And so it begins.
The last nine weeks — from the moment we started discussing how our many ideas for The Texas Tribune would be rendered digitally to the wee hours of the morning of Tuesday, November 3, when we flipped the switch and went live — have been something else. We've put in extremely long nights and worked incredibly hard, challenged basic and not-so-basic assumptions, invented countless wheels and reinvented others, and ended up here. If this has been the roller-coaster ride of myth and cliche, we've spent much of the early part of the fall strapped in, hands stretched to the heavens, as we approached the highest point of a steep incline. When I say it's all downhill now, that's not necessarily calming.
But if our nerves are shot, we're excited, elated, enthralled, etc. For those of us who willingly quit good jobs with big media companies to join an untried journalism start-up with an untested business model, this site, this thing, is the expression of our ideals, the realization of our dreams, and the validation of our faith. We're enormously proud, every one of us, of what we're doing and why. We're awed and cowed by what we've been able to produce so quickly and on a relative shoestring (relative, that is, compared to the budgets we lived within and among just a few months ago). And we've barely gotten started.
What we intend to accomplish with the Trib — what we mean to do on an ongoing basis — is right there in our stated mission: to promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, politics, government, and other matters of statewide concern. We'll do this through our original reporting, published on this site and in the pages of and on the web sites of our syndication partners, and our various on-the-record events, which will always be open to the public: an annual ideas festival, a weekly conversation series, a college tour, and the like. In true twenty-first-century fashion, we're approaching the task of storytelling across multiple platforms: text, audio, video, blogs, databases, mobile, social. We're treating you, the reader or viewer or listener or user, as if you're the customer, and we're busily puzzling through how best to meet your various demands. Our goal is to maximize your ability to personalize your experience; as we move to day five and day ten and day thirty, we'll be adding new and innovative ways to do just that.
But let's not move too hastily off of day one. If we don't change a thing going forward, there's a lot here, right this second, that will attract and keep your attention. In addition to straight-ahead news gathered by an extraordinary team of energetic journalists, there's aggregation of the best content from other sources, meaning you won't have to surf dozens of sites all day long to keep up with the conversation about public policy and politics. There are blogs — ours and others, also aggregated. There are eleven searchable databases of public information, including government employee salaries, federal campaign donations, and gubernatorial appointees. There's a massive list of every office up for grabs next November in the Texas House and Texas Senate, among the statewides, and in our congressional delegation; we'll be constantly updating it as candidates approach the filing deadline. There's a calendar of political fundraisers and policy-related events of interest to you out there, along with a form that allows you to upload your own event. There's our polling center, featuring the results of our co-branded University of Texas/Texas Tribune polls, links to other polls of public opinion in Texas, and a blog about methodology and other wonky polling matters by our pollsters, Jim Henson and Daron Shaw.
Even without all the other features and functionality I've neglected to highlight, it's a lot to take in. And there will be much, much more. In time, we hope you'll think of us as a big-box store for political and policy junkies in Texas — a place to get everything you want and need under one roof. But mostly, we want you think of us. Check us out. Tell your friends about us. E-mail us around. Link to us. Embed us. And talk back to us whenever possible.
Speaking of talking back, a bit about our comment policy. We struggled with which commenting philosophy to embrace: Wild West (unrestricted privileges) or Gitmo (you get nothing and like it). Because this has to be a two-way conversation, the latter wasn't an option, but we weren't comfortable with the former, given the tendency of some commenters to cross the line of acceptable conduct, all the while hiding behind the cowardly cover of anonymity. So we arrived at a compromise: In order to comment, you have to register with us (one time) and then log in (every time). And when you register with us, you have to provide an e-mail address to which can send a verification link. We're happy to have you roam the grounds, as it were, but we'd like to have the most elemental information about everyone we let inside the fence.
Finally, a word of thanks, though a word, or a sentence, or a paragraph won't be nearly enough. Those of you who have supported us financially to this point -- the more than 1,300 of you who've signed up as founding members, the more than 60 corporate sponsors, and the more than 40 individuals and foundations who are major donors -- have allowed us to get here and be here. It is not overstating it to say that there would not be a Texas Tribune without you. You have our eternal gratitude and a pledge to do everything we can, everything in our power, to live up to your high expectations.
Now let's go get 'em.