Save the Texas Observer Fund Tops $200,000– and a Clarification

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My friends and former colleagues at The Texas Observer have raised more than $200,000 in an attempt to save the famous magazine after the magazine’s board announced it would close Friday. My position is that the magazine can be saved with some pare-downs and conversion to an all-electronic version.

The news coverage has been fast and furious and I wanted to make this clarification about some of my statements.

Some published accounts  quoting me have been interpreted as stating that the Texas Observer ran into cash flow problems because the Tejemos Foundation, headed by Lynne Dobson and Greg Wooldridge,  did not fulfill their grant commitment.    The grant was designed to be match based, and was intended to drive fundraising and build a long-term financial viability.

The Observer did not follow the correct protocol in applying for distribution of the 2023 portion of the grant.  We made incorrect funding assumptions.  Any notion that the Tejemos Foundation caused the Observer problems is wrong.  The Tejemos Foundation has been steadfast in its support for the Texas Observer at all times.   

What we misunderstood was that the grant was conditional upon matching contributions. In other words, to gain a dollar from the foundation, we needed to raise a dollar from donors. The protocol was to run the matching campaign first and then submit funding requests to the foundation. Everyone at the Observer misunderstood this sequence and our initial request was for a direct block grant.

My feeling was this was a temporary but very solvable challenge. Informed of the requirement, we began working with the foundation to correct the error. Our solution was that we would simply mount a fund-raising campaign that explained the financial situation and ask donors to help save the Texas Observer.

In fact, that’s exactly what happened.

In the thick of the controversy, some accounts said the grant funds were misused or improperly accessed or financially mis-managed. This was not the case. The executive staff of the magazine worked with the board treasurer to make certain all board guidelines were followed. The board leadership had full and timely access to financial statements as soon as the executive staff had access to those statements.

At the end of the controversy, the executive staff’s assessment proved correct. We had the capacity to raise funds to bridge the financial challenge. And we did.

My hope is the “sides” in this dispute make peace one with the other and continue to support the Observer. My intent at all times was to heal the divide between the editorial leadership and the board leadership. My disappointment is that I was unable to bring peace to the dispute — and that it spilled over into such division. Having been forced to “choose sides,” I had no choice but to go with the door that kept the Observer alive and journalists employed.

Robert R. Frump,

Former Special Advisor

Texas Observer

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