Reader's Corner

A decade in, the Texas Tribune pursues the rest of its audience

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About a month before the Texas Tribune launched in 2009, media reporter Jack Shafer wrote a piece for Slate delineating the numerous problems inherent in nonprofit journalism – namely, that nonprofits lose money on purpose, and thus, have to take handouts, which, Shafer says, "come with conditions." Shafer, who then blithely referred to CEO Evan Smith as "picking the pocket" of venture capitalist John Thornton, also spelled out that audience development is always secondary to advocacy in this sort of business model:

"Commercial outlets may reflect their owners' views, but this tendency is always tempered by the need to attract readers and viewers. Nonprofit outlets almost always measure their success in terms of influence, not audience, because their customers are the donors who've donated cash to influence politics, promote justice, or otherwise build a better world."

Of course, the Texas Tribune's base, composed of members scattered across the state and beyond, also includes deep-pocketed professional philanthropists. But just as the Tribune has evolved from a niche publication for hardcore policy wonks to a mainstream, establishment publication, its lofty goals for influence and audience aren't at odds with each other; they're inextricably linked.

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