Evan Smith Leaving Texas Monthly to Launch the “Texas Tribune”

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In some surprising news this Friday, Evan Smith is going to leave his role as Editor of Texas Monthly and join on as CEO of the “Texas Tribune” — an online investigative journalism organization that is expected to play a state-level role similar to what ProPublica does nationally.

First, from Evan's announcement today:

I write you today — with a mixture of sadness, apprehension, admiration, and appreciation — to say that I'll soon be leaving TEXAS MONTHLY, the place that I happily gave my life to these last seventeen-plus years but that, without question, gave me my life, gave me the most wonderful and unbelievable and exciting career that anyone could ask for. […]

It’s no secret that I’ve been consulting with my friend of fifteen years, the venture capitalist John Thornton, on a project very close to his heart: a nonprofit, nonpartisan public media organization whose mission is to promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, politics, government, and other matters of statewide interest. As John has been telling anyone who will listen, the Texas Tribune will publish original news reporting online (much like ProPublica) and put on conferences, conversation series, and other on-the-record, open-to-the-public events (much like the Aspen Institute)….So in mid-August, when all of you are moving bins and boxes into the University Park development, I’ll be schlepping my accumulated possessions around the corner, into the Chase Bank building, to begin work the following week as the CEO of the Texas Tribune.

The NY Times ran a story on it today as well:

The chairman of Texas Tribune is John Thornton, general partner of Austin Ventures, a venture capital firm, who said he has given $1 million to the project and has raised $2.2 million, and plans to raise $4 million from individuals and foundations by the time it launches, possibly in November. Other non-profit local news sites in places like the Twin Cities, San Diego, St. Louis and Chicago started with significantly less money behind them.

“We want to have at least two years’ runway, even if there’s no additional revenue, and preferably three,” he said.

An active supporter of Texas Democrats, Mr. Thornton, 44, who is based in Austin, said he is giving up partisan politics for the sake of the Texas Tribune. He said the new venture has quietly approached reporters and editors about joining, and that with many journalists unemployed, and others worried that their employers will keep shrinking, “talent ain’t the issue.”

We know for sure that Matt Stiles, most recently a reporter for the Houston Chronicle, will be joining on as one of the reporters for the Texas Tribune. There are many discussions going on throughout the press and political groups in Austin now about who else may be joining.

The upcoming launch of the Texas Tribune will mark a definitive turning point for Texas journalism. I'm excited about this project, and look forward to reading and learning more about what Evan, Mr. Thornton, and others have planned for the project.

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About Author

Phillip Martin

Currently the Research and Policy Director for Progress Texas and the Texas Research Institute, Phillip Martin writes occasional long-form pieces for BOR that promote focused analysis and insight into Texas politics. Born and raised in Austin, Phillip started working in politics in 2003 and started writing on BOR in the summer of 2005. Phillip has worked for the Texas Democratic Trust, the Texas Legislative Study Group, and now the Progress Texas family. He is a lifelong Houston Astros fan, a loyal Longhorn, and loves swimming at Barton Springs Pool.

4 Comments

  1. non-partisan debate
    A natural counterpart to a non-partisan media organization might be taking a high profile position on promoting reforms to encourage less partisanship in the formulation of public policy.

    Some of these might be publicly funded campaigns and non-partisan redistricting, both to lessen the hijacking of public policy by narrow special interests.

    We hear much about partisanship and corruption, but little about the available remedies.

    Thanks

  2. Already two Good People
    Evan Smith, as we all know, is very capable and he showed it through good work at Texas Monthly.

    Back when I was following Houston politics more often, Matt Stiles was easily one of my favorite reporters for local info.  I'm excited to see him at Texas Tribune.

  3. hope they dont take the place of BOR
    If they have a decent blog and updates on politics it might mean the end or at least hurt the BOR.  I hop enot but they may have the resources to have lots of updates and news broken on line.  Be careful what you wish for.

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