The Austin Sun was a biweekly counter-culture newspaper, similar in nature to Rolling Stone during the latter's formative years, that was published in Austin, Texas, between 1974 and 1978. It is notable for being the newspaper that started the careers of many persons who later became well known in journalism and other media. It was also a precursor to the L.A. Weekly, which commenced publication in 1978, and the Austin Chronicle, which commenced publication in 1981. Both the L.A. Weekly and the Austin Chronicle continue to publish. Both also remain associated with persons who were originally with the Austin Sun. The social and cultural impact of the Austin Sun is recognized through being indexed by the Library of Congress, as well as through ongoing reunion activities.
The paper was co-founded by Jeff Nightbyrd (formerly Jeff Shero), who had been the editor of The Rat in New York City and associated with The Rag underground newspaper in Austin. Nightbyrd established the paper with Michael Eakin, a former editor at the Daily Texan, the student newspaper of the University of Texas at Austin. They were later joined by J. David Moriarty as managing editor, and considered to be the only person at the paper with business expertise.
The paper's first issue was published on October 17, 1974. Its last issue was published on June 29, 1978. Unlike underground newspapers, which published much counter-culture social and political commentary by way of volunteer submissions, the Austin Sun was intended to be a commercially viable enterprise, with formal advertising programs and paid staff positions.
Despite intentions in relation to commercial viability, most staff members of the Austin Sun needed to have full-time jobs elsewhere to provide for themselves. Jeff Nightbyrd regularly offered employees stock in lieu of salaries, though the stock, being printed paper in relation to a private company, bore no relationship to the actual value of the business.
The Austin Sun was instrumental in advancing the careers of many artists. It is considered to be the first newspaper to advance to a wider audience the careers of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Joe Ely, Marcia Ball, and Butch Hancock, among others. It also covered the first American performances of Elvis Costello, at the Armadillo World Headquarters, and the Sex Pistols, in San Antonio.
Following the cessation of publication of the Austin Sun in 1978, several of its writers relocated to Los Angeles, forming the core first editorial group of the L.A. Weekly, which commenced publication that same year. Some of those same writers became key contributors to the Austin Chronicle, when it commenced publication in 1981. A reunion of Austin Sun staff members was held in October, 2009. A website was established by former staff members Bill Hood and Deborah Stall, where former staff members and readers of the Austin Sun regularly share recollections and updates.
Protection of the Austin Sun name appears to have been lost, in that the name is currently used by an internet news site with no evident association with the original Austin Sun ownership.
In June 2016, the Austin Sun was relaunched as a website in the spirit of the original publication. Founding Sun writers Bill Bentley, James BigBoy Medlin, and Michael Ventura are contributors to the new site, along with original art directors Dan Hubig and Carlene Brady.
- Library of Congress Publication History of The Austin Sun; www.chroniclingamerica.loc.gov.
- It is also included as part of the Alternative Press Collection of the University of California, Santa Barbara; www.oac.cdlib.org.
- See The Austin Sun Reunion Group; www.theaustinsun.com.
- "To Hell with Houston!". Comments of Bill Hood, former Austin Sun photographer and later the paper's art director, March 7, 2009, at www.theaustinsun.com.
- Michael Eakin was murdered in Houston in 1979. His murder remains unsolved. See Ray Reece, "Almost No Apologies"[permanent dead link]. Thrash World; www.rayreece.net. See also Michael Ventura, "Look Ma, No Hands!". The Austin Chronicle, September 7, 2001; www.austinchronicle.com.
- Michael Ventura, "Look Ma, No Hands!". The Austin Chronicle, September 7, 2001; www.austinchronicle.com.
- And despite being so categorized by the Library of Congress; see Library of Congress Publication History of the Austin Sun; www.chroniclingamerica.loc.gov.
- See L.A. Weekly Founder Jay Levin on the vision that started it all. L.A. Weekly, December 4, 2008; www.laweekly.com. Michael Ventura, Ginger Varney, Bill Bentley and "Big Boy" Medlin had all previously been associated with the Austin Sun. See Michael Ventura, Report From L.A. Austin Chronicle, October 2, 1998; www.austinchronicle.com.
- Such as Michael Ventura and Bill Bentley
- See Austin Sun Reunion Photographs by J.R. Compton; www.jrcompton.com.
- See Austin Sun Reunion; www.theaustinsun.com.
- See Austin Sun Internet News Site; www.austinsun.com.