I’m not a parent, but I feel like a team of us at The Texas Tribune just birthed a baby. We launched early Tuesday morning, and to follow the metaphor, we know the hard work is just beginning.
Together, we worked 12 to 18 hour days for something like two and a half weeks straight. The developers were given 90 wireframes of designs and features to code, and only three to four weeks to code it. We didn’t outsource the work to Bangalore, and we are a site run on all custom systems – from our content management system, down to the widget all staffers have on their laptops in order to link stories to “TribWire”.
By the wee small hours of launch, my eyes looked like roadmaps, it was Tuesday but I thought it was Thursday, my emotional bandwith ran so low that I would start crying spontaneously, and all of us survived on food being brought in to us so we wouldn’t have to leave the building in order to eat.
I realized how removed from the world I became when someone told me there was a Michael Jackson documentary coming out, and I’d never heard of it before.
The site is now live, and the incredible response we collectively received from the national press and tech geeks and smarmy lobbyists and people who don’t even like politics has been enough to induce tears — this time, the happy kind. This is the hardest I’ve ever worked, but the most fulfilling work I’ve ever done. We mean it when we say this has purpose.
Those of us who graduated from the Missouri School of Journalism know Walter Williams’ creed well. It begins like this:
“I believe that the public journal is a public trust; that all connected with it are, to the full measure of responsibility, trustees for the public; that acceptance of lesser service than the public service is a betrayal of this trust.”
Ever since the day I graduated from college and started working in journalism, I’ve observed the slow whittling away of the public service part of what we do in order to meet the high stakes demands of turning a profit. Our founder, John Thornton, who started the Tribune as his personal form of philanthropy, decided that you can’t serve both God and mammon. That journalism plus business equals business, and in starting and being a non-profit-by-choice we can throw every dollar we raise straight back into the product and our mission – journalism that matters.
This whole experience has been nothing short of a series of small miracles. In my personal life, had this not come along, who knows what Stiles and I would have had to sacrifice in order to be in the same city. In my professional life, had the Tribune’s Evan Smith and Ross Ramsey not called, I may have wandered out of this craft that I love. On many, many fronts, I am so grateful. We’re exhausted but exhilarated.
More than 1,000 people crowded an Austin bar last night to celebrate our coming out. I cried (again) when I saw my friends who I’ve missed seeing so much. Thank you a million, gazillion times for supporting this financially, intellectually and in spirit.
Finally, I think y’all know that part of the reason I love my new job so much is because I get to mess around a little and exercise creative freedom as much as there’s time in the day. Our site developers are so awesomely geeky that I used my little pocket Canon to catch some moments in the early morning hours before launch. That’s the video above. Here’s to the boys.