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Help Save the Texas Observer & Fight Staff Layoffs

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The Texas Democracy Foundation, the nonprofit parent of the Texas Observer, told its staff today that it is laying off employees – including journalists and editors – and ceasing publication on Friday, March 31, 2023.

This Go Fund Me was established so that readers and supporters of the Texas Observer can give a lifeline to staff and journalists. I am James Canup and I have organized this campaign to benefit my former colleagues, having recently resigned from the Observer myself. I have launched this campaign with the knowledge of board and staff members.

If the board revisits its decision to cease publication and commence layoffs, funds raised here will be donated to the Texas Democracy Foundation to provide staff pay and benefits. Otherwise, funds raised here will be divided equally among the staff who are being laid off.

UPDATE: Tuesday, March 28: Go Fund Me asked me to clarify how I am related to the people I am raising funds for, what the plan is to transfer funds raised to recipients, and how funds will be spent.

To be clear, I am James Canup, the former managing director of the Texas Observer, and until yesterday I was on staff there. I resigned in protest when the board informed staff in a zoom meeting that layoffs and a shutdown were going to be made by Friday of this week. I started this Go Fund Me, in communication with some Texas Observer staff and board members, to provide relief to the staff who are to be laid off, or to fund staffing costs of the Observer *if* the foundation opts not to shut down and lay off staff.

I hope that the board of directors of the Observer’s parent nonprofit, the Texas Democracy Foundation, will, upon seeing the massive and generous public response to this appeal, reverse its decisions to lay off staff and cease publication. If that happens, all of the funds raised will be transferred to the Texas Democracy Foundation and will be restricted for spending exclusively on supporting staff – namely, payroll and benefits for current employees. The Texas Democracy Foundation is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit charitable organization.

If the foundation does not revisit its decision to lay off staff and cease publication, the plan is for the funds to be distributed individually and equally to all staff who are to be laid off. It seems to me that it will be hard for the foundation to shut it down and lay people off in light of this overwhelming surge of public support for the Texas Observer and its staff. Please help us reach the $200,000 fundraising goal by giving what you can afford.

Shuttering the publication would be extremely damaging to a staff that was recently and successfully rebuilt after a previous crisis. It would adversely affect staff who need their pay to cover cat food and rent, to pay for kids in college and people who have a baby on the way. It would cause journalists to lose credibility with those who have supported stories already published or in progress, including their recent series on women’s health and threats to Texas rivers.

We ask for your contribution if you can offer money. Otherwise, please share the ask.

The impact of this shutdown on the current team is devastating. “Where else can I go to write a column on transgender issues that takes on the New York Times,” asked one writer. Another was in the process of planning paternity leave for his first child. Another was covering Texas’ war on public schools. “That’s not how a progressive magazine should treat its staff,” said one editor.

What does the Texas Observer mean to its journalists and to Texans? Editorial independence and journalistic freedom have been the hallmarks of the Observer since its founding in 1954. The publication has been freer – less encumbered by the demands of business, advertisers and grantmakers – than any other publication of its stature. As such, the institution has been a proving ground for countless journalists over the years and continuing to this day, and a vital watchdog to extremists, corporations and politicians who would harm Texas and Texans.

Will you help save the staff of the Texas Observer by contributing now?

[Cover photo credit to Chris Lee.]


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Organizer and beneficiary

James Canup
Austin, TX
Texas Democracy Foundation

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