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.