Getting Festive with Texas Tribune CEO, Evan Smith

By Pete Ramirez

The Texas Tribune, a digital, nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization, is hosting it’s eleventh annual Texas Tribune Festival beginning on Monday, September 20, 2021 and ending Friday evening, September 25, 2021. 

This festival brings together leading politicians and policy makers within local, state and national government to participate in a mix of one-on-one interviews, panels and networking sessions hosted by some of the premier journalists in the nation.

Students are eligible to purchase discounted student tickets to the virtual festival for $49 by following this link: https://festival.texastribune.org/. General admission tickets are $199.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the festival will be held entirely online in a virtual setting. “It’s the second and hopefully the last festival that will be virtual,” said Evan Smith, CEO of the Texas Tribune. 

Smith said that although his organization originally wanted to host a portion of the event in-person, completely pivoting to virtual allows the event to be more accessible to not only the politicians and policy makers, but to casual fans of the Tribune who can now participate from the comfort of their homes.

“We provide all kinds of opportunities for people to spend time with some of the biggest thought leaders and influencers around Texas and around the county,” Smith said. 

A few of the biggest names that will be attending the event are: U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg, U.S. Senator, John Cornyn, staff writer at the New York Times Magazine and creator of the 1619 Project, Nikole Hannah-Jones and former U.S. Representative, Beto O’Rourke.

For a list of all the speakers who will be attending the festival, follow this link.

“If you care about politics, if you care about policy, if you care about Texas, if you care about the world, there are going to be incredible opportunities that you would not otherwise have, to be part of conversations about those things,” Smith said.

Students who attend can benefit from the festival’s networking opportunities and grow their knowledge on nearly any subject they may be interested in.

“As a student, especially, this is a great moment to expand your thinking,” Smith said. The Tribune’s event provides a safe place for attendees to listen to views that challenge their preconceived notions on certain issues. 

“The goal is that there is something for everybody. And if you allow yourself to stray from the things that you are coming to see, there are going to be other things over here that you are not aware of but are going to be interesting also,” said Smith.

The Texas Tribune and their festival want attendees to walk away from their event better informed and more engaged citizens.

Smith also shared that there will be a session which is exclusively for students attending the festival.

Before our interview came to a close, Smith provided some words of wisdom for journalism students looking to enter the industry.

“The best advice I can give anybody wanting to break into the journalism business is you want to be a swiss army knife and not a meat cleaver,” Smith said. “We need people like that. We need multi-tool players more than we’ve ever needed them.”

Midterm Votes 2018

Eyes watching, heart racing and nail-biting occurred during the panic-inflicted midterm elections. The thought of Texas classified as a “toss-up state,” according to the New York Times, only amplified the tension. Now that the dust has settled, here is a summary of the 2018 elections.

Written & Video by Nalani Nuylan

Beto v. Cruz

Beto caught Texas by storm. Nobody knew that the El Paso Democrat, Beto O’Rourke, could give the Republican Senator, Ted Cruz, a run for his money.

Originally a businessman, O’Rourke began his career as a politician in the El Paso City Council in 2005. After gaining popularity in El Paso, O’Rourke was elected to join the House of Representatives in 2011.

During the 2018 elections, O’Rourke used social media to gain traction for his campaigns, gaining popularity among youth voters. Also, for the first time in Texas history, O’Rourke visited every county in the state. O’Rourke was advertising a progressive agenda with universal health care, education reform, dream citizen statuses, criminal justice reform and legalizing marijuana.    

On the other side of the ballot, Cruz was originally was elected into the United States Senate in 2012. As a former professor at the University of Texas in Austin, Cruz ran for the Senate to replace Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison.

For this past season, Cruz campaigned to Republican voters of older generations, promoting conservative ideologies as well as President Trump, a strong economy, and increased border security.

During the first debate in Dallas on Sept. 22, the two candidates disagreed on every topic asked by the monitor. Cruz dominated most of the debate, providing lengthy opinions on controversial topics while O’Rourke, mostly, remained within the allotted timeframe.

At the end of the debate, the monitor asked the candidates to vocalize what they admired about each other. Both candidates expressed the amount of commitment they had towards their families and for the greater good of the State of Texas.    

The Election

As Nov. 6 drew near, early voting opened on Oct. 22 in Texas. More Americans took the early voting advantage this election season. Out of all 28 states that permitted early voting, nearly 36 million people cast their vote. According to the Elections Project, there was an estimate of 116 million voters in the 2018 midterm elections – making it the highest turnout since 1914.

