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.