Revered Austin reporter Evan Smith to quit Texas Tribune

Austin’s longtime luminary Evan Smith, who helped perfect Texas monthly the magazine’s reputation and helped make the Texas Tribune a powerhouse in nonprofit journalism, steps down as CEO of the Texas Tribune by December 31.

“Like so many during the crazy two years of the pandemic, I feel my battery is slowly draining – in my favorite movie analogy, the rock is catching up with Indiana Jones – so I encouraged our board to start the process of identifying my successor,” Smith wrote in a January 12 article on the Texas Tribune website.

“After months of discussion, they are ready to expedite a nationwide search with the help of a respected recruiting firm they have selected,” Smith adds. “I’m committed to staying put while they do and helping with the transition once the lucky duck [is in] place – and for some time afterwards. At the request of the Board of Directors, I have agreed to remain until the end of 2023 as a senior adviser to my replacement. You’re not going to get rid of me that easily.

Smith says he has no plans for the post-Tribune era yet.

“I’ve had two jobs in 30 years. I was never out of work for a day during this time,” Smith writes. “It will be nice to have the time and the bandwidth to seriously think about what’s next.

“What I know for sure is that there will be a next one. Another thing that I know for sure is that I will support the strongest and the hardest each of my colleagues. I believe in them more than ever I will bleed yellow and black [the Tribune’s signature colors] until the end. And I believe more than ever in public service journalism.

Smith joined Austin Texas monthly in 1992 as editor. Eight years later, he was appointed editor-in-chief. During his stay there, Texas monthly earned 16 National Magazine Award nominations and twice won the National Magazine Award for General Excellence.

In 2009, Smith left texas monthlyy co-founded The Texas Tribune, an Austin-based nonprofit website dedicated to covering government and politics across the state. He joined the Tribune as editor and CEO. Sewell Chan, formerly editor at Los Angeles Timestook over from Smith as editor in October.

Over the course of 13 years, the Tribune has accumulated a number of prestigious accolades, including a host of Edward R. Morrow Awards and a Peabody Award. The Tribune is regularly touted as a trailblazer among nonprofit news organizations and has become essential reading for Texans seeking straight-forward government and political information.

The Tribune has also been noted for the many events it has created, including the annual Texas Tribune Festival, attracting a headline-grabbing array of speakers and attendees.

In his online post, Smith does not specify whether he will continue to host Overheard with Evan Smithbroadcast nationwide on PBS stations.

As for the Tribune, Smith thinks it’s time to reinvigorate his leadership.

“I concluded that the only way for us to change, to evolve, to grow is with someone in charge who is not a keeper of the flame,” he wrote. “I may have built this thing, but I can’t and shouldn’t be an obstacle to rebuilding this thing. Nor should I stand in the way of the next generation, a generation more representative of today’s Texas, having a chance to lead.