AUSTIN, Texas (June 20, 2019) — The Capital of Texas Media Foundation (COTMF) and Glasshouse Policy on Thursday announced they have merged to form a news, community engagement and research organization that will deliver comprehensive coverage and analysis of Austin’s politics, development and economy.
The nonprofit organization, which will operate under the COTMF umbrella, will continue to provide leading news coverage of Austin and Travis County government through the Austin Monitor. The combination of that in-depth reporting with Glasshouse’s innovative community engagement initiatives at the state and local levels will inform and connect more Austin residents with the policy and civic conversations that influence their lives.
COTMF will also launch of a new, independent research organization. The metro-focused think tank will be dedicated to deciphering the mix of complex factors that shape Austin’s growth and how they affect equity and opportunity for Central Texas residents.
Veteran Austin journalist Dan Zehr will oversee the entities as executive director of the foundation and publisher of the Monitor.
“Like too many U.S. cities, Austin has seen its local newsrooms shrink and many of its citizens give up on civic participation,” Zehr said. “With this combination, COTMF will bolster its in-depth news coverage and draw residents back into the policy discussions that affect their lives.”
The research organization will strengthen COTMF’s existing efforts with the types of independent, nonpartisan research that policymakers and voters need to make informed decisions. Through Notley Ventures, Dan and Lisa Graham provided initial financial support for the combination and the new research arm.
"Austin is one of the largest cities in the country without a think tank dedicated to understanding its own growth and development," said Dan Graham, founder of Notley and a board member at COTMF. "Lisa and I believe that the combination of local nonprofit journalism, proactive citizen engagement and this new research organization is imperative for equitable and sustainable growth."
COTMF has launched a capital campaign to fund and staff the think tank, expand the Austin Monitor’s news coverage and develop new models of community engagement. Elizabeth Pagano will continue to lead news coverage as editor of the Austin Monitor, and Kasey Corpus will oversee Glasshouse Policy’s engagement initiatives. The foundation expects to hire a research director by the second quarter of 2020.
“This combination will complement the Austin Monitor's indispensable coverage of Austin," said Matt Esber, attorney and the chair of COTMF. "These new initiatives will bring more people into the public sphere and deliver the depth of news and analysis that Austin's citizens and elected officials need."
The combined operations will also bring together most of the existing COTMF and Glasshouse boards. In addition to Esber and Graham, the board will include: Ashley Amini, Dan Austin, Andy Brown, Ambassador Lyndon Olson, Grace Renbarger, Alexander Schoenbaum and Irfan Syed. Founding Austin Monitor publisher Mike Kanin and Francisco Enriquez, who co-founded Glasshouse Policy with Thomas Visco, will serve on the COTMF board as well.
"This combination represents an exciting evolution of the Austin Monitor and its mission,” said Kanin, who is now publisher of the Texas Observer. “As local journalism continues to deteriorate across the country, this sort of innovation is just the sort of thing that's needed."
“Tom and I founded Glasshouse Policy to better bridge the gap between citizens and policymakers and create a more engaged citizenry and a more responsive government,” Enriquez said. “Through our efforts, we've managed to develop successful public policy proposals across Texas, at both the state and local levels. With the Austin Monitor, Glasshouse Policy will be further amplified and its purview expanded.”