Conflict of interest at Crosscut? Check this at the

Last week, a colleague excitedly emailed me about an opinion piece on Crosscut about Initiative 1098 (the progressive income tax initiative) which hammered Microsoft for its Nevada tax dodge on many of the points previously mentioned on this blog:

"Microsoft's behavior regarding B&O taxes — dodging them for years by doing their licensing from Nevada — has been shameful. The state's failure to call them on it has been shameful. Last session's legislation legitimizing this was shameful."

However, by the time I read the editorial, the quote was gone. This concerned me as I've had trouble getting Seattle's journalism community to cover Microsoft's thirteen year billion dollar Nevada tax dodge. It may concern you too because Crosscut has relied heavily on $500,000 in grants from the Gates Foundation over the past year. Is there a conflict of interest at play?

Additionally, the author of the editorial, Ed Lazowska, holds the Bill and Melinda Gates Chair in Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington.

Read the response of Crosscut boss David Brewster (which did not ease the postglobe's mind) here.

Newspapers have a long-established firewall between advertising and editorial—at least they're supposed to. But will that stand for the publications that increasingly rely on big foundation grants and venture-capitalist investment instead of scores of small ads? (A model some have been trumpeting as the Future of Journalism™.) And what happens at small sites with small staffs blur the lines between publisher/editor/money-getter? How will that tweak an editor's judgment, in ways s/he isn't even consciously aware of?

On the other hand, the magic of the internet has allowed the postglobe (and, now, The Stranger) to reinstate the excised paragraph against Crosscut's wishes. So perhaps small sites and blogs will enforce a level of accountability and transparency that was previously unavailable to large, institutional papers...

The future present is so confusing.

h/t to NewsWrights United, who are beginning to look like an unholy alliance between the two most debased professions in America—journalism and theater.