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T-Squared: Donor Ask, Donor Tell

Today marks the beginning of an effort to more openly and aggressively disclose when donors to The Texas Tribune are — for reasons entirely related to their place in the center of the news — the subjects of stories.

El Paso's Woody Hunt in Austin on Nov. 30, 2010.

Read to the bottom of Reeve Hamilton's interview with El Paso businessman Woody Hunt, the chairman of the Governor's Business Council, and you'll see something brand new to our site: an active acknowledgment of his status as a donor to The Texas Tribune, citing the specific amount he's given and over what period of time.

Today marks the beginning of an effort to more openly and aggressively disclose when such donors are the subjects of stories (as opposed to quoted or mentioned incidentally). This hasn't been the case very much in the last year-plus, but it's bound to going forward, given that the nature of our nonprofit business model ensures a certain amount of ongoing fundraising from the kind of wealthy, powerful individuals who are apt to make news — or at least be in the center of it. We simply cannot cover politics and public policy in this state without occasionally, if not more than occasionally, running smack into someone who is generously underwriting the operations of the Tribune. And so we have an obligation to tell you.

It's not as if such donations have any impact at all on what we write about, and it's not as if you haven't already had easy access to a constantly updated list of who's supporting us financially, through gifts both modest and major; you have, right here. But there's no reason not to be even more upfront and out in the open about it. Since we ask for a maximum level of transparency from people all across Texas, we should be willing — eager — to provide it ourselves.

When I was the editor of Texas Monthly, I would sometimes get asked if our advertisers ever exerted pressure on us to publish or not publish this story or that. At no time was that ever a problem. Likewise, at no time has a donor attempted to influence the Trib's journalistic output. No donor could, and no donor would. Still, you have a right to know what's what. Now you will.

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