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I knew when I started working at The Texas Tribune that I was inheriting an established Texas institution that has inspired and influenced nonprofit media across the country. As Texas and Texans play an ever more important role in the future of the United States, the Tribune has the opportunity and obligation to do more: to reach new audiences, to strategically expand our coverage and to build and deepen trust with communities. The Tribune must answer this call in its next chapter.
Texas is the most consequential state in the United States. Our economy is at the intersection of innovation, industry and investment. Our workforce and demographics are the vanguard of the future. Our politics are national in scope. Our future is the future of America. And it’s our job to make sure those stories are told and their meaning and significance explained.
As I joined the Tribune, I also knew that the media industry is in the midst of rapid evolution. Audiences are bogged down with too much information in too many formats. Technology continues to disrupt journalism as we know it (for both good and bad). Technology also continues to disrupt and shorten attention spans. We cannot measure the impact of stories by the number of clicks, and we know that we must try new formats and use new tools to reach audiences where they are. In these dynamic times, we cannot just keep pace with change, but must lead the change and the charge.
The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.
– Alan Watts
The Tribune’s success and growth, since its founding, have been remarkable. We often are cited as the gold standard for nonprofit journalism. But that standard is evolving, and so must we. And that is exactly what we are going to do.
We are going to become the voice of Texas for Texans, and for those who want to know about Texas and the vital role our state plays across the nation and around the world. Texas stories should be told with a Texas voice and through a Texas lens. And the Tribune should be that voice and lens. We want to be the most trusted media brand for all Texans, not only for those engaged in Texas policy and politics. To achieve this, we must meet people where they are and deliver independent, trusted news that engages Texans on issues that matter to them.
So how will we do it? We will start with a renewed clarity of focus on product, audience and impact.
The Texas Tribune started as a digital pioneer in 2009. But to be a digital pioneer now is quite different. And the work that we must do on behalf of the 30 million residents who call Texas home isn’t just about today — it’s about tomorrow. So The Texas Tribune must become a digital pioneer for 2025.
Product is at the core of how we will deliver the news, insights, data and important information that our audiences crave. We want our products‚ stories, newsletters, explainers, podcasts, events and beyond – to help our readers and communities learn, engage and participate. We want to become the indispensable first stop for Texans seeking Texas state news.
Our product strategy will build on loyalty, trust and reader discovery, while increasing the amount of revenue and the number of revenue streams. I highlight revenue for a very specific reason: Revenue is what enables our impact to grow. It is what allows us to fund innovation and expansion. It is what allows us to be the Tribune that Texans need. And it is how we support the core mission that has underpinned the Tribune since the beginning.
This focus on product will require innovation. It will require the discipline to learn, adapt and pivot as necessary to achieve our goals. We will become a more data-informed organization that takes calculated risks, delivers great products, understands our audience and carries out reporting with and for — not just about — Texas communities.
Our audiences will be at the center of everything we do. We want to know who reads us, why they read us and how long they read us. We need to know what Texans are curious about and searching for — their hopes, fears, aspirations, dreams.
This means that we also need to continue to provide high-quality information, in multiple formats, that builds long-term trust with audiences. We want our readers to care about what we produce and we want them to engage with us across channels, including at our live events. We will help reach new audiences through partnerships with trusted community institutions and more rigorously track how Texans engage with us at all levels.
Impact is at the heart of the Tribune. In our next chapter, we will relentlessly seek to provide news that people want and need, news and insights that they trust on the topics and concerns that matter most to them. The end result is not telling Texans what to think, but rather it’s distributing information and insights in service to a more robust, informed and healthy democracy. Sewell Chan, our editor-in-chief, continues to be my trusted partner in ensuring our newsroom delivers the most useful, valuable and relevant information to Texans. Together we aim to reach Texans not just when the Legislature is in session or when it’s time to vote — but also reaching Texans who are consumers, workers, parents, caregivers, borrowers, patients, students and worshippers — everyday Texans day in and day out. We are well known for our political reporting, and we want to ensure we have the same level of impact in other areas of coverage so people across the state understand how policy and politics are affecting their daily lives.
In practice, that means over time, we want to expand our coverage of health and pre-K-12 and higher education, which account for the majority of the Texas budget; expanding our coverage of critical issues like energy and the environment; more coverage of the economy, including housing, transportation and taxes; and providing more user-friendly explanatory and service journalism that answers the questions Texans are most curious about.
Our goal is nothing short of becoming the most authoritative, reliable, credible source of news on policy and politics in Texas and the most important issues facing our great state. We will do this not only by examining the challenges facing the state and its people but also the opportunities and optimism that continue to make Texas one of the fastest-growing, most exciting and most significant states in America.
We can’t do this work without the support of the thousands of Texans who’ve read our work, contributed to our mission, attended our events, spoken with our reporters and called us with tips since our founding in 2009. To make the next 14 years just as great, we will need support from y’all more than ever. This is your Texas Tribune, and we welcome your feedback, input, ideas and even criticism as we build out a Tribune that is even more ambitious, more resilient and more relevant to the lives of the 30 million people of Texas.
We are just getting started.
Go behind the headlines with newly announced speakers at the 2023 Texas Tribune Festival, in downtown Austin from Sept. 21-23. Join them to get their take on what’s next for Texas and the nation.