The Texas Tribune was conceived as part of the solution to the decline of public service journalism in Texas and as a new way to provide this essential public good — the news and information required to engage and educate Texans about the big issues affecting us all: public education, health care, transportation, immigration, energy and the environment.
In 2009, venture capitalist John Thornton enlisted Evan Smith, the esteemed former president and editor in chief of Texas Monthly, to help found The Texas Tribune. The Tribune immediately acquired Texas Weekly, the top political and government newsletter in the state, and hired its editor, Ross Ramsey, to be the Tribune’s managing editor.
With more than $4 million in private contributions as seed funding, a small band of talented computer programmers, and some of the most accomplished journalists in the state, The Tribune launched its destination website on Nov. 3, 2009. Through a variety of distribution partnerships, the Tribune extends its reach considerably to other online, print and broadcast outlets, to which content is provided at no charge. In addition, the Tribune produces a lively and educational suite of free public events that explore issues that are of critical importance to Texans.
As a 501(c)3 organization, the Tribune is supported by individual contributions through memberships and major gifts, corporate sponsorships and foundation grants. Since 2009, the Tribune has had more than 12,188 contributing members and 981 corporate sponsors, as well as an active major gift and grant program. The Tribune also generates earned revenue from events and specialty publications. According to the Pew Research Center, we operate the largest statehouse bureau in the country.
Who We Are
to promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, politics, government and other matters of statewide concern.
to build the next great public media brand in the United States.
Although commercial models for delivering news and information are under tremendous pressure, the level of “media clutter” seems only to increase. We are keenly aware that breaking through that clutter is perhaps the central challenge we face in making TexasTribune.org a success. What sets us apart:
Not Just News – Knowledge
Our website is built from scratch as a “digitally native” public service. Advances in technology provide unparalleled opportunities for educating the public. Original reporting is married to the newest online presentation and visualization tools. Our site also includes highly curated news aggregation from other sources, polling, blogging, columns, commentary and an ever-growing lineup of searchable databases that numbers more than 100. Citizens and other journalists already see the Tribune as the authoritative source of data on a wide range of topics such as voting records, campaign finance, public school quality and public employee compensation.
Objectivity & Nonpartisanship
We believe that the serious-minded public is fed up with the “echo chamber” structure of the news media and is hungry for a trusted news source. Objective journalism sets the tone for the Tribune and differentiates us in a crowded media universe. As a 501(c)3, the Tribune has opted out of specific candidate or issue endorsements.
Culture of Experimentation
Although the Tribune is not a technology company, a component of our mission is to experiment constantly with the ever-growing arsenal of tools at our disposal to make the reader experience ever more engaging.
Serious-minded and dull are not synonymous. We reject the idea that reporting in the public interest must be boring, or that reporters on serious topics must be stripped of their authorial voice. Reporters can have distinct personalities without compromising their objectivity. The best magazines have proved this over time, and the Tribune will as well.
What the Tribune does not cover is almost as important as what it does. Since we are not a paper of record and do not attempt to reach a mass audience, we do not chase the “story” of the moment. Instead, we focus on reporting the issues that matter to Texans with a comprehensiveness and depth that aren’t found elsewhere: water, transportation, criminal justice, health care, public education, energy and immigration.
Our team members are digital natives, and our site is designed with the news-consuming habits of a young public in mind. Effective leverage of social networking tools is key to our success with a younger audience. We are also conducting a college outreach program on a scale that has never been mounted by a journalistic enterprise in Texas.
In syndicating our content at no cost to other news outlets, we believe we will advance the goal of ubiquity very rapidly and cost effectively. It matters not to us whether a reader encounters our content on our site, in a public radio interview with one of our reporters or in The Facts of Brazoria County.