Two developments today that are worth notice for their potential impact.
1) Evan Smith, the CEO of The Texas Tribune, will step down from that role at the end of 2022. With the possible exceptions of the death of Dan Cook in 2008 and Rick Perry’s appearance on Dancing With the Stars in 2016, this is the biggest story in Texas media/journalism in the last 30 years. For it was 30 years ago that Smith joined Texas Monthly, becoming its editor in 2000 before starting the Tribune with Ross Ramsey and John Thornton in 2009. He gave Texas Monthly a needed shot in the arm, and his impact as Tribune visionary is astonishing, on two levels. First, the Tribune is as successful as any media enterprise in Texas, and more so than most. From the Times:
The Texas Tribune, which has a free website and provides articles at no charge to news outlets nationwide, has a staff of more than 50 journalists. It has more than 9,000 paying members and is supported by donations and corporate sponsorships …
Second, it has become the role model:
The Tribune has helped show the way for a new crop of regional nonprofit news outlets, including the Sahan Journal in Minnesota and The Nevada Independent. The Maryland hotel magnate Stewart Bainum is creating another one, The Baltimore Banner.
During all this time, Evan has been the principal plate-spinner, bringing together a superb editorial team, hiring and developing journalistic talent, and, most importantly, raising the money to do all this (an estimated $100 million over 13 years) at a sustained level of excellence while most of its products were given away freely.
I assume that, once he steps down, he will sleep for a year, then find something else interesting to do. Speaking of interesting timing …
2) The scrum to replace outgoing Austin Mayor Steve Adler got more interesting yesterday when Celia Israel announced her candidacy for Austin Mayor. Celia has been doing public policy for Austin and Texas since the early 1990s, working for Governor Ann Richards before moving on to four successful terms as a state rep. At least two other candidates have announced their intent to run, and other political heavyweights have expressed interest, including City Councilmember Kathie Tovo and former Austin Mayor and state senator Kirk Watson.
Watson’s presence is interesting. He was previously mayor just when Austin was beginning the business and demographic growth spurt that defined the 21st century here — for better or worse. Austin went from 690,000 to 960,000 people in that time — about a 40% increase. More important, Austin became an “It” city, simultaneously more desirable and less livable. The next election will be a referendum on whether that style of leadership is what Austin needs now.
3) Speaking of It, I’ve known some “It” girls in my day, although not this one:
I suspect we’ve all known an “It” girl or two in our lives. The problem with “It” Girls is that their “It”-ness usually has a very defined shelf life, even if no one is aware of it at the time. One day, the “It” Girl wakes up and she’s “The Girl From Yesterday.” The ones who last develop their intelligence, humor and soulfulness into a timeless alchemy. Here’s to them.