The Texas Observer About Us
About Us

Our Vision

The Texas Observer writes about issues ignored or underreported 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.

About Us

The Observer has led the state’s major dailies and national media to many stories first ignored by mainstream outlets. The New York Times, Harper’s, 60 Minutes, 20/20, and ABC News have followed the lead of Texas Observer stories. The Observer led the state and the country to the story of a racially-tinted and suspect drug sting in Tulia, Texas.Its award-winning writing is consistently recognized by the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, Project Censored, the Texas League of Women Voters, and the State Bar of Texas. The Observer has been a finalist for the Katie Awards and the National Magazine Awards, and was recently selected as the winner for Best Political Coverage in The Utne Reader’s 2005 Utne Independent Press Awards.

From its inception, the Observer went where other publications in the state would not go. Editors Bob Sherrill, Billy Lee Brammer, and Willie Morris helped make the Observer one of the most respected publications in the nation. In the 1970s, Kaye Northcott and Molly Ivins set a standard for legislative coverage that has challenged every editor who followed. And Jim Hightower focused the Observer and its readers on the political economy - anticipating the absolute ascent of the global economy that would occur ten or fifteen years later. Current editors Jake Bernstein and Barbara Belejack continue the tradition.

Writing about Texas literature and the arts has always been a part of the Observer. In the mid-1980s, editor Geoff Rips raised the profile of this content by creating a separate section of the periodical dedicated to this writing, called Books and the Culture. Editors Louis Dubose and Michael King enhanced and expanded it with literary essays and established a poetry page under the editorship of nationally acclaimed San Antonio poet and writer Naomi Shihab Nye.

History

In 1954 Houstonian Frankie Randolph - one of the heirs to the Kirby 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.

Today

  • 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.

Every two weeks, The Texas Observer provides a view of Texas found nowhere else ‑ Sharp reporting and commentary from the strangest state in the union!

Journalism Awards

  • Assocation of Alternative Newsweeklies (23 awards)
  • Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors Excellence in State Government Reporting
  • Houston Environmental Coalition
  • Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award
  • James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism
  • Katie Award (Press Club of Dallas) Finalist
  • Livingston Awards for Young Journalists Finalist
  • Mental Health Association in Texas
  • National Magazine Award Finalist
  • Project Censored ‑ 8 awards (1991 ‑ 2003)
  • State Bar of Texas Gavel Award ‑ three-time winner
  • Texas League of Women Voters
  • Utne Reader Best Political Magazine 2005

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