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T-Squared: A small price to pay for truth, transparency and accountability

Why is this spring member drive different from all others? Because there's never been a more important time for The Texas Tribune to produce its public-spirited work — or for you to back it.

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In the public media universe, spring membership drive week is a total déjà vu moment. Haven't we pitched the vision of our mission, the value of our content, the awesomeness of our business model in a similar way, if not the same way, every year since the dawn of man? Haven't we employed these strategies, these tactics, these very words? Haven't we been here before?

Yes — only we haven't. 2017 is uncharted territory (unpresidented, as you-know-who might say). It's true for our country, and it's true for our business. All of us in journalism, in every corner of the industry, are hanging on for dear life. The news is coming so quickly, and the disruption is coming so quickly, that it's a struggle to keep up. But we must. There could not be a more important time to produce this kind of work, work expressly and exclusively in the public interest, and there could not be a more important time to back it.

The Texas Tribune is halfway through year eight as a sustainable nonprofit news org doing real news, not fake news — by which I mean covering policy-making, politics and the inner workings of government in a disproportionately influential state, and providing truth, transparency and accountability in ample supply for a population of nearly 28 million. Given our abysmal voter turnout over the last four election cycles, educating the public in a nonpartisan way about the issues in play is integral to the proper functioning of our democracy. We're trying to raise the level of civic engagement in Texas one citizen at a time, and we’re having an impact, but it's a marathon, not a sprint.

The last 12 months were the Trib's best ever. They were great, and when I say great, I mean *great*. Success on every front. A few highlights: 

* Our journalism was never better or more impactful — that applies to both our daily beat and breaking news reporting and our award-winning long-form investigative reporting (we now have a dedicated team of five who do nothing but overturn rocks looking for waste, fraud and corruption). Our newsroom remains the largest in the country in terms of the number of the reporters we have covering a state capitol. No nonprofit or for-profit anywhere has more.

* We built more imaginative data visualizations and interactives than ever, on everything from public school performance to officer-involved shootings in Texas' largest cites.

* We put on more events (50+) in more places than ever, culminating with last fall's biggest and best Texas Tribune Festival. We had 4,000 sign-ups for our sixth-annual ideas fest on the UT-Austin campus, including hundreds of students, and 250 speakers across more than 60 one-hour sessions. (Bonus: we made lots and lots of news.)

* We continued apace with pioneering the use of tech tools and social media platforms to deepen the engagement of our audience, and our site traffic hockey-sticked: 30 percent higher last year than the year before. (We’re at more than 40 percent higher so far this year.) Plus we had more distribution partners around the state in print, on air and online than ever before.

* We redoubled our efforts to diversify our team to reflect not only the Texas we cover today but the Texas we'll cover in the years to come.

* Finally, we embraced our opportunity to train the next generation of exceptional journalists, inviting emerging stars from colleges around the state and across the country to work side by side with dedicated mentors in our 21st-century newsroom.

What we’re doing at our grown-up start up is all very heady and exciting, and it remains an honor to get up every day and head into the Trib office to work alongside our amazing staff to deliver (ideally, overdeliver) on everything we've promised.

Our ability to do so begins with you. Your generous contributions, modest or major, help to pay for our operations and enable, alongside support from foundations and corporations, our ambitious efforts. Yes, we've asked you in the past to give during our drive, and we were sincere at each point in our desire to add you to our roster of donors. But we need you now more than ever — and may we suggest, respectfully, that you need us more than ever too?

We're in this together. In the name of good journalism, for Texas, please give what you can to make our member drive the biggest and most successful. Thanks!

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