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Texas Matters: Saving the Texas Observer and Can Public Radio save local news?

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Texas Observer

Three days after the board of the Texas Observer voted to shutter the longtime crusading liberal magazine, that decision was rescinded.

The vote to save the Observer came after the Texas Democracy Foundation, the nonprofit publisher of the magazine and website, had informed the 16-member staff that it was ending publication after 68 years.

The announcement hit like a thunderbolt, and, like the stubborn journalists that they are, they fought back with an online, last minute fund-raising campaign which raised over $300,000.

Furthermore, there is a recompiling of the board and the drafting of a sustainability plan to keep the Observer publishing.

But there’s still a lot of work to be done to lay a new foundation of long-term funding that could create a stronger Texas Observer.

To get an update I spoke with Lise Olsen, a senior editor and reporter at the Texas Observer.

A disclosure: Olsen has been my editor. I have written for the Observer, I hosted and produced a podcast for them, and have turned to Observer reporters for news interviews on TPR in the past.

Saving Local News
The Texas Observer isn’t alone –Local journalism is caught in a squeeze right now from shrinking advertising revenue, growing competition from less serious media and the rising cost to produce quality content.

Since 2005, more than 2,500 local newspapers, most of them weeklies, have closed, with more closures on the way.

A recent study found that a possible solution to the problem is having public radio stations expand their local newsrooms.

Thomas E. Patterson is Bradlee Professor of Government and the Press at the Harvard Kennedy School.

David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi