“I know of no human being who has a better time than an eager, energetic young reporter.”
— H. L. Mencken.
“Or a not-so-young reporter,” I would add.
Personally, at 81, being decades past the age when most journalists have been laid off, bought out, or pushed out to pasture, here I am, still plenty able and more than willing to dig into whatever seems most in need of being investigated. I’ve spent half my life doing this work and I can’t imagine anything more exciting and satisfying. (I owe much of my longevity to my passion for bicycling, as I ride every chance I get, including riding my age in miles every year to celebrate my birthday.)
The Bulldog’s reporting launched on April Fool’s Day 2010. I finessed the inauspicious date by saying, “We don’t take ourselves too seriously but we take our reporting very seriously.”
If you’ve been following our work over the years you may agree that our work is indeed serious, from exposing the Austin City Council for its institutionalized practice of violating the Texas Open Meetings Act in 2011 to breaking the story last week about a nonprofit involving city employees getting a no-bid social services contract for $650,000.
But this isn’t an occasion to recount the Bulldog’s greatest hits. It’s the 11th anniversary of The Austin Bulldog. It’s time to pause and reflect.
It’s a time to express gratitude for still having a platform to serve my community by delivering the best reporting I’m able. And doing so on a lean-and-mean budget. Because the Bulldog has never been about the money. It’s about providing our special brand of investigative reporting to supplement what other organizations, in this media saturated city, usually do not offer.
The Bulldog’s survival is remarkable in an age when the ranks of journalists have been decimated: By rapacious investors employing slash-and-burn tactics to extract profit. By ruthless Internet aggregators who rob the publishers, who actually produce news, of the advertising revenue that once sustained them. The cumulative effect of which is to offer the public far fewer options to get reporting that matters.
The Bulldog owes a big thanks to donors whose financial support makes this work possible. Chief among those is the Kirk Mitchell Public Interest Investigative Journalism Fund. To Kirk and each of you who contributed money to keep this work going, I owe my deepest gratitude. Every donor is permanently listed on the Bulldog website, which is updated annually.
Your support made it possible to hire part-time reporter Daniel Van Oudenaren, who started a year ago and added immensely to our coverage, especially during the 2020 local election season.
We also owe a tip of the hat to our volunteer legal advisor, Bill Aleshire, who represents the Bulldog in each of our public information requests. He frequently helps to clear roadblocks that impede the free flow of information that’s vital to our reporting. Bill sought me out in the early days of Bulldog reporting after I had exposed a Georgetown City Council member for taking nearly $14,000 of taxpayers money to which she was not entitled. I’ve so far filed more than 700 public information requests and he’s been there with me every step of the way.
So, to Kirk, Bill and to all of you, whether donors or readers who may someday choose to boost our reporting budget, thank you. Thank you very much.
Trust indicators: Bulldog editor Ken Martin has been covering city hall and local government in the Austin area since 1981.