The Texas Observer Lives to See Another Print Run
Friday, April 7, 2023
The Texas Observer, a nonprofit news organization known for its liberal, independent reporting and cultural criticism, will continue publishing, after a successful fundraiser and reversed decision by the board of directors.
The paper's 17 employees learned of its parent organization's decision to lay them off and put the paper "on hiatus" from a Texas Tribune article in late March.
James Canup, former managing director for Texas Observer, resigned in protest. Since then, a GoFundMe campaign started by Canup has raised more than $300,000 to keep the Observer afloat.
Canup said the paper, which accepts no corporate advertising, has always relied on donations and philanthropy for its investigative reporting and cutting-edge commentary.
"It's sort-of a definer of progressive, liberal, populist values for Texas," Canup explained. "And that means that they can write and say things that nobody else is going to say."
The changing media landscape has forced more than 2,500 newspapers to close since 2005, according to a 2022 study by Northwestern University. The late firebrand journalist Molly Ivins worked at The Texas Observer in the early 1970s before moving to the New York Times.
Canup believes the watchdog journalism produced by the Observer is more important than ever in Texas.
"It's a miracle that the thing has survived for almost 70 years," Canup contended. "Progressives have been losing in this state for three decades and so, the wins are few and far between, and this one is satisfying."
The Northwestern study also noted the communities losing newspapers do not typically get a print or digital replacement, leaving 70 million residents -- a fifth of the country's population -- living in an area with no local news organizations. About 7% of U.S. counties now have no local newspaper.
Support for this reporting was provided by The Carnegie Corporation of New York.
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