When John Thornton hired Evan Smith away from Texas Monthly to help him launch Texas Tribune, he knew he was getting a top-notch journalist. But as it turns out, he's also getting a major fundraising draw in the bargain.
Since Smith came aboard in July, the Tribune has raised nearly $1.5 million and already has hit its year-end target of $3.5 million, Thornton told me this week. The increase in donations following Smith's move was notable, he said, adding that he didn't anticipate Smith's celebrity power.
Thornton, who threw in $1 million of his own money, said that with the exception of a $250,000 grant from the Knight Foundation, all of the $3.5 million raised so far, has come from in state.
A lot of the money is coming from small donors. Thornton has signed up several hundred individuals. And, interestingly, he's gotten about three dozen corporate sponsors to throw in $2,500 apiece.
Thornton said he purposely kept the corporate sponsorship level to encourage participation and maintain editorial independence.
"If we have 50 and if Ev writes a nasty story about somebody, if it's somebody who gave us $2,500, so what?" he said.
Texas Tribune goes live on Nov. 3.