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T-Squared: Trib, Times Will End Partnership

The four-year collaboration between The Texas Tribune and The New York Times will come to an end at the conclusion of the calendar year — a casualty of the challenging economic times that continue to bedevil the media industry.

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This was supposed to be a proud and grateful acknowledgement of the anniversary of our content partnership with The New York Times, which began four years ago today. Well, we interrupt this blog post to bring you some late-breaking news.

Yesterday afternoon we learned from our pals at the Times that our work together will come to an end, sadly but not entirely unexpectedly, at the conclusion of the calendar year — a casualty of the challenging economic times that continue to bedevil the media industry. You may have read or heard recently about cutbacks at the paper: the elimination of newsroom jobs, the shuttering of mobile apps, the imperiling of whole sections. Even the Times’ budget, larger than those of its peers, has not been able to withstand the impact of precipitous, disruptive changes to nearly every aspect of the newspaper business. In that environment, anything on the periphery, not central to its core mission or functions, was vulnerable. The Trib partnership, while innovative, ambitious and, relatively speaking, cheaply produced, was objectively an expendable line item. 

We entered the relationship as the third regional partner of three; the goal was to shore up circulation in areas of the country that, from the Times’ perspective, were underserved. First came San Francisco's Bay Citizen, then the Chicago News Cooperative and then us. The other two dissolved a couple of years back, leaving us as the only partner standing.

Every Friday and every Sunday since Halloween weekend in 2010, we've produced a two-page section in the Texas edition of the paper, and online everywhere, featuring the best political and public policy reporting by the Tribune's team of journalists. Those stories really ran the gamut: abortion and immigration, water woes and gravel roads, Rick Perry's presidential pratfalls and Ted Cruz's rise to prominence, and of course all manner of shenanigans at the Legislature. Ross Ramsey wrote a regular column for those pages — he has enough material after four years for several good anthologies, even if you toss out the time he prematurely killed a legendary Major League Baseball manager — and our friends at Texas Monthly contributed the sort of sophisticated cultural profiles and criticism and definitive events roundups the magazine is known for.

How much copy the Trib alone produced for the Times is a matter of simple math: 52 weeks a year x 2 days a week x 3 stories most of those days x 4 years. That's north of 1,200 articles and columns, and we still have two months to go. Yikes! But pretty amazing.

Readers across the state told us how much they enjoyed having so much Texas in the paper — especially because it was the work of Texans. Subjects of stories were excited to see themselves in the pages of the most famous newspaper in the world. And, yes, for the Trib's writers, the idea of publishing in the august Times was a real kick. We hate to see the whole thing come to an end, but it's like that line from The Godfather: It’s business, not personal.

We owe everything to the great folks who made our collaboration possible: former executive editors Bill Keller and Jill Abramson, former national editors Rick Berke and Sam Sifton, former associate managing editor Jim Schachter (now vice president for news at public radio station WNYC and a Trib board member), former director of strategic planning Tim Griggs (now the Trib’s publisher and chief operating officer), our magnificent and gifted line editor for the first few years, Jill Agostino, photography editor Michele McNally, and a host of other employees at the paper who became friends and co-conspirators. To the current executive editor, Dean Baquet, and the current national editor, Alison Mitchell, we say: Thanks for keeping us around for as long as you could.

We’ll miss working with the Times, but other partners are out there, and there’s plenty of important work to be done under the Tribune’s own robust brand. Enjoy the last two months of Trib/Times pages, and stay tuned for more breaking news.

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