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The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit online news organization based in Austin, Texas, that focuses on political and civic issues.
The site was founded in 2009 by venture capitalist John Thornton and former Texas Monthly editor Evan Smith. Thornton raised $4 million in startup funds for the site, including $1 million of his own money and $750,000 in grants from the Knight Foundation and Houston Endowment.
The Tribune is also supported by about 3,000 donating members, as well as corporate sponsors and dozens of both free and paid public events, on which it was on track to make $1.2 million in 2013. The site started with 16 staff members, including 11 journalists (it had grown to a staff of 50 and 18 full-time reporters by 2014), and a $1.6 million budget. The Tribune was profitable for the first time in 2012. By 2011, the site had raised $3.7 million and spent $4 million. It had raised about $11.8 million in total by early 2012, with a budget of $4.2 million.
In March 2011 the Tribune and The Bay Citizen were awarded a $975,000 grant from the Knight Foundation to develop an open source content management system specifically for news organizations. It received another $1.5 million grant from Knight in 2013 to refine its business model. All told, the Tribune had raised almost $11 million through January 2012. It projected $4.5 million in revenue for that year and was profitable. As of 2014, just more than half of its revenue came from corporate sponsorships and live events, with another 17% from individual donations, 17% from foundations, and 12% from memberships.
In 2014, the Tribune launched TribTalk, an opinion website that is also home to the organization’s native advertising program. The Tribune also owns Texas Weekly, a small weekly online political newsletter founded in 1984. The newsletter brings in revenue to cover about 15 percent of the Tribune’s expenses, and Thornton has mentioned plans to launch similar specialty publications.
The Tribune publishes its stories primarily on its website, though they are also available free to other Texas news outlets.
The Tribune has been involved heavily in social media and data journalism, initiatives for which it earned praise at its launch. In May 2010, Smith reported that the Tribune’s databases were responsible for more than a third of its 5.3 million page views after six months. For 2012 the site reported 5.7 million unique visitors and 40 million page views.
About the Tribune
Interview with former reporter Elise Hu:
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is a national foundation that funds a variety of causes, including journalism projects and organizations. The foundation was founded in 1950 by the Knight brothers, who owned the Ohio-based Knight Newspapers, which later became Knight Ridder. Since 1950, the foundation has invested nearly $400 million in journalism…