Texas Tribune: Honest Brokers

I’ll be the first to admit – lots of my news, especially about politics, comes from Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. I figured if the most reliable news sources are going to lean so far left and so far right, I might as well get a good laugh while I get a sense of what’s going on in our country.

I am not alone in by averseness to politics. Many people would rather be uninformed than have to deal with the fickle battle between the right and the left. This is where Evan Smith comes in.

Today, Evan Smith came to GSD&M to speak to us about The Texas Tribune, a “nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that promotes civic engagement and discourse on public policy, politics, government and other matters of statewide concern.” As a co-founder, he saw the incredible gap in public service journalism. Many major newspapers had given up on it because they believed no one cared. Evan believes that no one cares because no one talks about it anymore.

The Texas Tribune redefines the newspaper model. Rather than rely on ads for revenue, it relies on donations for corporations and individuals. And while other journalists were fleeing from the Capital, he was sending more people to focus on public policy. They create compelling content and also drive to other Texas news sources so that readers can get it all. It’s a conduit for everything you ever wanted to know about all 242 elected state officials. Smith said, “It’s not just news. It’s knowledge.”

He was energetic as he described how they set out to educate the people in Texas and in turn have created real engagement. This type of journalism is about accountability and education – “Smarter Texans = a greater Texas.” And here’s the best news, it’s working. Last year, they had over 5 million unique visitors reading about public education, energy, immigration, health reform and the 2012 political races.

The Texas Tribune

Smith relies on 5 key concepts for The Texas Tribune:

1.) Sustainability – They are funded by a variety of resources and they are proving with every breaking story that they are here to stay.

2.) Collaboration – Working along with other journalists, The Texas Tribune builds bigger stories and provide a greater value. Also, their content gets featured in The New York Times every week in a special “Texas” section.

3.) Push – Smith says that they have to go to their readers. They can’t wait people to just stumble upon their bevvy of information, they need to get out there on every platform and spread the good word.

4.) Transparency – With a slightly voyeuristic lean on their data, they have to be equally as open about themselves. Nobody should ever misunderstand their source of funding and how they work.

5.) Immodesty – Shout from the mountains! This type of content doesn’t need to be kept secret to reserve integrity. It’s great and people need to know.

Evan Smith’s passion for this kind of journalism is infectious. He wants Texans to start talking about Texas and it’s happening. The journalists at The Texas Tribune are “honest brokers.” Political affiliation aside, they have the support and respect of politicians in Texas and I applaud them for their quest to educate our great state.

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