The longtime editor of Texas Monthly magazine will team with an Austin venture capitalist to form a nonprofit news Web site devoted to government and politics in the Lone Star state.
With a large bankroll, a staff at the outset of about eight journalists, and the cachet of Evan Smith, the Texas Monthly editor, the new venture, called the Texas Tribune, hopes to be an immediate force on the state’s political landscape, much as Politico became two years ago in national politics. Many local news organizations have cut back on statehouse coverage, and the creators of the Texas Tribune plan not only to post news on their own site, but also to supply it to newspapers around the state.
“This is not about horse race politics, primarily,” Mr. Smith, who will have the title of chief executive, said in an interview. “It’s going to be a lot of deep-dive policy stuff. We have the lowest voting turnout in the country. We have a number of major issues that get no attention or insufficient attention by the people we elect.”
My congratulations to Evan Smith and to former Houston Chronicle reporter Matt Stiles, who will be joining Smith on staff at the Texas Trib. I’m excited to see what kind of coverage they will produce. Just one question: does this mean that Eileen will finally be in charge at Texas Monthly?
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 begins, possibly in November. Other nonprofit 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.”
Thornton was a year ahead of me at Trinity. He’s been blogging about the changing face and realities of media and its finances for some time now, so the fact that he launched something like this is no surprise to me. I wish him and his crew good luck with this venture, and will be very interested to see if it can be as successful as they hope.