Here, Kate Galbraith of The Texas Tribune (and a 2008 Nieman Fellow) talks about how innovative newsrooms often come in small sizes.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” These words, from the anthropologist Margaret Mead, should be front and center for every media organization. Changing the world by providing information—that is what we are about.
Mead was right in another way, too. Change can start small.
I have spent the past three years at The Texas Tribune, an online nonprofit publication based in Austin. By the usual standards of newsrooms, we’re tiny. Our team includes just over a dozen reporters, plus several editors. And yet we’ve gotten a lot done. We’ve uncovered forced fights at a Houston-area residential treatment center for foster children, and we’ve created a database—plus an ongoing series of articles—on the conflicts of interest of elected Texas officials. We’ve won Murrow, Webby and Society of Professional Journalists awards.
In a small newsroom, we all chip in. If someone writes a breaking story—about a criminal-case sentencing, for example, or a health-care protest—he or she will e-mail it around to all Tribune reporters and plead for a fast edit. If no editor is available, another reporter steps in to edit and publish. That’s a little less formal than traditional newsrooms.
Small means that we interact constantly with one another. I sit 10 feet from our immigration reporter, Julián Aguilar, and we’ll swap story ideas on environmental issues near the Texas-Mexico border. I’m 20 feet from our crack data reporter, Ryan Murphy, who basically starts mapping oil and gas wastewater disposal wells or Texas cities running out of water almost before we’ve finished discussing the idea.