The Texas Tribune

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The Texas Tribune
Texas Tribune logo.svg
Type Nonprofit
Founder(s)John Thornton
Evan Smith
Ross Ramsey
EditorEmily Ramshaw
Headquarters919 Congress
Austin, Texas, U.S.
OCLC number 465271495

The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit [1] media organization in Texas. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, it aims to promote civic engagement through original, explanatory journalism and public events. [2] Its website and content in various delivery platforms serves as an alternative news source for Texas, with a goal of supplementing mainstream media sources.

Texas U.S. state in the United States

Texas is the second largest state in the United States by area and population. Geographically located in the South Central region of the country, Texas shares borders with the U.S. states of Louisiana to the east, Arkansas to the northeast, Oklahoma to the north, New Mexico to the west, and the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas to the southwest, and has a coastline with the Gulf of Mexico to the southeast.

Austin, Texas Capital of Texas

Austin is the capital city of the U.S. state of Texas and the seat of Travis County, with portions extending into Hays and Williamson counties. It is the 11th-most populous city in the United States, the fourth-most-populous city in Texas, and the second-most-populous state capital city. It is also the fastest growing large city in the United States and the southernmost state capital in the contiguous United States. As of the U.S. Census Bureau's July 1, 2018 estimate, Austin had a population of 964,254 up from 790,491 at the 2010 census. The city is the cultural and economic center of the Austin–Round Rock metropolitan statistical area, which had an estimated population of 2,168,316 as of July 1, 2018. Located in Central Texas within the greater Texas Hill Country, it is home to numerous lakes, rivers, and waterways, including Lady Bird Lake and Lake Travis on the Colorado River, Barton Springs, McKinney Falls, and Lake Walter E. Long.

Mainstream media (MSM) is a term and abbreviation used to refer collectively to the various large mass news media that influence many people, and both reflect and shape prevailing currents of thought. The term is used to contrast with alternative media which may contain content with more dissenting thought at variance with the prevailing views of mainstream sources.

The Texas Tribune, like Voice of San Diego and MinnPost before it, is part of a trend toward nonprofit journalism with an all-digital platform. [3]

Voice of San Diego is a nonprofit news organization focused on issues affecting the San Diego region.

In addition to journalism posted online at its site, [4] and in the pages and on the sites of its distribution partners, [5] the Tribune hosts various events and conferences. Of these, the annual TribFest has a reputation for attracting national journalists and politicians for interviews and forums. [6]


The foundation was created in 2009 by venture capitalist John Thornton [7] and veteran journalists Evan Smith and Ross Ramsey. [8] [9] The idea for the organization originated with Thornton, who spent much of 2008 and 2009 promoting public interest in the concept of journalism as a public good. Thornton wrote, in July 2009: [10]

Evan Smith (journalist) American journalist

Evan Smith is an American journalist. He is the CEO of The Texas Tribune and host of the weekly interview program "Overheard with Evan Smith."

In Micro 101, we learn that such "public goods" as clean air and national defense will not be produced in sufficient supply exclusively by market forces. Allow for the sake of argument that what I'll call "capital J" Journalism – journalism that takes on serious, complex issues and puts them in the context of how citizens interact with their government – is such a good.

Thornton and his wife, Julie seeded the venture with $1 million of their own money, [11] [12] to fund the organization's nascent operations and began to raise money from around the state and around the country from individuals, corporations, and foundations. [11]

An additional $2.5 million donated by various foundations and Texas philanthropists including former Democratic Lt. Governor Ben Barnes, financier T. Boone Pickens and businessman Red McCombs. [13] Pickens in particular donated $150,000. [14] Foundations donated about $1.1 million, including a total of $750,000 in grants from the Houston Endowment. [15] The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation donated $250,000 in late 2009, and their subsequent donations totaled $2 million by December 2016. That month, they announced that they would match up to $25,000 in gifts of $1,000 or less pledged to the Tribune between then and January 19, 2017. [16] Most of the 68 corporate sponsors made a $2,500 commitment as co-founders of the publication. Thornton stated in January 2010, "In the coming months, we intend to become far more sophisticated in the way we market corporate sponsorships of both our site and our events series, TribLive." [17]

Thornton hired Smith, the longtime editor of Texas Monthly , to be CEO and editor-in-chief of the Tribune, and the two recruited Ramsey, the longtime editor and owner of Texas Weekly, to be managing editor. [11] Smith and Ramsey subsequently hired several well-known members of the Capitol press corps to join the team: Matt Stiles, of the Houston Chronicle ; [18] Emily Ramshaw, of the Dallas Morning News ; [19] Brandi Grissom, of the El Paso Times ; Elise Hu, of KVUE-TV; [20] and Reeve Hamilton, who covered the Texas Legislature for The Texas Observer . Morgan Smith, formerly of Slate , started writing for the Tribune in January 2010.

Thornton raised more than US $2 million before the project was made public in July 2009. [12] By the time The Texas Tribune debuted on November 3, 2009, [13] it had raised $3.6 million from more than 1,000 individual donors and at least fifty corporate sponsors. [12]

The Texas Tribune has been actively developing an open source publishing platform along with The Bay Citizen , specifically tailored for nonprofit news organizations like itself. The system, named Armstrong, was funded through a $975,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. It is based on technology the Tribune has been using since 2009. [21]


Current staff includes Evan Smith CEO and co-founder, Emily Ramshaw, Editor-in-Chief, Terry Quinn, Chief Development Officer, Ayan Mittra, Editor, Rodney Gibbs, Chief Product Officer, April Hinkle, Chief Revenue Officer, Amanda Zamora, Chief Audience Officer and Jacob Villanueva, Creative Director. Evan Smith was Texas Monthly's editor between 2000 and 2008. [22]

Brian Thevenot, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner who was formerly special projects editor for The Times Picayune of New Orleans, joined the staff in October 2009. He has since left the Tribune, and is now business editor at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch . Elise Hu and Matt Stiles departed in 2011 to join NPR in Washington, D.C.[ citation needed ]

In May 2011, the Tribune announced the hiring of the twice named AP Staff Writer of the Year, Jay Root, formerly of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. [23]

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  1. "Exempt Organization Select Check". Internal Revenue Service. Retrieved July 23, 2014.
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  3. Lewis, Charles (October 13, 2008). "The Nonprofit Road: It's paved not with gold, but with good journalism". Columbia Journalism Review . Retrieved February 11, 2019.
  4. San Antonio Express-News: Texas Tribune set as state watchdog Archived July 28, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
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  17. Thornton, John (January 25, 2010). "A Note from Our Chairman". The Texas Tribune. Retrieved February 11, 2019.
  18. Connelly, Richard (July 23, 2009). "Chron's Matt Stiles Lands On His Feet, Next To Texas Monthly's Evan Smith". Houston Press . Retrieved June 6, 2012.
  19. "Emily Ramshaw Decamps DMN for Texas Tribune". D Magazine . July 20, 2009. Retrieved February 11, 2019.
  20. "''Austin American-Statesman'': Elise Hu leaving KVUE-TV". Austin American-Statesman. July 22, 2009. Retrieved June 6, 2012.
  21. "The Bay Citizen and The Texas Tribune Launch Open-Source Publishing Platform (Project Armstrong) Funded By Knight Foundation Grant". Market Watch . Retrieved November 15, 2011.
  22. "Our Staff". The Texas Tribune. Retrieved February 11, 2019.
  23. Smith, Evan (May 11, 2011). "T-Squared: Jay Root, Star Reporter, Joins Trib Staff". The Texas Tribune. Retrieved February 11, 2019.