This year’s voter turnout set new records, especially in Texas. Over four million ballots were cast in early voting in the Lone Star State, surpassing the 2014 turnout by three percent, according to The New York Times.

On Election Day, Cruz won against Beto by 2.6 percent for the Senate. Out of the nine elected Representatives for the House, five were Republican. Greg Abbott was elected governor. The majority of the state results came out Republican.

On the national level, Republicans fill the Senate 52 to 47. The House of Representatives is now controlled by Democrats 232 to 201. The Supreme Court leans Republican while the Court of Appeals leans Democrat. In theory, the current political status is purple.

Young Voters

Record numbers of young adults showed up to vote in this year’s midterm elections. “Young People,” by definition, refers to voters from the age 18 to 29: college students, recent college graduates, people trying to establish the career that fits their major. Why the high correlation?

First of all, there’s a reason that voting organizations advertise to young voters burning this past election season. On Sept. 24, a video titled Dear Young People, Don’t Vote was published on YouTube. The video criticized young people not voting by having older generations question and mock a young voters’ reasons for not voting. Currently, the video has over 650,000 views.

Likewise, famous Youtube star Lizza Koshy posted a video encouraging her viewers to vote, regardless of their political views. The video gained over two million views on her channel. Google also encouraged voter registration via a Google Doodle published on google.com.

Why is it that young people don’t vote? According to ACC’s Student Government Association President, Emmanuel Cuevas, the voting system is rigged against university students.

“For one thing, students weren’t taught how to vote,” Cuevas said. “Whenever you are asked ‘What do you think about the Republican or Democratic parties?’ at the age of 18, you think, ‘I don’t really know because I was never taught to think about those kinds of things.’”

Another obstacle is residency. Many young people move from their registered home county to attend a four-year university. This can be difficult, being that some students may not want to travel back to their registered county. However, the government provides free online guidance to registering, checking or changing your voter registration, state by state at usa.gov/register-to-vote.

It’s important to note that young people are the future. This past election, young people in Williamson and Hays counties, which were red, became blue mostly due to the university students living those counties.

“To the students who don’t vote because they don’t want to, or it’s an inconvenience, or because they feel like their votes won’t count, I will have to tell you that you’re wrong,” Cuevas said. “Students have a big voice. If they expressed their opinion, they will see a lot of things change.”

Vote. Make a difference. You have the power to shape the government to better the future.     

 

Beto O’Rourke Gaining Popularity

Written by Sean Anchondo

Like a Rockstar, an anxious crowd of onlookers bursts into cheers as the El Paso Congressman, Beto O’Rourke, takes the stage. With sleeves rolled up and tie slightly pulled ajar, O’Rourke was set to deliver his message. He spoke with a sense of purpose, preaching togetherness and hope. The audience chomping at the bit.

Beginning at midnight, a packed venue was clamoring for photos with the U.S. Senate hopeful. After a rousing speech, Austinites of all ages stayed to take pictures with the candidate, despite it being in the wee hours of the morning.

Starting off, just 18-hours earlier, O’Rourke ended his night with one more speech at the Kerbey Lane restaurant right off the University of Texas Campus. Greeted with a near capacity restaurant, supporters anxiously waited to hear O’Rourke speak or to just take pictures.

After the event, O’Rourke said he was very “encouraged” and “grateful” by the outcome and support of all the events.

In Houston, O’Rourke was greeted with a rock and roll show and a huge turnout. He’s hosted town halls in a variety of places like Lubbock and Sugarland.

“Do more of the listening, and less of the talking,” O’Rourke says.

In the town hall format, O’Rourke has been able to hear many of the issues that are consistent around the state. Residents of the panhandle, Beaumont and Austin speak on health-related issues.

“[People want] healthcare and the ability to see a doctor,” says O’Rourke. ”

Manny Texans are buying into his message.

Currently, Beto O’Rourke is outraising incumbent Senator Ted Cruz. The campaign has raised about $2.4 million in the last few months. O’Rourke has made it clear he is not taking PAC (Political Action Committee) money, as to be seen as an authentic and a transparent representative.

Many young people have been deeply involved with this campaign, due to having access to the politician via social media. This has contributed to the large turnouts at the town halls throughout the state and other events. Donations to his website BetoforTexas.com is gaining steam as the election day nears.

Many see O’Rourke having a tough road ahead. A Democrat hasn’t won a Senate seat since 1994. The senate race in Texas in November is crucial if the Democrats want to flip the Senate this fall. Young Democratic Texan voters could cause the biggest upset in the upcoming Senate race.