Today we’re publishing the fruit of our third collaboration to date with our pals at the Texas Tribune, the non-profit news organization that was founded in 2009 by our former editor, Evan Smith. In its few short years of existence, the Trib has emerged as one of the best outlets for politics and public policy reporting in the state, and one of the most interesting (and successful) non-profit news sites in the country. Amid the often depressing conversation about the future of the news media business, the Trib remains a bright spot, an example of how new business models can support innovative and important journalism that has real civic value.
We’ve watched with pride and excitement these past three and a half years as the Trib has established itself. And we’ve looked continuously for ways to work together to advance our mutual causes. The prime example of this, to date, has been our weekly collaborations on the Texas Report, a two-page section of state coverage that runs in the Texas edition of the New York Times on Fridays and Sundays. The Trib runs their politics and public policy reporting, and since 2011, Texas Monthly has provided the cultural coverage for this section (and by culture, we mean The Culture, as in stories about not just music, books, and movies but also Texas history, food, crime, art, celebrities, sports, and more). It’s been a great match for all three media organizations.
But we haven’t stopped there. Back in 2010 we published a story co-written by the Trib‘s energy and environment reporter, Kate Galbraith, on the history of the Texas wind power industry (a story that has now grown into an excellent forthcoming book to be published in April by the University of Texas Press). Last summer we ran another feature by Kate, about how the looming water shortages in Texas are being tackled by large industry. And shortly after that, we worked together to send Reeve Hamilton, the Trib‘s higher ed correspondent, to Qatar to report on the Texas A&M campus there.
The Trib has made a business of collaborating. Making their content freely available to newspapers around the state is part of their model. So we’re thrilled to find even more extensive ways of working together. As Evan wrote in a post on their site today: “Not long ago two statewide publications wouldn’t have dreamed of giving one another the time of day, let alone sharing human and financial resources. But we have, in search of newer, bigger audiences, at a time when the traditional playbook is old and tired. This thing we do, the media business, is not as robust as it once was. The route to survivial and success is through doors we never would have thought to enter. And more often than not, it involves, it requires, a willingness to collaborate.” (I should add that the Trib‘s tough loss to us on the softball diamond last season has not diminished this willingness.)
The piece that we’re publishing today is a classic Texas Monthly story, a gripping narrative by the Trib’s managing editor, Brandi Grissom, about the case of Andre Thomas, a deeply mentally ill man who murdered his ex-wife and children and is now on Death Row. The story raises interesting, uncomfortable questions about how we should punish mentally ill criminals, especially mentally ill murderers. This is, of course, a timely and important subject in the wake of the shootings in Newtown and Aurora, which have pushed questions about mental health and criminal justice back into the spotlight. And working together with the Trib, we’ll be able to leverage every tool imaginable in the service of exploring this subject: Brandi’s magazine story will be accompanied by a six-part Tribune series (also called “Trouble in Mind”), the first part of which was published this morning, as well as multimedia elements. Over the next week or so, you’ll be reading about this case, and others like it, here and over at the Trib.
Get used to this. It isn’t the first time we’re working together, and it won’t be the last.