Today is a pretty big anniversary: It's exactly 18 months since we flipped the switch and launched The Texas Tribune. During that time, and before, and in these first few hours of the second 18 months, everyone at the Trib has worked incredibly hard to increase the level of engagement across the state and to facilitate a civil and educated discourse — just as we said we would. We have more than 30 paid staff members working day and night to achieve that end, including 16 different people producing journalism of all kinds for our site and partners like The New York Times, and we've raised nearly $9 million in the worst media economy imaginable to fund the ongoing operations of our still-nascent news organization.
The headline? It's absolutely working. Our nonpartisan content is ambitious and robust and generating tons of traffic, and our nonprofit business model is holding up better than any of us had the right to expect. As cautious and pessimistic as we are by nature — a defense mechanism — it's impossible to escape the conclusion that we know how to do this, and we can pay for it. If a few more things go right in 2011, we'll break even a full year ahead of schedule.
Among those few more things is the successful completion of our spring membership drive, which not coincidentally kicks off this morning. It's deliberately short in duration — it runs through the end of this week — and it has an achievable goal of just $25,000. (If we hit it, we'll actually be $50,000 to the good, as one of our favorite corporate underwriters, HPI Real Estate in Austin, has generously pledged $25,000 as a match against whatever we bring in during the drive.)
We want to raise funds, of course; that's the purpose of any such effort, and rest assured we'll spend them wisely. But we also want to raise friends. We want to raise awareness. We want to expand the community of people who care about and think about and talk about the big issues affecting Texas. We want to edify, inform, elucidate and illuminate by offering insight, context and perspective. We'll even settle for entertaining — if that's what it takes to get our friends and neighbors to pay attention.
The work we've posted and published during the legislative session, the data we've collected and shared and the events we've staged ought to give you a good idea what we're about and why it's worth supporting us. But there's even more important work to be done after June 1. When the session ends, public ed and higher ed and immigration and health care and criminal justice and energy will still be important. It will still be necessary for someone to keep a watchful eye on what happens, and doesn't, in political and policy circles in Austin and Washington. It is at exactly that moment, when the pomp and pageantry concludes, that some elected official sneaks out the back of the Capitol with a refrigerator strapped to his back. We have to be there to catch him in the act.
We can't say what other news organizations will do after Sine Die — we know they beefed up for these 140 days, and we expect they'll scale down come fall, the way department stores let their seasonal employees go when the holidays are over. I can tell you with certainty that we're not going anywhere, that our 16 energetic public interest journalists aren't going anywhere. You'll be able to count on us, on our vigilance, long after the final gavel hits the podium. After all, we have 150 House races and 31 Senate races and 36 congressional races to cover in 2012, not to mention a U.S. Senate race and a presidential race. And then, off in the distance, the 83rd legislative session.
That's why I invite you, encourage you, implore you to become a member. Because we're there for you. We're beholden to no one but you. We have your back and the backs of all Texans. And we always will.
To make your tax-deductible gift, go here.
Thanks so much on behalf of everyone at the Trib.