Texas Tribune CEO discusses publication, future of journalism

Despite the popular belief that the journalism field offers a dwindling number of jobs, Texas Tribune’s CEO Evan Smith said he believes now is the most “optimistic and hopeful” time in the field.

Journalism has exploded in the last few years, creating chaos in the industry, Smith said to students Tuesday morning in Centennial Hall as a part of a Mass Comm Week Q&A.. The widespread access to technology broke down the traditional approaches to reporting, Smith said.

Since the journalism world is changing, unique opportunities for students that  have never been available to those coming out of school before are open, Smith said.

“I think the definition of reporter is as elastic as it’s ever been,” Smith said.

Because of the different mediums at reporters disposal, students coming out of school are learning a variety of skills that can be used in their professional lives, he said.

“You all are basically Swiss army knives—you have all these skills you can deploy coming out of a program like this,” Smith said.

Smith said he fell into journalism by accident after finding his plan to work in politics was “mind numbing and depressing.” Smith began Texas Tribune-a nonprofit, nonpartisan publication covering Texas politics and public policy-after working for Texas Monthly for 17 years.

It is important to his organization to be nonpartisan so that they can educate Texans and help them make their own informed decisions, Smith said.

“There are plenty of (media outlets) to go to get your own opinion reaffirmed,” Smith said.

The Tribune is a nonprofit because Smith said the education of Texans is a “public good” in a state with consistently low voter turnout and the traditional model of for-profit publications is difficult to maintain.

“We are activist on behalf of Texas,” Smith said. “We don’t want to tell people what to think but unfortunately we have to tell them to think.”



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