Friday, September 07, 2012

Texas Watchdog might shutdown

Just this week, I posted about the fourth anniversary of Houston-based investigative journalism site TexasWatchdog.org. Now it looks like that could be the last anniversary the site reaches.

Texas Watchdog editor Trent Seibert tells me the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, the group that was the site's largest funder in recent times, informed him its grants to journalism operations like his will no longer be available.

"We don't have enough local [financial] support to keep Texas Watchdog going, so obviously, some changes are coming our way," Seibert told mikemcguff.com.

The future of Texas Watchdog is unclear for now. Seibert says the Franklin Center is looking to "beef up" its own journalism operations. It's site, watchdog.org, features nationwide investigative stories (including some Texas Watchdog stories too).

The silver lining, according to Seibert, is that his Franklin Center contacts have indicated they might hire his Texas Watchdog staff. If that happens, Seibert believes Texas Watchdog might keep its own site or readers would be redirected to the nationwide Watchdog site with an area for the staff's Texas stories.

"I'm proud to have built one of the best enterprise/investigative newsrooms anywhere," Seibert added. "We've won statewide and national awards since our launch in 2008 and, more importantly, keep government more honest and more transparent."

On a personal note (and in full disclosure I am friendly with the site), the longevity of Texas Watchdog is pretty remarkable. If you read the journalism trades, so many sites like this have started up with lots of buzz only to be dead in six months time. Seibert and staff need to be applauded for keeping it going through this recession and giving Texas some much needed investigative journalism. In my opinion, we can never get enough of that.

Houston has a very strong television investigative presence and Texas Watchdog has been a big player in that too. Flip on the TV news and there is a good chance you will see a Texas Watchdog staff member being interviewed or collaborating with the station on a story.

"Right now I think the whole team is keeping their options open," Seibert said. "Texas Watchdog's reporters are award-winning journalists who built careers at places like the Dallas Morning News, the Austin American-Statesman and The Nashville Tennessean. They've done some of the best reporting that I've ever seen and, I'm sure, will be successful at their next gig, whether it's with the Franklin Center or somewhere else."

So if you have tons of money and want to support the site or are looking to hire top notch, jedi-like FOIA letter writers/investigative reporters...get moving.


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