On this date seven years ago, we first flipped the switch on The Texas Tribune. I’ve written and said many times before that no one’s more surprised we’ve made it this far than we are.
This thing was a lark — a well-intentioned, well-funded, smartly put together lark, but a lark nonetheless, entirely uncertain and far from plausible. Serious, unsexy public service news reporting? Puh-leeze. Around dinnertime on Nov. 3, 2009, I arrived home and assured my wife that if it didn’t work out, I was employable. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to hedge that way in private. I’m happy to report that I and the seven other original Tribune employees who remain on staff, out of a total of 17 on launch day, have never had to look for a job. I’m even happier to report that Team Trib, now nearly 60 strong, has over-delivered on the ambitious and unrealistic promises we made at the start.
Journalism has changed in those seven years. The Trib has changed, and we've changed. We know so much more about the work we do and what we’re capable of. We more intuitively understand the evolving economics of our business. We’ve gotten more comfortable with putting technology at the center of the enterprise, and with taking the right kind of risks and fading the heat when things don’t go as planned.
What hasn’t changed is our mission. Here it is, in its spare and corny glory: "The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics and statewide issues." We're guided by those words each day. The clarity that comes with knowing who we are and who we’re not, with never having to ask ourselves what we’re supposed to be doing when we get to the office, has been a defining thread in the Trib narrative.
Every successful venture is a byproduct of hard work, smarts, vision, timing and luck. To that list I would add, in our case, the kindness of strangers (and friends). Generous people and institutions, both philanthropic and commercial, have funded our operations to the tune of more than $40 million. Every person who reads, watches, listens, attends an event or interacts with us on social media is part of the army we’re building. Our colleagues across the state and around the country, who’ve cheered us on as we’ve puttered and experimented and developed what we hope are best practices for our disrupted industry, have been the best of all possible collaborators, co-conspirators, and brothers and sisters in arms.
I'll leave it to others to say whether the state is better as a result of seven years of the Tribune. (Of course *we* think it is.) Regardless, it's a true honor and and a great pleasure to get to do this work. It's the work of our lifetimes — making Texas a smarter place and Texans more productive citizens.
If you want to help us get through the next seven and beyond, we'd love to have you sign up as a member. Even if you don't, raise a glass. Happy birthday to us! Here's to an equally bright and public-spirited future.