About the Texas Observer
The Texas Observer is an Austin-based nonprofit news organization known for fearless investigative reporting, narrative storytelling and sophisticated cultural criticism about all things Texan.
Since its founding in 1954, the Observer has covered issues that are often ignored or underreported by other media. We strive to expose injustice and to produce the kind of impact journalism that changes people’s lives for the better. Our thoughtful arts and culture coverage recognizes the diversity and talent of Texas’ creative community.
Our guiding light continues to be our founding mission statement:
We will serve no group or party but will hew hard to the truth as we find it and the right as we see it. We are dedicated to the whole truth, to human values above all interests, to the rights of humankind as the foundation of democracy. We will take orders from none but our own conscience, and never will we overlook or misrepresent the truth to serve the interests of the powerful or cater to the ignoble in the human spirit.
We cover stories crucial to the public interest and provoke dialogue that promotes democratic participation and open government, in pursuit of a Texas where education, justice and material progress are available to all. We’re not afraid to take a stand in our reporting, and our stands are supported by facts. Our reporting is fair, accurate, and, as our mission states, hews hard to the truth as we find it. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, we don’t endorse candidates or legislation.
The Observer‘s reporting has led both state and national media—including the New York Times, the Washington Post, Harper’s, 60 Minutes, 20/20, Frontline, Mother Jones, the Nation, TIME magazine, National Public Radio and ABC News—to important stories about injustice and corruption in Texas. Our reporting has prompted investigations and hearings in the U.S. Congress and the Texas Legislature, and led to the exonerations of several wrongly convicted Texans.
Our work has garnered widespread acclaim: Among other honors, the Observer has been nominated for three National Magazine Awards for reporting, including back-to-back nominations in 2013 and 2014, won dozens of awards from the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, been recognized as the nation’s Best Political Coverage by the Utne Reader, and twice been a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists.
Every day online and every month in our print magazine, the Observer delivers sharp reporting and commentary from the strangest state in the Union.
In 1954, Houstonian Frankie Randolph set out to create a newspaper that would cover issues ignored by the state’s daily newspapers: race and class and the lives of working people. Ms. Randolph bought the State Observer, brought in Marshall, Texas lawyer Franklin Jones, who owned the East Texas Democrat, in on the plan, and called young journalist Ronnie Dugger to Austin’s Driskill Hotel to offer him the job as founding editor of the new Texas Observer. Dugger accepted, and set about producing a fiercely independent muckraking paper the likes of which Texas had never before seen.
In 1994, Dugger transferred ownership of the Observer to the Texas Democracy Foundation, which was established as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization to publish and promote the Observer.
For 60 years, the Observer has employed some of the best writers and journalists in Texas—Ronnie Dugger, Billy Lee Brammer, Willie Morris, Molly Ivins, Jim Hightower, Lou Dubose, Nate Blakeslee and Jake Bernstein, among many others—to unearth the state’s most important stories. Dugger covered East Texas lynchings that major dailies refused to report; Ivins wrote about Texas politics like no one ever had; Blakeslee uncovered a racist drug bust in the Panhandle town of Tulia that proved a national disgrace; Bernstein revealed the corruption beneath Tom DeLay’s campaign fundraising strategies. Our current staff carries on that tradition. In the past five years, the Observer has broken some of the biggest stories in Texas.
Notable Awards and Recognition
● In 2015, our four-part series “Beyond the Border” won a National Magazine Award in the Multimedia category. “The Shield,” a two-part investigation of brutality and lack of accountability in the Houston Police Department, was finalist for a 2014 NMA for Reporting. Melissa del Bosque’s story “Valley of Death” was a 2013 finalist in the same category.
● “Beyond the Border” received a 2015 Dart Award for Excellence in Coverage of Trauma. The Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma is a project of the Columbia Journalism School.
● Patrick Michels was also a 2013 finalist for the Livingston Award, recognizing excellence in journalists under 35.
● Melissa del Bosque was named a Lannan reporting fellow with The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute. The Nation Institute, through a grant from the Santa Fe-based Lannan Foundation, will fund Melissa’s travel and reporting in 2014-2015 so she can produce in-depth projects on human trafficking, migration and border militarization.
● Melissa was also awarded an Ochberg Fellowship from the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, and is a 2014 Artist-in-Residence at the Headlands Center for the Arts.
● Patrick Michels was awarded first place in the Education Writers Association’s 2013 National Awards for Education Reporting in the Feature category for magazines and weeklies for his story “Working for Superman: Texas Schools Turn to Hero Superintendents.”
● The Society of Professional Journalists awarded a 2013 Sigma Delta Chi award for Public Service in Magazine Journalism to Emily DePrang’s “Life on the List”, which vividly portrays what happens when children are placed on the sex-offender registry.
● Association of Alternative Newsweeklies (42 awards)
● Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors Excellence in State Government Reporting
● Texas Medical Association Anson M. Jones Awards (4 awards)
● Environmental Justice Reporting Award, Sierra Club Houston
● Finalist, Investigative Reporters and Editors Award
● Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award
● Pan American Health Organization, Excellence in Journalism Award
● James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism
● Katie Award (Press Club of Dallas) Finalist
● Project Censored (8 awards)
● State Bar of Texas Gavel Award (3 awards)
● Texas League of Women Voters
● Utne Reader, Best Political Magazine
● Houston-Galveston Citizens’ Environmental Coalition’s Media Award
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