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A Lively Political Press In A State Where Everything’s Bigger

July 6, 2013

By Elise Hu

gaggles004xBy the time Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis ended her 11-hour filibuster last week in the Lone Star State, more than 180,000 viewers were watching her efforts on a YouTube live stream made possible by a nonprofit news source, The Texas Tribune. As chaos broke out in the Senate gallery after the filibuster to block sweeping abortion restrictions ended, the live stream stopped. Social media lit up.

As the Wendy Davis drama met the social media moment, she became an overnight sensation. So, too, did the organization that made it possible for the world to watch her. Cable news outlets — and local TV in Texas, even — hadn’t carried the filibuster live, so the interest in Davis convened around the Texas Tribune’s stream.

“This was a truly transformational moment in Texas politics. We hadn’t considered the possibility that by the transmission of this live stream it would become the national and international story that it did,” Tribune editor-in-chief Evan Smith told the Columbia Journalism Review. In a post, he summed up the 3-year-old news startup’s sudden global renown:

“A great many media organizations — among them The Dallas Morning News, Gawker, The Nation and Slate — piggybacked on our feed, and our ongoing posts from the six reporters we had at the Capitol were tweeted and retweeted all day and night. Speaking of Twitter, our cadre of followers grew by more than 30 percent in a single day, and praise came in from all corners in 140 characters or less. Best of all was [a] tweet from the president of the United States, which linked to our stream.”

The Tribune is a new kind of animal in the state’s political media ecosystem. And the state’s political media ecosystem is itself a different kind of beast, teeming with a variety of voices intensely monitoring politics and government in the nation’s second-largest state.

It’s not necessarily bigger than the press corps in other mega-states like California and New York, but the Texas press corps is unique, political watchers say, because of the shape it’s taking amid the state’s recent, raging growth. Aside from the Tribune, there are influential blogs and newsletters, a regional magazine of national renown, an energetic public radio presence and newly arrived national correspondents stationed in Austin. And that doesn’t even count the traditional newspaper and television presence. It doesn’t hurt that Texans love reading about Texas — the notion of Texas exceptionalism, it seems, drives demand. Read the rest at NPR.

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From → Analysis, News

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