About the Texas Observer
The Texas Observer writes about issues ignored in the mainstream press. Our goal is to cover stories crucial to the public interest and to provoke dialogue that promotes democratic participation and open government, in pursuit of a vision of Texas where education, justice and material progress are available to all.
The Texas Observer is a nonprofit news organization that specializes in investigative, political and social-justice reporting from the strangest state in the Union. Our award-winning magazine is published monthly, and our Web site features daily content.
From our founding in 1954, the Observer has focused on issues ignored or undererported by Texas’ mainstream media. Our goal is not only to unmask corporate and governmental corruption, but to foster social and economic justice in Texas by promoting democratic participation and encouraging open government. 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.
The Observer‘s truth-telling 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 Texas Legislature, and led to the exonerations of several wrongly convicted Texans.
Our reporting and writing have garnered widespread recognition: Among other honors, the Observer has won 42 awards from the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, been recognized for Best Political Coverage by The Utne Reader, and been a finalist for the National Magazine Award.
In 1954 Houstonian Frankie Randolph – one of the heirs to the Carter lumber estate and an Adlai Stevenson Democrat – set out to create a newspaper that would cover issues ignored by the state’s daily newspapers – issues dealing with race and class and the lives of working people. Ms. Randolph bought the State Observer, brought in Marshall lawyer Franklin Jones who owned the East Texas Democrat, and called Ronnie Dugger to the Driskill Hotel in Austin to offer him the job as editor of the new Texas Observer. He accepted.
In 1994, Ronnie 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.
- The Observer led the state and the country to the story of a racially-motivated drug sting in Tulia, Texas that resulted in the arrest of a large percentage of the town’s African American population. Based on editor Nate Blakeslee’s award-winning investigation, the victims of the sting were exonerated and the undercover informant went to jail.
- The Observer was the first publication to put all the pieces together in the investigation of Tom DeLay’s Texans for a Republican Majority, a political action committee formed to increase Republican representation in the Texas Legislature, facilitate redistricting, and solidify Tom DeLay’s control of Congress ‑ “The Observer Connects the Dots: Best Overview to Date of Widening Scandal” said the online political newsletter Quorum Report. Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle privately told a reporter that The Texas Observer’s coverage of his ongoing investigation of Tom DeLay’s TRMPAC framed and defined the story long before its importance was understood by other state and national media outlets. The Observer’s story motivated and served as an exhibit in Congressman Chris Bell’s ethics complaint against Tom DeLay.
- The Observer, in a series of news-breaking features on Jack Abramoff:
- provided the first documented proof, in June 2005, that Americans for Tax Reform director Grover Norquist used the White House for fundraising and solicited Indian gambling money from Jack Abramoff, placing Jack Abramoff together with President Bush in a meeting with Abramoff’s American Indian clients in 2001;
- was the first to connect the Tigua Indians and Bob Ney, in December 2004, anticipating Ney’s impending indictment by more than a year; and
- reported, in August 2005, the likely impact of President Bush’s appointment of the Justice Dept.’s Noel Hillman, who has overseen the Abramoff investigation, to the federal bench, anticipating the January 27, 2006, New York Times story by five months.
- The Observer’s 2005 investigative feature, “Death in McAllen,” led to an investigation by the Texas Attorney General. It told about an elderly man who died of negligence in a South Texas nursing home, and whose family found little recourse following the Legislature’s tort reform rout.
With a monthly print publication and daily online content, The Texas Observer provides a view of Texas found nowhere else ‑ Sharp reporting and commentary from the strangest state in the union!
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