Thanh Tan is busy this week saying her good-byes and packing her reporter's notebook before heading to Austin, Texas, to become the multi-platform reporter for the Texas Tribune. Following commercial television assignments in Portland, Ore., and at Boise's KBCI-TV, Tan assumed the producer/host duties of Idaho Public Television's Idaho Reports, the Friday night recap of all things political.
This is a significant change.
The Texas Tribune is a public media organization that uses a digital platform. They have a full staff of reporters presenting content for an online audience. I'm coming in there as a multi-media reporter. That means I'll be doing a mix of everything--video reports, data visualization and a decent amount of writing for the Texas Tribune website and occasionally contributing to the New York Times, because they have a partnership.
What will be your beat?
The Texas Tribune covers public policy for the state of Texas. It was started 14 months ago by Evan Smith, the former editor of the Texas Monthly, who I consider to be a visionary. He secured funding from a venture capitalist to create a new media start-up and decided to hire the best of the best, pay them the way journalists should be paid and put out the best possible news content.
Have you spent any time in Texas?
No. My only exposure was a one-day trip to Austin for my interview three weeks ago.
What was the difference between your first Idaho Reports broadcast in January 11, 2008, and your last on January 21, 2011?
In 2008 my goal was to get a show on the air, keep it going and try to make it interesting. And the program was a half-hour then. Pretty quickly, I learned to engage more with our audience through social media like Facebook and Twitter.
And you expanded the show.
We used to have the same line up every week. But I wanted to hear different voices, different power players and people who had direct knowledge of government. So that meant a new mix of reporters, scholars and lawmakers.
Would people be surprised at how hard it is to put that show on the air?
Absolutely. Thirty minutes was hard enough, but we expanded the format. And we were covering a moving target. Sometimes there would be breaking news an hour before show time. Throughout the week, you thought you knew what the big topics were going to be, but things happened very quickly.
Let's talk about Idaho Public Television. In 2010 you were in the unique position of covering the legislature when IdahoPTV was on the chopping block. It must have been a delicate balance to report on something that was your livelihood.
That was the most challenging time I ever had at public television. I so believe in the mission of IdahoPTV, and I believe that government should play some role in our ability to get our content out there and educate people throughout the state. When the proposed cuts were announced, there was a real possibility that I could lose my job. I remember the morning that our general manager told us the governor was considering phasing out funding for public television. I just started crying. The next day I went to the briefing to hear what would be in the governor's State of the State. I had to step outside into the hallway to have a good cry. I had to go on the air a couple of hours later. It was really hard. That's when you summon up all the professional ability that you have. You have to train yourself to disengage from the part that is affecting you personally.
Tell me about the friends you've made while in Idaho.
My best friends, those that know me best as an adult, are all here. I have friends from all walks of life--inside and outside journalism, my foodie friends from my local food group, my political friends and my friends at IdahoPTV, who I'm going to miss so much.
And what are you looking forward to the most?
Professionally, I'm at a point in my life where there was still time to take a risk. I think I have found a place that values really strong journalism. I'm fascinated with the idea of working in a place like Austin and working for an organization with a huge emphasis on innovation, taking journalism to the next step.
When do you leave?
I have to report to work on Feb. 7. This happened very quickly. It's quite overwhelming.
Where will we be able to see your work?