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Posts Tagged ‘John Thornton’

4 Questions For Texas Tribune’s Evan Smith

The Texas Tribune, a new Texas-based non-profit journalism Web site, will launch tomorrow — one year before the state’s 2010 general election, which includes the gubernatorial race, among others. There has been a lot of talk about the project since longtime Texas Monthly editor Evan Smith left his day job to launch the Tribune, and even though it will cover only Texas political and policy news, we here at FishbowlNY are fascinated by the prospect of non-profit journalism no matter where its based.

The project is was founded by Texas-based venture capitalist John Thornton. Smith, who believed in Thornton’s vision from the beginning, was helping to look for a suitable editor-in-chief for the site before realizing that he would make the perfect leader. “It was sort of like Dick Cheney helping George Bush find a vice president,” Smith said. The team went on to hire a staff of eleven reporters, plucked from the top echelons of Texas’ political journalism world.

“We hired the best reporters away from for-profit journalism in Texas,” Smith said. “We put together our fantasy football list, and we got everybody we wanted.”

The Texas Tribune (www.texastribune.org) will be unlike any other non-profit journalism organization. In addition to traditional news reporting, there will be columns, blogs aggregating content from other news sources, original audio and original video content, all available for free for newspapers, radio and television stations to use. There will also be 80 gigabytes of public information, like data about Texas’ elected officials, that the Tribune assembled into databases for the public to access. “I’m kind of amazed that in just a couple of months we’ve been able to build this with a relatively small staff,” Smith said.

As he prepared to reveal The Texas Tribune to the world, Smith took a minute to talk to FBNY about his reason for leaving Texas Monthly to start the new project, how he’s worked to fund it and what the reaction from the Texas journalism community has been so far.

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Longtime Texas Monthly Editor To Launch Non-Profit News Site

Evan_Smith.jpgEvan Smith, the president and editor-in-chief of Texas Monthly said today that he will be stepping down next month in order to take a job as founding CEO of the Texas Tribune, a non-profit news Web site that will launch later this year.

Smith joined the Texas magazine in 1992 as a senior editor, and moved his way up to deputy editor the next year. He took over as editor in 2000, and was promoted to his current position last September. In a letter to Texas Monthly staffers today, Smith recounted some of the editorial highlights of his tenure at the magazine: “two National Magazine Awards for General Excellence in the last six years and fourteen more nominations over the last nine; the most City and Regional Magazine Association awards during that period of any member publication.”

Now Smith is moving on to the Tribune, which likens itself to ProPublica. The new venture will publish non-partisan investigative journalism online and host events.

“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,” Smith said to his colleagues. “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). For nearly a year I’ve been helping John refine his concept for the Trib, and I’ve suggested various people he might hire. At some point along the way, like Dick Cheney leading the search for George Bush‘s vice president and concluding that he was the one he was looking for, I came to believe that perhaps I should join John in a more formal capacity, and he came to believe it too.”

However, Smith said he will continue to consult with Texas Monthly and host the weekly half-hour interview show, “Texas Monthly Talks,” as editor emeritus, “for the foreseeable future.”

“So you won’t get rid of me that easily,” he told his staff.

Smith will be replaced by Elynn Russell, a longtime Texas Monthly vet who will be the first woman to lead the magazine, minOnline reported.