now the Globalist’s future looks shaky. Next year it will lose access to $141,000 in annual in-kind support, the equivalent of about 42 percent of what it expects to bring in this year. The co-founders worry the Globalist might not survive.

That money, by the way, is not just spent on staff and articles. What many people don’t realize is that half of the Globalist budget goes to education — training programs in international and immigrant communities to ensure that more of those voices and perspectives are elevated in our city.

“Many of the communities we’re working with to have their voices heard are also coming from [ethnically] diverse communities. And that is so unique,” said co-founder Sarah Stuteville. “There are no other news organizations in our region that have that as their mission.”

To back up, here’s why the Globalist is where it is. In 2012, Jessica, Sarah, and cofounder Alex Stonehill started the Globalist in partnership with the University of Washington’s Department of Communication, which hired them to teach while allowing them to basically volunteer their time to creating and running the Globalist. It was a good arrangement: Their salaries, plus in-kind donations in the form of UW office space and facilities, has made up 42 to 60 percent of the Globalist’s annual operating budget every year since.

Then, this fall, the co-founders got the bad news: University-wide budget cuts effective at the end of this academic year will result in their losing the UW teaching positions and in-kind support that have essentially been the Globalist’s biggest and steadiest source of funding.

The co-founders knew the UW partnership wouldn’t last forever, but they didn’t expect it to end this soon. Two years ago, they started working on ways to make the Globalist more financially independent by developing other revenue streams like fundraising events, grant support, and a new membership model they launched recently. They expected to have another two years at UW to keep at it. Now they have about seven months.

“It’s thrown us into a tumultuous moment,” Sarah said.

Despite the cuts the Globalist has had to make to its already small staff, it’s still putting out unique stories from its hundreds of contributors, like Reagan Jackson and Esmy Jimenez.

“It’s a thing that I want everyone to experience — feeling their voices heard and valued, and being in a community that will help them build skills,” said Reagan, a 37-year-old black woman who lives in Rainier Beach.

She’s written more than 60 Globalist articles since Alex invited her to write about high school study abroad programs for her first piece in 2013.

And then Reagan decided to give back. She’s taught two writing workshops through the Globalist for prospective contributors and led five of her friends to become Globalist contributors themselves.

Esmy, who’s Latina, is one of those contributors. After a few months in the Globalist Apprenticeship Program, which trains a handful of contributors a year, she published four stories, including this one about the program that allowed her, an undocumented immigrant, to travel to Mexico and back.

Now Esmy has a contract editing job with the Sightline Institute and credits the Globalist for giving her the “bridge to crossing over into my writing self.”

The Globalist founders, meanwhile, credit Reagan, Esmy and all their contributors with fueling the Globalist’s mission to elevate different voices in the city. Those contributors, Sarah said, are what give her, Jessica and Alex the drive to preserve what the Globalist has made possible.

“They are what makes our publication great,” she said.

Want to help the Seattle Globalist? Check out their #PowerYourMedia campaign and consider stopping by their open house next Thursday, Dec. 15, at their offices at the UW Communications Building, room 331. It’ll be National Cupcake Day, and there will be cupcakes. Want to become a Globalist contributor? Pitch a story to [email protected].

If you want to read some of The Globalist contributors’ most recent work, here’s a list:

By Mónica Guzmán
Mónica is the cofounder and editor of The Evergrey. She's been a Seattle journalist for a decade and adores this city.