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. The nonprofit Texas Democracy Foundation publishes the Texas Observer bimonthly magazine and texasobserver.org.
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.
Our reporting is fair, accurate, and, as our mission states, it hews hard to the truth as we find it. As a 501(c)(3), we do not endorse candidates or legislation.
The Observer’s reporting is often picked up by the 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.
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: In 2015, the Observer was recognized with an Emmy award and a National Magazine Award — the most prestigious magazine reporting prize in the country. In 2016, our reporting won the Hillman Prize for Magazine Journalists, two Sigma Delta Chi awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, and received accolades from Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, Texas Medical Association, The Media Consortium, and more. We also were named finalists for the National Magazine Award in 2013 and 2014. And we’ve won dozens of awards from the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies and been recognized for the nation’s Best Political Coverage by the Utne Reader and twice been a finalist for the Livingston Award.
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 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.