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Friday, December 30, 2016 by Michael Kanin

Publisher’s Note: Into 2017

December 2016 marks the third anniversary of the rebranding that gave birth to the Austin Monitor. In those three years, we’ve rebuilt our web home, expanded our coverage, made room for some new voices in the coverage of Austin and Travis County politics and seen the growth of our publication from just 406 subscribers in August 2014 to, now, just a hair over 1,600.

And so before I start this, my third annual wrap of things in Monitorland, I’ll take a quick minute to underscore how grateful we all are to you. You, our donors, have made it possible for us to grow at a pace well beyond that dictated by the constraints of our subscriptions. That means more reporting and a full-time editor, in addition to a proofreader and a copy editor who make sure that our reporting is the best it can be.

You, our subscribers, have made it possible for us to keep going. Your regular contributions mean that we can regularly deliver Monitor-style news and information in an even tone at a time when the concept of what has been freshly termed “fake news” runs wild.

And you, our non-subscribing readers, are doing your best to stay informed. This is no small thing in a city in which we can celebrate a 17 percent voter turnout, such as we did in this past May’s transportation network company election, as an achievement.

Thank you all for making this experiment possible. With your continued commitments, we will be able to dedicate ourselves to covering more of the city that we all love.

That said, I’ll also push you to do more. You can donate by clicking on this link. You can subscribe by clicking on this link. You can move up a subscription level by clicking on this link. You can sign up for Austin Monitor email newsletters by clicking this link. Each of these actions helps us keep pushing for more … everything. A full-time copy editor, for example, might allow us to publish updates throughout the day. Full-time staff writers (as opposed to our current dependence on freelancers) would extend our reach even further.

In the three years we’ve had to grow this organization, we’ve managed to triple its annual budget. This is no small feat, and it’s one that the board and I are extremely proud of. The best part about that factoid? It means that we are over halfway to a staff that looks a lot like the one I’ve described above. Help us get there. Help us do more of what we do best. Together, we can arm Austin’s population with the information its residents need to be more actively involved in local affairs.

In 2016, that looked like this:

In addition to the regular coverage exhibited at AustinMonitor.com and through our partnerships with KUT, KXAN and KOOP, we produced our usual set of events with our indefatigable partners at Glasshouse Policy that were aimed at soliciting deeper community engagement around local issues. That included a critical discussion of sexual harassment and retaliation issues faced by city of Austin employees, a frank chat with an Uber representative over the company’s past and future in the ATX, and our third annual City Summit (videos coming soon!), which, this year, took on the preemption/local control fights that we expect to see coming out of this year’s state legislative session.

On a more teary note, we said goodbye to copy editor Nora Ankrum. For those unaware of the role copy editors play at publications such as ours, they are ultimately responsible for watching reporters’ backs as they make quick story turnarounds. (Personally, I’m forever grateful for the help with homonyms that I so desperately need.) Nora made significant contributions to the publication in terms of better prose at a critical time in our growth. We’re grateful for it, and we’ll miss her. However, we’re also very excited at the arrival of Nina Hernandez – another former Austin Chronicle staffer – who has stepped into the role.

And, for those of you who missed the news: We’ve also welcomed a soon-to-be sister publication in the form of GivingCity Austin. This is Monica Williams’ carefully constructed look at the nonprofit sector in Austin. Her work is critical to our community’s understanding of itself and its place in the philanthropic sector – a necessity in our view.

Finally, we closed the year with a piece of good news courtesy of the fine folks at Mozilla: We’ve been awarded a grant that will help extend our budget game night into 10 Austin Independent School District classrooms across the city. More on that in the weeks to come.

Next year, you can expect more of the same: game nights centered around the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority, CodeNEXT and perhaps sustainability as well as continued teamwork with our current partners (and maybe some new ones, wink wink). And you can also expect a handful of changes. Chief among these will be a face-lift for our homepage and the end of the beta phase of the site. We will continue to offer more in the way of analysis through a more regular “In Fact” column. And, meanwhile, we will continue to examine our paymeter, your frustrations with it and options for change in that direction.

Lastly, I regret to announce that I’ll no longer be live-tweeting City Council meetings. Though we tried, we were unable to raise the specific funds that would justify my presence in chambers for an entire day, every other week (if not more). We’re working on a potential solution that would allow us to continue some form of our live-tweeting based on the dollars we were able to raise through that campaign.

So. Again: Thank you. You all have brought us pretty far. We’re thrilled to take the next steps.

Onward!
mk

The Austin Monitor’s work is made possible by donations from the community. Though our reporting covers donors from time to time, we are careful to keep business and editorial efforts separate while maintaining transparency. A complete list of donors is available here, and our code of ethics is explained here.

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