New Texas Tribune publisher Michael Sherrod, formerly an AOL executive, is devising a strategy to expand across the state by building communities of Tribune members and content partners in the state’s counties, towns, and cities. And with 254 counties in Texas, the Tribune has plenty of room to grow. Which raises the question: Can this journalistic model be replicated? What other state has Texas’s size, wealth, and shared sense of identity, along with a well-networked, passionate evangelist like Smith? “That same self-shared bond, shared experience, is crucial to the potential success of the Tribune, in that no matter where you live in Texas, what happens in Texas, you care about it,” Smith says. “I don’t know that we could have launched the New Hampshire Tribune.

“If we’re trying to ‘save’ anything, it’s Texas, it’s not journalism,” he adds. “We are not the new model or the new solution. We may be a new model.”

So after all that, we’re back where we started, with the Tribune’s effort to define itself. To assess an evolving news experiment like the Tribune, we can’t rely exclusively on old models for journalistic success. It is trying to be something familiar—a political news outlet and watchdog—as well as something altogether new—an interactive resource that seeks to empower readers and engage them as fellow citizens. It’s also a town square with a twist, leading public conversation and providing a virtual and traditional forum for politics and policy. Whatever you call it, the Tribune has brought new energy to the Texas media world. The readers will ultimately decide whether it is a renewable resource.

 

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Jake Batsell , a former Dallas Morning News reporter and videographer, is an assistant professor of journalism at Southern Methodist University.