The Texas Tribune

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The Texas Tribune
Texas Tribune logo.svg
Founder(s)John Thornton
Evan Smith
Ross Ramsey
EditorStacy-Marie Ishmael
Headquarters919 Congress Avenue
Austin, Texas, U.S.
30°16′18″N 97°44′28″W / 30.271557°N 97.741243°W / 30.271557; -97.741243Coordinates: 30°16′18″N 97°44′28″W / 30.271557°N 97.741243°W / 30.271557; -97.741243
OCLC number465271495

The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit[1] media organization in Texas that claims to be non-partisan.[2] Headquartered in Austin, Texas, it aims to promote civic engagement through original, explanatory journalism and public events.[3] Most articles are by-lined.

The only regular opinion pieces -- tagged as 'Analysis' -- are by Ross Ramsey, with occasional guest contributions by select outside authors, such as academics. Unlike The Washington Post and The New York Times, TheTexas Tribune has no letter-to-the-editor space and eliminated the reader-response comment feature in 2020.

Its website and content in various delivery platforms serve as an alternative news source for Texas, with a goal of supplementing mainstream media sources.

Texas Tribune plays an outsized role in Texas politics and public life because its products are freely accessible online while the mainstream newspapers in the state's major metropolitan media markets are all paywalled.

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.[4]

In addition to journalism pubished on its site,[5] and in the pages and on the sites of its distribution partners,[6] 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.[7]


The foundation was created in 2009 by venture capitalist John Thornton[8] and veteran journalists Evan Smith and Ross Ramsey.[9][10] 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:[11]

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[12][13] 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.[12]

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.[14] Pickens in particular donated $150,000.[15] Foundations donated about $1.1 million, including a total of $750,000 in grants from the Houston Endowment.[16] The Sid W Richardson Foundation of Fort Worth also gave a $100,000 operating grant beginning from 2015 and continues to provide an operating grant. 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.[17] 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."[18]

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.[12] Smith and Ramsey subsequently hired several well-known members of the Capitol press corps to join the team: Matt Stiles, of the Houston Chronicle;[19] Emily Ramshaw, of the Dallas Morning News;[20] Brandi Grissom, of the El Paso Times; Elise Hu, of KVUE-TV;[21] 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.[13] By the time The Texas Tribune debuted on November 3, 2009,[14] it had raised $3.6 million from more than 1,000 individual donors and at least fifty corporate sponsors.[13]

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.[22]


Current staff includes Evan Smith CEO and co-founder, Stacy-Marie Ishmael, Editorial Director, Terry Quinn, Chief Development Officer, Ayan Mittra, Editor, Millie Tran, Chief Product Officer, Rodney Gibbs, Executive Director of Revenue Lab, April Hinkle, Chief Revenue Officer, and Jacob Villanueva, Chief Creative Officer. Evan Smith was Texas Monthly's editor between 2000 and 2008.[23]

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.[24]


The Texas Tribune is funded through donations from individuals, corporations, and foundations.[25][26]


  1. ^ "Exempt Organization Select Check". Internal Revenue Service. Retrieved July 23, 2014.
  2. ^ Nahser, Freia (September 27, 2018). "The Texas Tribune: audience strategy and business model". Global Editors Network. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  3. ^ Pérez-Peña, Richard (July 17, 2009). "Web Start-Up Has Its Eye on Texas". The New York Times.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ San Antonio Express-News: Texas Tribune set as state watchdog Archived July 28, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Bryan Person (July 29, 2009). "''Media Bullseye'': Journalism is No Longer a Lecture". Archived from the original on February 26, 2012. Retrieved June 6, 2012.
  7. ^ Clark-Madison, Mike. "2019 Tribfest Takes Politics to the Streets". Austin Chronicle. Archived from the original on September 27, 2019. Retrieved October 5, 2019.
  8. ^ "About Us". The Texas Tribune. Retrieved February 11, 2019.
  9. ^ "Ross Ramsey: Executive Editor". The Texas Tribune. Retrieved January 1, 2012.
  10. ^ Langeveld, Martin (June 1, 2012). "Nieman Journalism Lab: Texas Tribune is ramping up". Retrieved June 6, 2012.
  11. ^ Thornton, John (August 30, 2009). "What If: The Non-Profit Media Model". The Huffington Post. Retrieved June 6, 2012.
  12. ^ a b c "''Austin American-Statesman'': Texas Tribune hires Ross Ramsey as managing editor". Austin American-Statesman. July 23, 2009. Retrieved June 6, 2012.
  13. ^ a b c Tenore, Mallary Jean (September 23, 2009). "Journalists Leave Full-time Jobs to Work for Texas Tribune, Embrace Uncertainty". Poynter. Retrieved February 11, 2019.
  14. ^ a b Brass, Kevin (October 30, 2009). "Media Watch: 'A Sense of Purpose'". The Austin Chronicle. Retrieved February 11, 2019.
  15. ^ Minutaglio, Bill (December 26, 2012). "T. Boone Pickens’ Alternative Energy Hype". Texas Observer. Retrieved February 11, 2019.
  16. ^ "The Texas Tribune: Where the Money Comes From". The Texas Tribune. January 26, 2010. Archived from the original on March 6, 2012. Retrieved June 6, 2012.
  17. ^ Smith, Evan (December 19, 2016). "T-Squared: Knight Foundation will match your gifts to the Trib". The Texas Tribune. Retrieved February 11, 2019.
  18. ^ Thornton, John (January 25, 2010). "A Note from Our Chairman". The Texas Tribune. Retrieved February 11, 2019.
  19. ^ 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.
  20. ^ "Emily Ramshaw Decamps DMN for Texas Tribune". D Magazine. July 20, 2009. Retrieved February 11, 2019.
  21. ^ "''Austin American-Statesman'': Elise Hu leaving KVUE-TV". Austin American-Statesman. July 22, 2009. Retrieved June 6, 2012.
  22. ^ "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.
  23. ^ "Our Staff". The Texas Tribune. Retrieved April 6, 2020.
  24. ^ Smith, Evan (May 11, 2011). "T-Squared: Jay Root, Star Reporter, Joins Trib Staff". The Texas Tribune. Retrieved February 11, 2019.
  25. ^ "Donors and Members". The Texas Tribune. Retrieved March 9, 2021.
  26. ^ "Corporate Sponsors". The Texas Tribune. Retrieved March 9, 2021.

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