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Texas Observer changes course, decides against shutting down and laying off staff

BusinessTexas Observer changes course, decides against shutting down and laying off staff

The board of the organisation that owns The Texas Observer decided on Wednesday to reverse its previous decision to lay off the magazine’s employees, the president of the board said.

The Texas Democracy Foundation, the nonprofit publisher of the magazine and online, informed workers this week that it intended to cease publishing on Friday, The Observer reported on Thursday.

Employees, both present and formerly employed, fought the closure and attempted to prevent layoffs by launching a last-minute internet fundraising effort. Since Monday, they have managed to collect almost $290,000.

Mr. Arana said that after reading about the board’s decision to implement cutbacks in The Texas Tribune on Sunday, the 16-person staff had spent the whole week fearing for their jobs.

Molly Ivins, a leftist writer who found her voice while working for the Texas Observer in the 1970s, is the paper’s most famous alumna. Ms. Ivins, who passed away at the age of 62 in 2007, once penned that “you may speak the truth without the bark on it, laugh at anybody who is foolish, and go after the evil people with all the energy you have, as long as you get the facts straight” in The Observer.

It also has a history of infighting, as seen by Mr. Arana’s Tuesday piece pleading for readers to donate to “Save The Texas Observer!”

Ms. Hernandez Holmes had previously this week ignored inquiries about the board’s plan to reduce headcount. She stated, “My purpose in voting for layoffs and sabbatical was never about shutting down the newspaper,” in a statement released on Wednesday.

Before this week was through, Ms. Hernandez Holmes had told The Tribune that the assaults on her and the board “sort of just sucked all the energy and effort away from preserving the financial health of the org in the previous couple of months.”

On Monday, Ms. Hernandez Holmes reportedly had a video chat with the employees and informed them of the impending closure and layoffs, according to statements from both Mr. Arana and a former employee, James Canup. Former managing director Mr. Canup said that he resigned in protest after the phone conversation.

Robert R. Frump, a former board member who had been directing business operations as a special consultant, said that although The Observer has roughly 4,000 subscribers to the print magazine, which publishes six times a year, and its online readers, it survives largely on contributions and grants. He, too, quit in a show of disapproval.

The Observer’s core backers are “ageing out and not as engaged and not as giving as they once were,” according to Mr. Frump, who lamented the publication’s inability to bring in new progressive money.

The inaugural issue, published on December 13, 1954, under founding editor Ronnie Dugger, declared the newspaper’s independence. We shall not be beholden to any political or interest group, but will instead adhere strictly to the truth as we discover it and the right as we understand it, it read.

In “Fifty Years of the Texas Observer,” an anthology of its work released in 2004, she said, “The second most remarkable thing about this little magazine is what a tattered shoestring it runs on.” The Observer just has never been financially stable. It’s like Jesus multiplying bread and fish for the journalists.

After publishing “Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush” with Louis Dubose in 2001, they sent the money they made from the book to the Bush administration to use towards employee wages.

NPR, Vox Media, CNN, and The Washington Post have all announced layoffs in recent months prior to the shutdown drama.

Mr. Canup expressed regret that fewer people read The Observer. These words have the potential to have a significant impact.

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