Many stories have been written about the nonprofit Texas Tribune — launched by venture capitalist John Thornton and edited by award-winning former Texas Monthly editor Evan Smith — but Texas Observer editor Bob Moser tells me his press critic has written “the first non-puff piece written so far, I believe, about the well-funded, well-staffed” site. He continues in his email:
The Tribune has garnered considerable publicity nationally as a “new model” for nonprofit journalism. But the journalism itself has been mighty disappointing.
So you’ll know, we aren’t direct competitors — except, in some cases, for donors and grants. Very different styles of journalism, different missions, different target audiences. I’d love to see them produce high-impact reporting and memorable stories. God knows the Sovereign Republic of Texas desperately needs more of that. But alas: So far, not so good.
Texas Observer media critic Bill Minutaglio likes some things about the Tribune (“News competition is back in play — that is a good thing for democracy”), but says it needs consistent, long-ball narrative and multipart investigative projects. He called several editors, consultants, reporters and educators across Texas to get their opinions of the Tribune.
They lauded the TT extensively, for sure, but their voices dipped down when they said they thought it was boring, too much inside-baseball, too busy-looking, or producing too few investigative stories. They wished the good reporters were unleashed to play to their talents. … The number one criticism was that it is too insular, too focused on details and not enough on the Big Context.
Asked to respond, Tribune editor-in-chief Smith tells me: “The quality of our award-winning work, the success of our fundraising and our site’s record-breaking traffic all speak for themselves. No need for me to respond beyond that.”